Army stages coup in Mauritania

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images Officers in Mauritania’s military have overthrown the government of President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and established a ruling military junta led by the former chief guard to the president. Abdallahi had been the first democratically elected leader in 20 years, but has come under fire recently for catering to hard-line Islamists. The ...

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593481_080806_mauritania5.jpg

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Officers in Mauritania's military have overthrown the government of President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and established a ruling military junta led by the former chief guard to the president. Abdallahi had been the first democratically elected leader in 20 years, but has come under fire recently for catering to hard-line Islamists. The coup comes after two weeks of political turmoil, which included a vote of no-confidence in the cabinet, a walk-out by 48 members of parliament and the dismissal of several top military officials. The president's daughter called it "a textbook coup d'etat."

Mauritania is an oil-rich country, one that scientists in 2006 predicted could churn out 300,000 barrels of oil a day. While this is just a drop in the barrel relative to the global oil market (Saudi Arabia alone provides over 10 million barrels a day), the volatile mixture of oil and political instability is never good for a country or for a region, as the Nigerian example clearly shows. It is also noteworthy that Mauritania is an Islamic republic that recognizes Israel, and that it has its own terrorism problem, with four French tourists murdered last December by al Qaeda affiliates.

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

Officers in Mauritania’s military have overthrown the government of President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and established a ruling military junta led by the former chief guard to the president. Abdallahi had been the first democratically elected leader in 20 years, but has come under fire recently for catering to hard-line Islamists. The coup comes after two weeks of political turmoil, which included a vote of no-confidence in the cabinet, a walk-out by 48 members of parliament and the dismissal of several top military officials. The president’s daughter called it “a textbook coup d’etat.”

Mauritania is an oil-rich country, one that scientists in 2006 predicted could churn out 300,000 barrels of oil a day. While this is just a drop in the barrel relative to the global oil market (Saudi Arabia alone provides over 10 million barrels a day), the volatile mixture of oil and political instability is never good for a country or for a region, as the Nigerian example clearly shows. It is also noteworthy that Mauritania is an Islamic republic that recognizes Israel, and that it has its own terrorism problem, with four French tourists murdered last December by al Qaeda affiliates.

Although these factors might make you think that Mauritania is a nation of strategic interest for the U.S., it shouldn’t exactly shock you that this isn’t making headline news in American newspapers. You almost need a shovel to find it on the websites of The New York Times or The Washington Post. A state department spokesman condemned the illegal seizure of power, but that’s likely to be the extent of it.

With Darfur still the atrocity du jour, it may be hard for many Westerners to pay attention to more than one crisis in Africa.

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