2008-08-12 20:46:00
Embassy Nouakchott
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DE RUEHNK #0431/01 2252046
O 122046Z AUG 08


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2018


FNDD holds rally



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/12/2018


FNDD holds rally

1. (SBU) The National Front for the Defense of Democracy
(FNDD),a coalition of six political parties opposed to the
military coup, held a two-hour rally at the old stadium in
Nouakchott. FSNs report a peaceful gathering of 3000-3500
attendees, with police present only to direct traffic. FNDD
bused in supporters and handed out water. Jamil Ould
Mansour, president of the islamist Tawassoul party spoke
first, saying that Mauritanian politics needs to break its
historical cycle of coups and elections. He said that the
coup plotters "will meet justice" and called for the return
of Abdallahi to power. He stated that it was popular
pressure that was responsible for the release of the former
prime minister and the other arrestees. Former Prime
Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghef, who was released from
military custody shortly beforehand, spoke next. He noted
that former president Abdallahi was in good health and high
spirits. He refuted the militarys justifications for the
coup, arguing that the former presidents firing of the
generals on 6 August and his refusal to call an
extraordinary session of parliament were both legal and
were carried out transparently. Mohammed Ould Mouloud,
president of the leftist Union of Forces for Progress (UFP)
party spoke next, saying that he will not accept any new
elections and called for the military to stay out of
politics. Comment: FSNs note that this is the first time
Mauritanian history that there is organized and sizable
opposition to a military coup, which indicates that the
brief period of democracy may have lowered MauritaniansQ,
tolerance for such extra-constitutional regime changes.

Military releases arrestees

2. (C) At approx. 16:00 the High State Council released all
those who were arrested during the coup except for former
president Abdallahi All the released arrestees appeared in
public shortly thereafter at the FNDD rally. Ambassador
phoned Abdallahis son and was passed to Prime Minister
Waghef who confirmed that President Abdallahi was in good
health and high spirits.


High State Council issues a decree on its powers

3. (U) The High State Council issued a decree late last
night delimiting its own authority. The decree is as

The armed and security forces through the High State
Council have put an end to the power of the President of
the Republic who was inaugurated on April 19, 2007, and
they have decided to take the appropriate measures in order
to guarantee the continuity of the State and to supervise,
in consultation with the institutions, the political forces
and the civil society, the conduct of presidential
elections that will allow to re-launch the democratic
process in the country and re-found it on perennial basis.

They commit themselves before the Mauritanian people to
organize, in a time period that will be the shortest
possible, free and transparent elections that will allow,
in the future, a continuous and harmonious operating of the
whole constitutional powers.
They proclaim their will to respect all international
commitments made on the name of the State and to adhere to
the principles devoted by the universal human rights
Declaration, the UN Charter, the Arab League, the African
Union, and the Islamic Conference Organization.

Without causing offense, more than necessary, to the
provisions of the July 20, 1991 modified Constitution, the
present constitutional law order has the objective to
define the temporary powers of the High State Council.

NOUAKCHOTT 00000431 002 OF 008

Article 1: The armed and security forces exercise, through
the High State Council, the necessary powers for the
reorganizing and conduct of the State and the public
affairs during the period necessary for organizing
presidential elections, in accordance with the provisions
of the present constitutional law.

Article 2: The powers of the President of the Republic
inaugurated on April 19, 2007 have been ended. The powers
reserved to the President of the Republic under the terms
of the July 20, 1991 modified Constitution, are exercised,
in the collegial form, by the High State Council.

Article 3: The High State Council designates its president
in the forms provided for by the Council internal
regulation. The President is accountable before the High
State Council. The members of the High Council are
appointed through law order issued by the High State

Article 4: The High State Council meets in ordinary
sessions every thirty days and, as necessary, in
extraordinary session when convened by its President or at
the request of the two thirds of its members.

Article 5: without damage of other constitutional
attributions reserved for the President and the provisions
of article 6 hereinafter, the High State Council exercises
the executive power and in particular the prerogatives
provided for at articles 23 through 39 of title II of the
modified Constitution of July 20, 1991.
Acts concerned with the High State Council under the terms
of the present law order bear the signature of the
President of the High Council preceded by:

"For the High State Council,
The President"

The President of the High State Council presides, on behalf
of the institution, the Cabinet meeting and other
authorities that the Constitution places under the
Presidency of the Republic.

