Thursday, August 18, 2005

Mauritania

Via Instapundit(!), a whole series of posts on the coup in Mauritania (the last is especially interesting). What they all leave out is the recent discovery of oil, and what that means for the country.

The sense among Mauritanians I knew in Dakar was that the presence of oil (it comes on-line in 2006) accounted for the U.S. sidling up to the president, and, also, for the president's willingness to cooperate in the war on terror. That is, suddenly the west was friendly (stopped condemning human rights abuses, according to the Mauritanians, though see the 2003 State Department Human Rights Report) and so the president reciprocated. So the coup in this case could represent a backlash against this sidling up. Though I'm no expert.

It's not entirely surprised that a more fundamentalist regime would be popular: I had a very surprising conversation with Mohammed Abdul Aziz, age about 20:
"Mauritania isn't a real Islamic republic."
"But it is the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, right?"
"Yeah, but the government doesn't do anything about it."
"So they ought to enforce shari'ah?"
"Exactly."

Which I thought rather surprising coming from a guy studying computer science, watching american movies, listening to american music and wearing jeans and a t-shirt (all simultaneously!).

Previous posts on Mauritania.

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