Mauritania's opposition boycotts independence celebrations

Members of the Mauritanian Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD), which groups together some 12 political parties, demonstrate on November 21, 2012 in Nouakchott. Photo |   AFP

Mauritanian opposition parties boycotted celebrations of the country's 52nd anniversary of independence from France on Wednesday to protest against President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz's regime.

A coalition of opposition parties said in a statement they "refuse to take part in a ceremony attended by the president", whose resignation they have demanded in regular protests since 2011.

Abdel Aziz, a former general who seized power in a 2008 coup, was elected a year later; however, the opposition has never accepted his rule as legitimate and demand widespread political reforms.

The 55-year-old leader appeared in good form on Wednesday, just days after returning from a 40-day convalescence in France after a soldier shot him in the stomach in what was officially described as an accident.

Leaders of the coalition Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD) attempted to hold a parallel celebration, but couldn't get authorisation.

"The leaders (of the COD) will meet at midday to take a position on this subject. This refusal does not surprise us from this kind of regime," said Mohamed Ould Khlil, one of the umbrella group's leaders.

Protests have multiplied in the large, arid north African nation since the 'Arab Spring' erupted in 2011 in the Maghreb and Egypt.

In January last year, a middle-aged businessman set himself on fire in front of the presidential palace in a similar act to that which sparked an uprising in Tunisia; however the resulting protests have remained peaceful and low-profile.

Following independence from France and the ensuing one-party government of Moktar Ould Daddah, deposed in 1978, Mauritania had a series of military rulers until its first multi-party election in 1992.

Another two coups took place in 2005 and 2008.

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