Article 6: The President of the High State Council appoints
the Prime Minister and the Ministers and puts an end to
their functions in the conditions provided for by the
Constitution. He appoints at civil and military positions.

Article 7: In case of absence or prevention of the High
State Council President, he is replaced in his functions
according to the forms provided for by the Council internal

Article 8: The Parliament, the Higher Council of the
Magistrature, the Constitutional Council, the Tribunal
Courts, the High Justice Court, the High Islamic Council,
the Economic and Social Council, the Audit Court, and the
municipalities continue to exercise their competencies in
accordance with texts that govern them.

When for any reason, the operation of the parliament is
blocked, the High State Council enacts by ordinance the
measures with legislative force that are necessary for
guaranteeing the continuing of public powers and for
guaranteeing freedom and transparency of the scheduled
presidential elections.
Ordinances issued in application of the present article
cannot, in any case, cause offense to the pubic and
individual freedoms recognized by the Constitution and the
laws of the republic.

Article 9: The provisions of the modified Constitution of
July 20, 1991, contrary or incompatible with the present
constitutional ordinance, are codified as necessary and
this, during the period necessary for organizing
presidential elections and at the inauguration of the
elected President of the republic.

Article 10: The present constitutional ordinance will be
modified and completed as a need be by constitutional
ordinance from the High State Council.

NOUAKCHOTT 00000431 003 OF 008

Article 11: The present constitutional ordinance will be
published according to the emergency procedure an in the
Official Journal.

Comment: Unlike the rules that the 2005 junta established
for itself, this decree offers no specific timetable for
elections and does not bar junta members from running for
office. Article 8 is particularly concerning, as it
effectively gives the High State Council legislative
authority as well. This modification to Azizs original
pledge to suspend only the Executive was likely driven by
the refusal of the President of the National Assembly to
recognize the coup.

-------------- --------------
High State Council sacks Mauritanian ambassadors
-------------- --------------

4. (U) Local media reports that the High State Council
sacked a number of Mauritanian ambassadors considered close
to former president Abdallahi including the Mauritanian
ambassador to the United States Dia Ibraima, the
Mauritanian ambassador to France Lematt Mint Ewnen, and the
Mauritanian ambassador to Mali Sidamine Ould Ahmed Challa.

Other internal reactions

5. (C) Post continues to poll sources outside of Nouakchott
for reaction to the crisis. Responses include:

-- Yacoub Ould Salem Vall, Popular Alliance for Progress
(APP) mayor of Zouerat, Tiris Zemmour - The reactions in
Zouerat were largely against the coup. The rally that was
staged there saw the participation of more cars than
people. The town is controlled by commercial syndicates
that dont favor the coup. The mayor said that he did not
attend the pro-coup demonstration.

-- NFah Ouattara, regional representative in Kaedi, Gorgol
for the NGO Counterpart International - People are more
concerned about the delay in the rains than the political
situation. But the majority of the people disapprove of the
coup. The State Council has pressured some local leaders in
order to demonstrate. One demonstration took place but no
prominent leader attended.

-- Mohammed Ould Mohammedou, independent mayor of
Lekhcheb, a town near Tidjikja, Tagant - Most people,
particularly the poor, in the area favor the coup, because
they blame former president Abdellahi for rising food

-- Aminetou Mint Maouloud, Adil MP from Aleg, Brakna - This
is a step backward. People in Aleg no longer trust the
military. One tribe (Ehel Youma) held a small pro-coup
demonstration but not many others joined them.

-- Sall Kalidou, community leader from Rosso, Trarza -
Rosso is the home district of Senator Sidi Mohammed Ould
Mohsen, one of AbdellahiQ,s staunchest critics in the
Senate. Mohsen has organized pro-coup demonstrations but
most citizens continue their daily lives unconcerned with
the political situation.

