Friday, June 08, 2012

Mauritanian Arab Spring

Many people have never heard of Mauritania, and most would probably be unable to pinpoint it on a map even though its land mass is larger than France and Germany combined. Many Arabs are unaware that it is a member of the Arab League. Since January 2011, when Yacoub Ould Dahoud fatally set himself alight in front of the presidential palace, the country has been ungoing an Arab Spring. Protests have taken place across Mauritania ever since, spurred by the same factors as in other Arab states: economic, political and social disenfranchisement. But unlike those in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere in the region, Mauritania's have been barely a blip on the news radar. Very low internet usage in the country – reportedly less than 2% of households – has made it difficult for Mauritanians to get their views, eyewitness accounts and images out to the rest of the world. It is the overlooked uprising.

 Few have taken little interest in Mauritania since its independence from France in 1960, because until recently it was seen as a poor expanse of desert with little strategic value (it has one of the lowest GDPs in Africa, making it among the poorest countries in the world). However, its importance is likely to increase, and with it the world's attention. Mauritania's extensive iron ore deposits, which account for almost half of its exports, have increased in value due to rising metal prices, leading to more mines being opened, and increased revenues. Furthermore, oil was discovered in 2001, although Mauritanians have yet to benefit because the country lacks the necessary infrastructure to fully exploit its reserves. However, with production on the rise, several oil exploration deals inked in the last year, the potential windfall is huge.

 There is also the possibility, or perhaps even the probability, that the protests in Mauritania will intensify, mainly because the government seems not to have learned from the mistakes of other Arab regimes that are under threat. It has used a combination of repression and pledges of reform that have left Mauritanians unconvinced and more frustrated. Demonstrations have thus far been peaceful and centred around reforms. However, as in other Arab states, if protesters feel they are being indefinitely ignored or oppressed, not only might calls for reform become demands for regime change, but violence may become a means to advance those demands – a particularly dangerous development given Mauritania's ethnic fault lines.

 Mauritanians are no less deserving of their rights, rather than the self-serving interests of  the world powers.

Taken from here

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