/ 6 February 2009

AU slaps sanctions on Mauritania junta

The African Union (AU) imposed sanctions on Thursday on the junta that overthrew the government and seized power in Mauritania last August.

The decision was read out in a statement after a six-hour meeting of the AU’s Peace and Security Council (CPS) in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The council ”decides that the sanctions envisaged … enter into force”, said CPS chairperson Manuel Domingos Augusto, who is Angola’s ambassador to the 53-nation bloc.

Augusto said the AU was calling on ”all member states to scrupulously implement this decision”.

Asked by AFP what form the sanctions would take, Augusto replied that they would consist of ”a travel ban on civilian and military members of the junta, the systematic refusal of visas and checks on their bank accounts”.

The junta announced last month it would hold new presidential elections on June 6 after holding a forum that was boycotted by anti-coup parties.

The June 6 date chosen by the junta is exactly six months after the coup that ousted Mauritania’s first democratically elected president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.

Observers say it is likely that junta leader Ould Abdel Aziz will run for president himself. In October he stressed that a soldier should have the right to run for office if he stepped down from the army.

The anti-coup parties and even some factions that supported the coup have spoken out against the military leadership running for office.

Abdallahi has said he will accept new elections if certain conditions were met.

He notably wants the army to withdraw from power definitively and wants the institutions created by the 2007 elections to be reinstated, which implies that he wants to be reinstated as president ahead of the vote.

The international community has widely condemned the coup and demanded a return to ”constitutional order”.

Augusto said he expected the decision to be passed on to the United Nations on Friday ”for it should become universal so that all members of the UN apply it”.

The AU had decided not to completely rule out negotiations with the junta, according to the council’s statement.

”The entry into force of the sanctions should be accompanied by efforts of the AU and its partners involving all Mauritanian parties towards a rapid return to constitutional order in Mauritania.

”Council urges the authorities borne out of the coup to extend their full cooperation to the AU commission with a view to an immediate return to constitutional order and the quick resolution of the political crisis in the country,” the statement said. — Sapa-AFP