-- Yahya Traore, community leader from Kankossa, Assaba -
People demonstrated in support of the coup as soon as the
news broke out. Two days later, another pro-coup
demonstration was organized by members of the PRDR and
independent politicians in the town. People came from
Kankossa but also from surrounding villages.

Meeting with Chinese Ambassador

6. (C) Ambassador met August 11 with the Chinese Ambassador
who reported he had met with General Aziz and received the
familiar explanation of the coup. The Chinese Ambassador

NOUAKCHOTT 00000431 004 OF 008

told Aziz the Chinese Government made a point not to
interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and
wished to see the rapid restoration of political stability
given the presence of some 1,300 Chinese citizens in
Mauritania. The Chinese Ambassador worried that a
prolonged political impasse might spark additional coups.

Meeting with Saudi Ambassador

7. (C) Ambassador Boulware met August 12 with the Saudi
Ambassador and urged him to help the generals find a way to
restore constitutional order. The Saudi Ambassador noted
his nations condemnation of the coup told Ambassador
Boulware that he would discuss what further action to take
with his government.

-------------- --------------
Meeting with World Bank Representative
-------------- --------------

8. (C) The Ambassador met August 12 with World Bank
representative Francois Rantura. He explained that his
local staff had been on administrative leave up until now
in response to the August 6 coup but has plans to bring
them back on shortly. In addition, he prepared an analysis
of the impact of the coup on their relationship with the
government and projects, in accordance with World Bank
procedures. He is currently at work on a good governance
roadmap that partners could use to guide their relationship
with a new regime.

-------------- -
Meeting with EU Ambassadors and UNDP Res Rep
-------------- --

9. (C) Ambassador met again August 11 with EU Ambassadors
and UNDP Res Rep to share information and coordinate
positions. Both UNDP Res Rep Ribeiro and French Ambassador
Vandepoorter indicated that they had had separate follow on
meetings with General Aziz after the presentation of the
joint demarche. French Ambassador left a written copy of
the EU demarche and reaffirmed Frances firm position and
President Sarkozys personal interest in Mauritania and the
welfare of President Abdallahi. UNDP Res Rep Ribeiro urged
that Aziz remain engaged with the international community
and more clearly articulate the intentions of the "High
State Council." A tired Aziz reportedly responded that he
had done nothing but meet with ambassadors and envoys for
several days and that he was seeking legal and political
advice that would permit the council to lay out its plans.
Amid a general and somewhat unfocused discussion of the
role and intention of parliamentarians both the French and
American Ambassadors observed that no actions taken while
the military was in power would be legitimate. World Bank
Representative Rantrua, just back from leave, joined the
group, as well, and noted that the GIRMs cash reserves
were not substantial. He also said that the Bank was also
obliged to take measures in the event of a coup and that he
would be looking at that.

-------------- --------------
Meeting with Presidential Principal Counselor Ennahoui
-------------- --------------

10. (C) DCM met evening of August 11 with President
Abdallahis Principal Counselor Khalil Ould Ennahoui
(PROTECT) at Ennahouis residence. Ennahoui is one of
Abdallahis closer confidants and has been responsible for
high-profile development portfolios (the U.S. MCC program
and Gulf investment relations) as well as the Governments
food emergency "Special Intervention Program." Ennahoui,
who continues to exercise his functions at the Presidency,
spoke at length about the Presidents relationship with the
military, the current crisis, and possible solutions.

11. (C) The Ever-Deteriorating Relationship: Ennahoui
placed himself among those who had warned Abdallahi about
the military from the beginning believing that, for all the
talk of transition to democracy, it would be only a matter

