Ambassador Said Kamal, assistant secretary general for Palestinian affairs at the Arab League in Cairo surprised many by his visit to Mauritania and his explicit support to the leaders of the military coup that came to power earlier this month. He did so after he was convinced the situation in Nouakchott was untenable and could only be resolved by the military seizing power. Truly, reality has become stranger than fiction!
Does the League of Arab States have the right, legally and ethically, to support a military coup in the name of all its members whilst continuing to declare itself the representative of legitimate Arab governments?
It is no secret that almost half of the current Arab governments came to power trough direct or indirect military coups yet not all of them received unconditional support from the Arab League, as was the case in Mauritania. Historically, members of the League has always opposed the overthrow of serving governments, especially those governments who had seized power and are well-aware of the problems this caused them.
Prior to August 2005, supporters of military coups in the Arab world would be greeted by hostility from neighboring countries and the League of Arab States who rejected the principle of military intervention to topple a regime. This unwritten rule has discouraged many army officers from attempting a military takeover as a lack of external support makes a coup unlikely to occur and others less likely to follow suit.
The Arab League’s hasty congratulations are unjustifiable, even if he Organization for African Unity, now the African Union, has done so before. It should not be drawn into a race to praise coup leaders. The League is not a government that can be swayed to support a rebellion or pressurized to change its position; it is a collective organization whose role is to confer legitimacy and reform the Arab world and not to please military coup leaders less than two weeks after they seize power.
On his visit to Nouakchott, the League’s representative said he was motivated to act by the exceedingly dangerous situation in Mauritania. This is ridiculous for someone who knows only to well the severity of other problems currently troubling the Arab world that are no less urgent.
Despite ousted President Maaouiya Ould Taya seizing power by force, over 21 years ago, he should have been deposed in a military coup. Instead, regime change should have occurred through a popular revolution or by means of external pressure.
If the League objected to the old regime, which it hasn’t said publicly, why didn’t it push for reform or suspend Mauritania’s membership, or even make its opinion of the regime known?