NOUAKCHOTT: The race to be Mauritania’s next leader began on Friday, with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz expected to hold onto power in elections marred by calls for a widespread boycott.
The ex-army general, who took over the former French colony in a coup in August 2008, has been head-of-state since he was officially elected the following year for a five-year term. He launched his campaign for re-election in the southern city of Kaedi, telling supporters that since he came to power the country had made “great strides” in security and economic growth. The mainly Muslim republic, sandwiched between the west coast of Africa and the Sahara desert, is seen by Western leaders as strategically important in the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked groups within its own borders, in neighbouring Mali and across Africa’s Sahel region.
Abdel Aziz said he had transformed the country into a regional haven of peace, thanks to his reorganisation of the military and security forces. Under his watch, the army has conducted “preventative” raids against Al-Qaeda’s regional branch in north and west Africa, and he has been heavily involved as head of the African Union in peace talks between separatist rebels and the government in neighbouring Mali. Political analyst Mohamed Fall Ould Oumeire said the president’s successes in fighting terror were “undeniable”.
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