“Five-year effective imprisonment and confiscation of funds obtained illegally and deprivation of civil rights.” This is the wording of the ruling issued by the Nouakchott Court of Corruption Crimes on December 4, against the former president. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz Who ruled the country between 2009-2019.
The trial of Ould Abdel Aziz brought to mind the history of former Mauritanian presidents who were subjected to imprisonment and persecution after leaving the presidential palace.
Over the past sixty years, 10 presidents have ruled Mauritania, most of whom had similar fates, both civilian and military.
Through this report, Al Jazeera Net monitored the path of Mauritanian presidents who were subjected to conviction, imprisonment, exile, harassment, and confiscation of funds.
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz:
The ninth president of Mauritania, he was commander of the presidential guard. He ruled the country after a military coup on August 6, 2008 against the elected civilian president, Sidi Mohamed Ould Sheikh Abdallah.
Ould Abdel Aziz headed the country for two consecutive terms from 2009 to 2019.
When he said that he wanted to respect the constitution, which prohibits running for a third mission, he chose his Minister of Defense and companion, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani – with whom he participated in two coups – to be his successor, so that he would not fall into what previous presidents had fallen into in terms of trials and prosecutions.
But the winds of politics did not blow as Ould Abdel Aziz desired, and soon the cord of friendship between him and his successor, Ould Ghazouani, was severed. A number of pillars of his rule – who were demanding a third mission from him – accused him of corruption and demanded his trial.
In January 2020, Parliament approved the formation of a committee to investigate files that it said were linked to corruption and mismanagement, later known as the “Decade File,” in reference to the period of Ould Abdel Aziz’s rule, who ruled the country for 10 consecutive years.
The Parliamentary Committee heard a number of ministers during his reign, asked him to appear before it, and then referred his file to the competent courts.
The judiciary accused him of illicit enrichment and squandering state property, and froze about $100 million, which he said was his money and the money of some people close to him.
After 4 years of accusation, investigation, trial, and pretrial detention, the Mauritanian judiciary issued, on December 4, its decision to imprison Ould Abdel Aziz for 5 years, and to confiscate his money obtained from illicit enrichment.
This ruling coincides with the end of the second term of current President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, which means the neutralization of Ould Abdel Aziz from the political scene throughout the second term.
President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallah:
The first civilian president to be elected by direct universal suffrage in the history of Mauritania. He ran in presidential elections that were described as fair in 2007, and succeeded in the second round. He took over the presidency from the head of the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, who was leading a transitional phase on April 19, 2007.
On August 6, 2008, the military overthrew him in a military coup led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
Arrested Sidi Mohamed Ould Sheikh Mohamed Abdallah Without a trial, he was then transferred to house arrest in his hometown, “Lamden village,” in the state of Brakna (250 km) east of the capital, Nouakchott.
Ould Sheikh Abdallah was released after the Dakar Agreement in June 2009, through which he accepted to submit his resignation and abandon his political ambitions.
Colonel Ali Ould Mohamed Fall:
He led a coup against President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taïa on August 5, 2005 and headed the Military Council for Justice and Democracy and the Presidency of State.
During his reign, presidential elections were held in which he refused to participate, and the political spectrum attested to their integrity, and he handed over power to civilians on April 19, 2007.
And after exit Colonel Aly Ould Mohamed Fall He was harassed by the authorities and denied his salary and financial benefits that former presidents receive from the state treasury. He died in 2017 in circumstances described as mysterious and unnatural.
Colonel Maaouia Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya:
He ruled the country for 21 years and was the longest-serving president in the palace. He came to power through a military coup against President Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla on December 12, 1984. Some military personnel tried to overthrow him in 2003, but they failed.
On August 3, 2005, he was overthrown by a group of senior officers known as the “Military Council for Justice and Democracy.”
As a result of the coup against him, he took refuge Colonel Maaouia Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya To Niger and then to Gambia, he finally settled in Doha and is still a refugee there, and ethnic and political groups are demanding that he be brought to justice and tried.
Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla:
He assumed rule of the country on January 4, 1980, after carrying out a coup against President Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Ahmed Louli.
He was overthrown by a military coup on December 12, 1984. At that time, he was on a visit to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and when he returned to the capital, he was arrested and imprisoned for 4 years.
On November 28, 1988, he was released Mohamed Khouna Ould HaidallaWhen he returned to political life and ran for the presidential elections in 2003, he was accused of planning a coup. He was brought to justice and sentenced to 5 years in prison with a suspended sentence.
Mustafa Ould Mohamed Salek:
He was an army commander and reached the presidency through a coup against President Mokhtar Ould Daddah on July 10, 1978. He was removed by the Military Committee for National Salvation on June 3, 1779.
Ould Salek was arrested for 3 years and tried before the military judiciary on charges of plotting a coup. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but was released in 1984.
Founding President Mokhtar Ould Daddah:
He ruled the country from Independence Day, November 28, 1960, then was elected by the Mauritanian Parliament, and he remained in power until the army ousted him on July 10, 1978.
Immediately after his overthrow, he was arrested and sent to Walata Prison (1,350 km east of the capital, Nouakchott). After 16 months of imprisonment, his health deteriorated and he was sent for treatment in France.
In 1980, he was tried in absentia on charges of high treason and violating the constitution, and was sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labor.
Only Officer Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Ahmed Louli escaped arrest and prosecution. He was an officer in the military establishment who ruled the country on June 3, 1979 and was overthrown on January 4, 1980.
After his overthrow, he left the scene and retired from political life. He attended mosques and joined the Dawa and Tabligh group.
Also an exception to the rule of prosecution is Senate President Mamadou Ba, nicknamed Embari, who ruled the country for 3 months from April 15 to August 5, 2009.
He assumed the presidency during the vacancy period during which the Constitution stipulates that the President of the Senate shall be president.
Back to the scene
Former Mauritanian presidents do not leave political life. After being imprisoned and their role limited, they return to the political scene.
After his release, Mustafa Ould Salek ran for president in elections in 1992 and 1997.
Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla also ran for president in 2003, two decades after he was ousted and imprisoned.
After his departure from power, Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall joined the opposition leaders and ran against President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
As for Ould Abdel Aziz, after his departure from power, he said that he would not leave political life. He joined the ruling party and tried to control it for a short period, but the members of the Executive Office disavowed him and tried to remove him from the party’s leadership.
After harassment in the ruling party, he joined the Rabat Party in 2020, and said that he would fight corruptors and pillars of the existing political system, but he was arrested and brought to trial before running in the elections.
Accountability and exit concerns
In a comment to Al Jazeera Net, lawyer and university professor Dr. Mohamed Al-Hassan Ould Abaidi said that holding presidents accountable after they leave power for their actions criminalized by law before the judiciary will limit the tendency to dispose of public money and waste it in ways of corruption.
However, Dr. Ould Abeidi stressed that the trials and prosecution of presidents will not be a deterrent to future presidents, unless the administration is purged of the corrupt class that controls the management and direction of people. Because the president may come with a background full of principles and ideals, and soon turn against everything in favor of the class that controls the joints of the state.