NOUAKCHOTT 00000431 005 OF 008

of time before they moved against the new president.
Abdallahi told him, "We have work to do and we cant get it
done if we dont trust our colleagues and the military are
our colleagues." Abdallahi sought to find a working
accommodation with Aziz from the beginning essentially
giving him free rein on security matters in exchange for
control over politics. Abdallahi found, instead, that Aziz
constantly encroached further into politics and
consistently broke commitments each time Abdallahi though
he had established a new cohabitation agreement. During
the beginning of the political crisis in June, Aziz assured
Abdallahi of support just before the President departed for
the AU Summit in Egypt -- only to launch the censure motion
leading to the collapse of the first Waghef government.
After the second Waghef government had been established, a
cabinet "stuffed with the generals ministers," Abdallahi
though he had finally appeased Aziz only to have him launch
efforts leading to an impeachment process while Aziz was in
Spain. Abdallahi, according to Ennahoui, fired the
generals fully aware it would lead to a coup in order to
forestall what he believed was coming -- the beginning of a
parliamentary investigation for corruption followed by a
military-inspired public rampage of the palace during which
the military would "rescue the president" but be forced to
take power if ever so reluctantly. Ennahoui said that by
the end, Abdallahi was under constant military audio
surveillance. Abdallahi told him "Im the only one that
gains from a coup" (because he emerges as a martyr for
democracy) but that he continued to appease to avoid the
damage a coup would do to the country.

12. (C) Political Situation: Ennahoui was pleased with the
release earlier in the day of all detainees except the
President and with the large anti-coup rally held during
the day. He saw U.S. and French positions as key in having
undermined military confidence in the coup but was not
overly confident of success. He saw that "after a few
weeks everyone will get used to this" and saw the need for
even greater pressure on the junta. Adding, "as much as I
hate to see the harm it will do the people," he saw cutting
off the money as the best leverage on the military.
Specifically, he saw the U.S. as potentially key in getting
Gulf states to threaten to turn off the $1.5 billion in
investments on stream. As the Presidencys lead with
Qatar, he said that in a late June meeting with the Emir
the Qatari had said, "radicalism in your country will only
be defeated by democracy which you must continue to
advance" -- promising to build Mauritania -- the largest
parliament building in the Arab world in recognition of
Mauritanias democracy. Ennahoui saw the Emir personally
as being willing to use pending investments (financing a
new airport, an iron ore processing plant, Mauritanias
first world class hotel) as leverage.

13. (C) A fractured Military: Ennahoui asserted that many
of the members of the High Council of State were not at all
comfortable with Aziz whose personal ambition was starting
to outpace his stated concern for the nation and the armed
forces. Ennahoui understood General Ghazwani had been
extremely upset by Azizs auto-proclamation of himself as
head of the High Council of State before the Council had
even met. When asked what Aziz would do if his coup was
failing, Ennahoui said "he will never decide to leave on
his own." He saw the possibility that Aziz could be made to
step back by the other members of the High Council of State
if they saw no chance of success. That said, Ghazwani has
gained too much from Aziz and is ultimately afraid to stand
up to Aziz. Ennahoui say the head of the Surete, Mohammed
Ould Cheikh al Hadi, as the one most respected by military
and civilians alike who could be the catalyst of a decision
to push Aziz aside. Ghazwani could be brought along, but
al Hadi or someone else would have to take the lead.

14. (C) Abdallahis failings. Ennahoui criticized
Abdallahi for his naivetQ in his dealings with the
military. When asked about the accusations of corruption,
Ennahoui insisted that the President was as clean as anyone
he knew; however, when pushed further, he admitted that
Abdallahis wife is a different matter and may, ultimately,
be Abdallahis Achilles heel. "If you think the Presidents
relationship with Aziz has been bad, his marriage has

NOUAKCHOTT 00000431 006 OF 008

been worse," with the President constantly trying -- and
usually failing -- to contain his wifes avarice. Ennahoui
also saw Abdallahi as ultimately giving into ego
particularly in reinstating Prime Minister Waghef in what
Ennahoui said was a pitiful effort to exert "I am here!"
after caving to the military yet again. Ennahoui had been
little impressed by Waghefs skills and saw him as "part of
the problem." He did not see Waghef as playing a role if
Abdallahi is restored to his office.

