- Posted March 13, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Turbulence, violence in the Middle East
Mauritania Mass Protest Turn-Out A Shock to the System
Monday, 12 March 2012: Mauritania's capital city Nouakchott saw the largest opposition protest in the country’s recent history. Despite government attempts to limit participation in the protest by distributing free food in poor neighborhoods, 40000-60000 Mauritanians took to the streets to demand General Aziz’s departure from power.
Mauritania has witnessed a steady stream of protests since 25 February 2012, but conditions in the country seemed to be stacked against both the political opposition and civil society activist groups. Then, on 3 March 2012, the "February 25 Movement" - an independent activist group with no political affiliation - organised a seminar for an invited audience of academics, elites and group leaders, to expose the true political situation in the country, which has evolved over the past year. An expert on constitutional law explained that the current administration is both illegal and illegitimate. The parliament was pushing through constitutional reforms which extend its mandate after the government’s failure to organize elections to renew it in October 2011 as mandated by the constitution. A protest against the reforms was held on March 6th. Several arrests were made as police attacked the protesters with tear gas.
The coalition of political opposition groups (COD) were at the protest, and declared that they would hold a rally the following Monday to condemn this situation and demand the removal of President Aziz and his regime. They said at the time it would be a "defining moment" but even the opposition leaders were taken aback when tens of thousands of supporters flocked to the streets on Monday 12 March in a massive show of strength.
It was a clear signal to Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz - the self-styled "president of the poor" - that he has lost the confidence of a significant percentage of the population. Videos of the rally show the numbers who took part. People marched from the meeting point to the presidential palace, chanting “al-sha’b yurid isqat al-nizam” (the people want the downfall of the regime).