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Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani and his predecessor, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, during Ould Ghazouani’s inauguration Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, left, and his predecessor, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, center, during Ould Ghazouani’s inauguration in Nouakchott, Mauritania, Aug. 1, 2019 (AP photo by Elhady Ould Mohamedou).

A Presidential Rift Sours Mauritania’s Political Transition

Friday, Jan. 10, 2020

When Mauritania’s ruling Union for the Republic met for its party congress in late December, it marked a new stage in the deepening rupture between President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, who was elected last summer, and his predecessor, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. The two men have gone from close associates to bitter rivals in the space of just five months. For now, Ould Ghazouani clearly has the upper hand, as the party congress made clear, when his preferred slate of candidates won the various contests for party leadership. Yet amid the two men’s rivalry, which has added a sour note to the first peaceful transfer of power between elected heads of state since Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960, the country’s wider social tensions remain acute.

Ould Ghazouani and Ould Abdel Aziz came up together through the ranks of the Mauritanian military. They served together as key senior staff to the longtime dictator Maaouya Ould Taya, who took power in 1984. Ould Ghazouani and Ould Abdel Aziz orchestrated a coup against Ould Taya in 2005, and then intervened again in 2008 after falling out with a civilian president whose election they had helped to facilitate. With this second coup, Ould Abdel Aziz became head of state, first as the head of a military junta and then, shedding his uniform for civilian garb, as an elected president in 2009. Ould Abdel Aziz won reelection in a 2014 vote that was boycotted by the opposition. ...

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