Elections will be held as soon as possible, promised the military rulers in Mauritania, after seizing power (photo, from AFP) in a bloodless coup on Wednesday
In a statement they said that the elections would be “free and transparent”.
Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, the country’s first democratically elected president has been overthrew by the officers who seized him after he tried to dismiss army chiefs.
There was widespread international condemnation of the coup.
In a statement, the new ruling council said it would “supervise the holding of presidential elections enabling the relaunch of the democratic process in the country and to reshape it on a perennial basis”.
“These elections, which will be held in the shortest possible period, will be free and transparent and will bring for the future a continued and harmonious functioning of all the constitutional powers”, said the statement.
Since its independence from France in 1960, Mauritania has a long history of coups, with the military involved in nearly every government.
Held in 2007, the presidential elections ended a two-year period of military rule, that was the product of a military coup in 2005.
Deemed to have been free and fair, the elections appeared to herald a new era of democracy.
On Wednesday, the president tried to dismiss four senior army officers, including Gen Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz (photo, from bbc.co.uk), the head of the presidential guard, who responded by launching the coup. Later it was announced that he had formed an 11-member military council in order to rule the country.
The president and prime minister have been detained by the military council, which then said that Mr Abdallahi, who took over a military junta last year, coming to power in polls, was now a “former president”.
Ban Ki-Moon, UN chief, called for the “restoration of constitutional order”, while condemnation has also come from the US, the EU and the African Union (AU).
In the same time, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for the immediate release of President Abdallahi and Prime Minister Yahia Ould Ahmed El-Ouakef, detained by troops on Wednesday.
In a statement she said that “the United States looks to all of our international partners to condemn this anti-democratic action”.
Aid to Mauritania might be suspended, warned the EU.
Demanding a return to constitutional government, the coup has also been denounced by the AU, who said it was immediately sending an envoy to Nouakchott, the country’s capital.
Although it is the world’s newest oil producer, Mauritania is one of its poorest nations.
The desert nation and former French colony of more than three million people has been looking to oil revenues to boost its economy.