The step taken by Mauritania’s head of the ruling military council, Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall, is commendable. He upheld his pledge and organized a presidential election, barring himself from running for office. Nineteen presidential hopefuls contested the election after long years of military rule and consecutive coups that wore out the country and delayed its development.
Mauritania, like many other Arab states, has been exhausted by military rule, military control over the destinies of civil society and the appointment of an ignorant officer to the position of head of state. These states paid heavy prices and missed out on several opportunities for development. Financial and administrative corruption prevailed, prisons were crowded with opposition figures, and the army assumed its role as a tool for internal suppression rather than protection of homelands.
The militaries in a number of Arab states committed crimes against society from the very moment that they pounced upon civil governments, ravaging the country and setting up regimes that are much worse than their predecessors. They plundered the resources of the people and used them by taking part in adventures with their neighbors. Any ignorant officer was able to control critical positions in society. Academic institutions and universities were ruined and politicized. A media apparatus was created that extolled these armies and their commanders who had no conscience or moral restraints.
Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall announced that the age of military coups was over and that the country had entered the stage of peaceful transition of power through ballot boxes. We hope this will take place, and in such a case this will require the new parliament to pass a law that incriminates seizure of power by military force and deems any ruler who comes to power through a military coup as unconstitutional. This issue requires intervention by Mauritanian civil society organizations to protect the newborn experience, bring Mauritania out of the state of isolation and utilize the available resources, regardless of how few they are, to develop the country.
Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall’s decision is praiseworthy. After all, he has broken a deep-rooted Arab tradition of clinging to power at any cost and drawing legitimacy from the military tanks.