Thursday, August 7, 2008
Paint on boat, Nouadhibou - Mauritaine
Speaking of CONTEXT, Mauritania's military seized power yesterday and removed from office the country's first democratically elected president in over 20 yrs. To me, an unexpected blow, tho this seems to have been brewing for the past year or so.. I've been writing optimistically [naively] about Mauritania's 2005 onward slow shift towards democracy and recent discovery of oil, and what it could mean for the next generation of Mauritanians. B/c its so isolated yet connected, 'Arab' and 'African' yet neither, and so rarely written about, Mauritania was a really interesting/fresh space for me to examine all those themes of petrocracy, global china, terrorism, race, human migration, desertification and global warming, etc in college. So it goes.
sand dunes devouring the capital [Nouakchott]
Of course, its all hella complicated. a: The president was fairly corrupt and a previous coup leader himself b: the same military leaders who took control were some of the same ones involved in democratization efforts. c: Public anger at the govt for failing to protect them from rising food prices and costs of living may have helped push public opinion against the ex-pres Sidi. but in terms of optimism, and the future of race relations this feels like a huge step backwards. Like in the Sudan, southern "black Africans" have huge legitimate issues with the minority "northern Arabs" totalitarian rule (oversimplification of course, the majority are mixed race). Race riots and isolated incidents of and fears of ethnic cleansing have led to refugee populations, and the new democracy was organizing repatriation and nobody is sure what is going to happen to them now..
if you want more info, the bbc, nytimes, and even aljazeera have released vague, unhelpful reports. The most useful to understand the recent coup in context for me has been Western Sahara info (esp comments),The moor next door, and Mosaic.
sum wonderful awkward Mauritanian (puelar) dancehall/hiphop