Mauritania and its bridal democracy [Archives:2007/1031/Opinion]

March 8 2007

By: Samia Al-Aghbari
I hesitated too much before writing about Mauritania, a country which originally belongs to Arab and Islamic culture. Mauritania, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is the western gate to the Arab world.

Mauritania is a world rich in thought and creative variation despite the poverty and the social and economic suffering of its citizens. I fear that my writing about this forgotten country will not be able to do it justice, and anytime I decide to write about something there, I am immediately confronted by conflicting ideas.

I have decided to delay writing about Mauritania; land and man, customs and heritage. Mauritania is a country which has an amazing ability to adapt itself to all cultures, whether they be Arabic, Islamic, African or otherwise.

I cannot, however, delay writing about the way in which democracy is conducted in Mauritania these days, in a manner similar to that in which a wedding ceremony is conducted. This fact gives us some hope of an Arab democratic ideal which can be imitated. Though the state of Mauritania was recognized only during the 1960s, the political activity, despite all its earlier hindrances, is considered admirable and calls for a brighter Mauritanian future. The Military Council of Justice and Democracy, which overthrew the former regime in 2003, made constitutional amendments which ensured a peaceful transfer of power.

What makes me admire them most is this celebration of democracy similar almost to a wedding ceremony, which includes artistic celebrations together with poetry and ardent speeches. Further, the 19 presidential candidates presented their electoral platforms without insulting each other in this democratic bridal ceremony, not democratic battle.

Women's participation and support added to this spirit of toleration and friendliness throughout the electoral campaigns. Any observer of the campaigns of presidential candidates, though from different political streams and trends, will not notice any tensions or accusations. Each candidate tried to present his electoral platform quietly and with faith and then left the public to decide.

It can also be noticed that the Mauritanian citizens in general, and woman in particular, are aware of all prime issues concerning society. They want the coming president to treat problems like poverty and unemployment and supply basic services such as health, education, water, electricity and roads. They also seek justice and equality irrespective of sex or race. This is also true regarding the attitudes of candidates towards foreign issues such as Arab-Arab relations, relations with Israel, Islamic and other international issues.

However, this does not mean that Mauritania does not belong to its Arab or Islamic surroundings, as perhaps we saw with the former regime which was overthrown as a result of its relations with Israel. It seems as if they are trying to say they can think of decisive and complex issues while at the same time considering issues such as their inability to secure basic needs such as drink, clothes and adequate housing. The Mauritanian citizen has become even more aware of his rights and basic requirements than the electoral candidates.

I am certain that the tolerant and peaceful Mauritanian people will not abandon their national principles and Islamic identity, and that their exertions towards freedom, democracy, justice and equality are the right path for achieving the Arab dream, represented in a comprehensive Arab unity based on firm pillars.

I further think that the presidential elections, regardless of their results, will help fix these pillars of democracy and peaceful transfer of power, and there will be scientific courses on democratic practices from which many Arabs and Muslims can learn.

Some people doubt the success of democracy in Mauritania, under the pretext of its tribal and positional disposition, as well as the ease with which votes can be bought due to poverty. My optimism springs from the unlimited public reaction of the Mauritanian people with all of their factions and doctrines working towards making the democratic experience a great success. They strive to make their candidates win but without insulting others, and neither arms nor chaos were present during the elections.

Mauritanians have a real conviction, after long suffering, that democracy and a peaceful transfer of power are the solution to all problems that hamper comprehensive and sustainable development in their country.

Source: Al-Thawra Newspaper