-------------- --------------
Meeting with Leader of the Opposition Ahmed Ould Daddah
-------------- --------------

15. (C) DCM met afternoon of August 12 with President of
the Rally of Democratic Forces and official Leader of the
Opposition Ahmed Ould Daddah to outline the U.S. position
on the coup and express our disappointment with Daddahs
reported support of the coup. Daddah, the second-place
candidate in the Presidential elections, built his response
as follows:
-- It is incorrect to say the 2005 coup was the military
starting the process leading to democracy -- that coup
happened only because his party had turned the population
and the military against a dictator.
-- The militarys stated desire to hand over the country to
democracy was never sincere as they sought to place "their
guy" Abdallahi in the Presidency.
-- The 2007 elections were marred by fraud -- at least
20,000 voter cards were purchased from his supporters to
keep them from voting for Daddah in Nouakchott alone.
-- He accepted Abdallahi as President because it was more
important to have some type of democratically elected
president than risk the violence that would have come with
a contested election. That said, Abdallahi never had a
"true democratic mandate."
-- Abdallahi had proven a useless leader. If he had
planned to take on the military he should have done so at
the beginning of his mandate. Not now when it was too
-- None of Abdallahis policies had advanced. Corruption
is worse than ever. Crime is up. Drug traffic is up (and
the Presidency had blocked a parliamentary inquiry). The
key refugee return program was botched from the start. The
anti-slavery law was all well and good but a policy to
really dismantle the institution through economic support
and land access for former slaves had never gotten off the
-- Abdallahi was blocking any and all constitutional
methods that might have led to his ouster.

16. (C) Daddah had been in Tunis when the coup took place
and, while condemning coups on principle, had accepted the
Generals move as the best end to a miserable solutQn.
Noting he had lost support during the past year for "being
too easy on Sidi" he acknowledged he was now losing some
support for what was seen as abandoning democracy. Saying
his own presidential interests were now on the back burner,
he said now his priorities were (1) to avoid pain for the
country, (2) to ensure that a "truly democratic process"
leads to election of a "real president," and (3) to ensure
that Abdallahi is not reinstated in a failed and ultimately
illegitimate presidency. Towards this end he called for
the U.S. to support a Mauritanian dialogue among parties,
civil society and the military that coup lead to a
transition (perhaps under the President of the Senate)
leading to free elections. DCM noted that such a dialogue
with the just announced framework of the High Council of
State in place would have as much validity and utility as a
conference among prisoners in a prison. Other than, "we
cant predict the results of the dialogue, " Daddah had no
suggestions on what would drive the military to give up
power if not dealt with firmly now. In the end, the best
he could say was "the military runs the governments in
Algeria and Turkey, but you still deal with them."

NGOs and Civil Society

17. (SBU) DCM met August 10 with members of NGOs and civil

NOUAKCHOTT 00000431 007 OF 008

society who support the coup. The members of civil society
expressed support for the military junta who they describe
as once again coming in to restore security and democracy.
They described the military as the only institution that
has the legitimacy and organization to be able to prevent
civil war. They insisted on the fact that they believe
that the country was heading toward civil war before the
intervention of the military, describing President
Abdallahi as neglectful of the worsening social, economic,
and political conditions. Despite Parliamentary efforts to
work within the Constitution, President Abdallahi continued
to govern in what they describe as "a democracy without
legitimacy." They pleaded with the USG not to sanction the
Mauritanian people for its governments wrongdoings.

An Afro-Mauritanian Perspective

18. (C) EconOff met August 10 with Ba Alassane, a civil
society activist and president of COPECO, an
Afro-Mauritanian organization seeking reparations for the
events of 1989. Ba, a Pular, said that as a member of
civil society, he opposed the coup as a matter of
principle. However, he said that he supports neither
President Abdallahi nor the military junta. He criticized
Abdallahi for not "governing democratically" and accused
both he and his wife of nepotism and corruption. He said
that he cannot support the junta either because of the
militarys role in the 1989 events and accusations of
corruption. According to Ba, the Afro-Mauritanian
community is split over the coup. He said that those who
are politically active and understand the situation
generally support the coup because they were well aware of
the problems within the Abdallahi administration and the
allegations of corruption. Those who are not politically
active continue to support Abdallahi for his efforts to
return the refugees.

