They’re going to the polls in the West African country of Mauritania to replace a military junta with a civilian president. Since independence from France in 1960, there’ve been numerous coups, and years of authoritarian rule. Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall took over in a bloodless coup in 2005. He said, “The foundations for political economic and social reform are there. They are correct and solid,” he said. “The rest of the work needs to be done by the new government.”
Mauritania straddles Arab and black Africa, and its 3,000,000 population have suffered racial discrimination and slavery, which although is now banned, is still reported to exist in some parts of the country. Many voters want a more equitable distribution of the wealth from the country’s resources, being rich in oil, fisheries and mining. EU monitors there to oversee the vote point out that anyone under 30 years old won’t know what a free election is, pointing out that Mauritania could be a model of democracy for Africa and the Arab world.