According to a BBC report, Wednesday 10 August, "the United States and the African Union have dropped their demands that last week's coup in Mauritania be reversed". The report continued by stating that "The US is now working with the military junta to ensure that multiparty elections are held as soon as possible". It further quoted a US state Department spokesman, one Adam Ereli as saying "The guys running the country right now are the guys we are dealing with".
Meanwhile the deposed President Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya who first sought refuge in Niger Republic, whose President is the current chairperson of the ECOWAS has reportedly left Niamey for another West African country, The Gambia. The fact that Mr Taya is now seeking refuge in West Africa, not North Africa and not the other Arab countries with which his and previous Mauritanian regimes (of Moor-Arabised political elite)have identified exposed the stupidity of that ruling class.
They are in West Africa but behave as if they are in the Marghreb. They are in Africa but think they are part of the Middle East. Taya is as guilty as everyone else in fostering this false sectarian and racialist consciousness having been in power for more than 2 decades. It is easy to say he deserves what has come to him but there are questions of principles involved which cannot be sacrificed without greater evil compromise of the right of all peoples to be governed by a government of their own choosing and the freedom to change such government peacefully.
The realpolitic reaction of the U.S. government is not surprising and does not really bother me. Deep down in the hearts and minds of Americans and westerners in general, they really do not believe that non-westerners especially Africans deserve the same rights as themselves. In their view we are too backward’ to exercise the same democratic rights as them or even exercise the same economic and cultural rights like them. So at best they now seek amongst us regimes that are stable, where possible legitimate, even if not democratic. Their clamour for democracy is not strategic but tactical. Where democracy, no matter how crooked, will guarantee their interests they will claim to support it. Where it does not they will dispense with it despite claims that this is the century of freedom and democracy. The U.S.A's strategic interests in Mauritania is quite clear: Oil and TWAT (the war against terrorism).
As the U.S. diversifies its energy dependency away from its volatile puppet regimes in the Middle East every drop of oil especially in the west African / equatorial regions and those of central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, have become very important. Mauritania is due to start commercial sales in January. The deposed President was a good ally in the TWAT exploiting America's paranoia to round up his opponents whom rebranded Islamist extremists’ without any audible protest from Washington.
The initial reaction from Washington on the coup was dictated by the old cold war dictum of “Our bastard and their bastard”. However in a few days Washington had been assured that the new junta will be on the same wavelength on oil and TWAT hence the change of tune. This is yet again proof that African leaders are dispensable as far as Western interests are concerned. Taha was useful for a while but the “new” leaders have also signed up to imperialism. They have not said any thing about sending home the 2000 U.S. Special Forces in the country and are making usual noises about a transition to elected government and democracy in 2 years time. So as far as Washington is concerned, business can continue as usual.
While the interests of the U.S. is clear and fundamentally anti-African what is dismaying is the apparent complicity of the African Union on this coup.
One of the most fundamental qualitative differences between the old dictators United Club otherwise known as OAU and the new African Union, is the provision in the Union act that outlaws not just military coups against elected government in Africa but all unconstitutional changes of government.
This is an unambiguous position that cannot and should not be adulterated. Africa gave a good signal that the business of dictatorship was not continuing as usual when in 1999 the Algiers summit of the OAU gave thumbs down to military coups. People sneered but by December of that year General Gueye took over in Cote d’ivore. Both ECOWAS and OAU slammed the hammer down the General’s neck and forced him to organise a hurried transition. From then onwards, coups were no longer “internal affairs” on the African continent. From then there were other coups that were isolated such as in CAR and even democxratic legitimacy crisis in Madagascar. But the more recent example is that of Eyadema Junior in Togo. The ECOWAS and AU insisted that the constitutional process had to prevail within the allowed 60 days and forced the military to reverse the coup. So why is the same AU now talking about 2 years of transition in Mauritania? Although the Nigerian Foreign Minister whose President is the current Chair of the African Union has denied any such suggestion. The truth is that the Junta in Nouachott is busy consolidating . The claims that the country remains suspended from the AU is not credible if not backed by other punitive actions that can demonstrate to it that it is not welcomed. Otherwise the issue is being shifted away to their promise to return the country to democracy. A more appropriate example for Mauritania is Liberia under Charles Taylor. He was elected as part of a peace agreement but showed himself unable/incapable of transforming from a warlord to a statesman. Armed rebels were nearing the gates of the Presidential mansions in Monrovia when a combination of ECOWAS/AU with international support forced him to abdicate, succeeded by his Vice President after which a transitional government was negotiated and established leading to elections this October.
Four purposes were served by the complex intra African diplomacy that forced Charles Taylor into controversial asylum in Nigeria. One, an armed change of elected government was averted. Two, an unpopular “elected” leader was removed without subverting the popular mandate. Three, the constitutional order was preserved through an orderly constitutional succession not military imposition. And , four, the national unity government was the result of regionally sanctioned negotiations between all stake holders rather than the gift of a victorious army. To proceed from that huge success in Liberia to complicity in Mauritania, no matter how "popular" the coup seems is both a negation of the principles of the AU and a most retrogressive step for the Organisation. It is a collective shame on us as a people that in the year 2005 military Junta can be so brazenly accommodated. It should not matter what the US or any other self seeking foreign interests are doing we should abide by our own firm principles. If we lower the standard again we risk returning to the era of ‘I General this or that……’. Obasanjo and Nigerians of all Africans should at least be more sensitive to this to stop any equivocation on this question of principle. Or is Obasanjo saying to us that he can only bring democracy to little potentates like Cape Verde whose president he matched back home after a coup and not Mauritania? Or are we to understand that the African Union will also give discount on coups as long as the US or any other Western Interests dictate so?