19. (C) Ba said that during the last days of Abdallahis
administration the country was heading toward civil war and
the military stepped in to prevent it. He said that the
current situation with General Aziz in power is now reality
and is unlikely to change. Any effort to remove General
Aziz short of elections will require bloodshed. He notes
that different groups are forming within Mauritania, many
opposed to each other, and the threat of civil war
persists. With opposition to the coup in Mauritania and a
much stronger reaction from the international community, he
said that Aziz was likely caught off guard and is in a much
more precarious position than he was anticipating. He
suggests that Aziz may be looking for a way out. Ba states
that he had a phone conversation August 10 with someone
very close to Aziz asking for his assistance. Note: Ba is
a member of the AJD/MR political party, one of the four
political parties said to be in negotiations with the junta
to form a transitional government. Ba said that Azizs
advisor told him that Aziz is going to organize elections
in a very short time period, resign shortly, and present
himself as a civilian candidate in the elections.

20 (C) For Ba, the solution must be a Mauritanian
solution. He says that Mauritanians need to come together
around a table and have an honest dialogue to find a
solution, rather than have one imposed on them by the
international community. Ba called on the junta to
guarantee a timeframe for elections and to be neutral and
not support any of the candidates. He added that the
elections must also be financially transparent and
candidates made to declare their campaign finances because
last time the military was working behind the scenes to
provide financial and material support to Abdallahi, their
chosen candidate. He said that he was disappointed that
the junta had already begun to back away from the election
timeline that it had earlier put forth.

-------------- --------------
Meeting with Professor Cheikh Saad Bouh Kamara
-------------- ---

21. (C) EconOff met August 10 with Cheikh Saad Bouh Kamara,

NOUAKCHOTT 00000431 008 OF 008

professor emeritus at the University of Nouakchott and a
member of the last Electoral Commission. Kamara denounced
the coup, calling it unacceptable. He called on the
international community to take the following actions: call
for the immediate release of President Abdallahi, demand
that the transitional government not stay in power for more
than three months, not allow the coup leaders to
participate in the transitional government, and freeze the
accounts and place travel bans on individual members of the
junta. He believes that not allowing members of the junta
and their immediate family to travel abroad to purchase
goods would have a significant influence on them.

22. (C) While Kamara said that he was a strong supporter of
the last coup and the electoral process, he said that he
would refuse to participate in the elections again if
asked. He said that holding new elections would be illegal
because there is no provision for it in the constitution.
He noted that if the junta were truly abiding by the
constitution as it says that it is, it would have made the
President of the Senate the interim President, not General
Aziz. He envisions that the current political crisis will
eventually be resolved through elections. He cautioned
that the problems of the 2005-2007 transitional period and
2007 elections (i.e. military support for a candidate) must
be avoided in the future. He says that a transitional
government should not be allowed to form because it will
lead to a recurring cycle of coups in Mauritania. He
called on the international community not to finance the
transitional period or the elections. He favors forming a
committee composed of members of civil society,
politicians, and the military, where all decisions are made
by consensus, to lead the country for the next few months
and organize elections. He stressed that members of the
junta should not be allowed to participate in the
committee. He lamented that there were no great leaders or
intellectuals in Mauritania who were able to step in and
mediate the political divisions between the President, the
legislature, and the military to prevent the coup.

23. (C) Kamara also highlighted the precariousness of the
current situation in Mauritania. He said Mauritanians are
tired of the divisions between the president and
legislature and now is not a time to be playing politics
while so many people are hungry. While characterizing
President Abdallahi as "very naive," he also accused him of
looking to start a civil war by naming new generals and
colonels without neutralizing others, thus dividing the
army. While many have accused the generals of playing
politics behind the scenes and engineering the political
crisis, he said that many civilian and political leaders
were not happy and had begun coordinating with the
generals. He used the "chicken and the egg" metaphor to
describe the situation, indicating that it was not clear
who really started the political crisis. He noted that
while civil society is rapidly maturing, it is still young
and fragile and there is a danger of politicizing it in the
current atmosphere. He said that he does not believe that
people participating in the pro-coup rallies are truly
sincere, characterizing them as "rallies of opportunity."
He noted that ministers have been traveling to the interior
of the country to lead rallies, but must people are only
participating because they hope that it will lead to
personal benefits under the new regime.

Meeting with Released Refugee Program Head

24. (C) Ambassador and DCM met August 12 with Moussa Fall,
director of the national refugee agency, who had been
arrested with President Abdallahi and released on August