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Mauritania: Agreement May Lead to Return to Constitutional Government

(June 22, 2009) On June 4, 2009, Mauritania took a step toward a return to constitutional order and democratic rule. The country had undergone a coup d'état in 2008, when President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallah, elected in 2007, was thrown out of office by the military. On June 2, 2009, an agreement was reached in Dakar by Mauritanian political parties; the pact was formally signed by the heads of those parties in Nouakchott, Mauritania's capital, on June 4. The President of the neighboring nation Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, the Chairman of the African Union, and others assisted in the negotiation process. Praising the agreement, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it was a “solid basis” for the return of the country to constitutional order. Mauritania's next presidential election, originally scheduled for June 6, was put off until July 18, 2009, under the agreement. (Ban Welcomes Pact Paving Way for Return to Constitutional Order, UN NEWS SERVICE, June 5, 2009, available at; Parties Agree on Interim Govt, Election Date, LE SOLEIL (Dakar, Senegal), June 4, 2009, available at

Between the time of the agreement and the election, Mauritania will be governed by a transitional government. Among the parties to the agreement, some felt that the transitional government should be based on the existing constitution and include a national assembly and a senate. The opposition political parties argued that a crisis-management structure should be imposed. The compromise included keeping the currently governing party in control of the prime ministerial post, but heading the ministries of the interior, of finance, and of communications with members of the opposition. (LE SOLEIL, supra.)

British Foreign Office Minister for North Africa and the Middle East, Bill Rammell, welcomed the agreement, stating that it establishes “a clear timetable for free and fair elections and the restoration of constitutional government.” (Mauritania: Agreement to Return to Constitutional Government, Foreign & Commonwealth Office website, June 5, 2009, available at In addition to scheduling the elections, as part of the agreement, the ruling party has agreed to release all political prisoners. (Id.)