Young Mauritanians stage peaceful protest

Hundreds of young people gathered March 18th outside the parliament in Nouakchott.

The scorching heat of the sun didn’t deter hundreds of Mauritanian youths from holding a Nouakchott rally on Friday (March 18th). The event organised by the February 25th Youth Co-ordination group passed peacefully, featuring demands for reforms and hip-hop music.

The protestors’ 28-demand list included calls for the dismissal of the incumbent government led by Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf and the formation of a national coalition government consisting of technocrats with “broad powers to implement a reform programme that responds to the aspirations of all Mauritanians”.

The demonstrators also called for raising the minimum wage of public jobs to 73,000 ouguiyas so that “the citizens’ purchasing power may keep up with the high prices and the drop of ouguiya value”. In addition, they stressed the need to rely on national workforce “instead of depending on foreign expertise”.

“The list of demands that was submitted by the Co-ordination to the state and that was read in the festival represents the aspirations of all Mauritanians regardless of their ages and social backgrounds,” Mohamed Ould Heiba, a young man in his 20s, told Magharebia.

“Therefore, I think that everyone in this country is concerned with these demands. I also think that the leaders of this country have to listen to the voice of young people today before it is too late,” he added.

For his part, Co-ordination member Mohamed Lemine Ould Mohamed said: “The voices calling for reform will continue in Mauritania until we see immediate response to all demands.”

“The call for reforms didn’t come from nowhere,” he added. “Life has become tough in Mauritania because of the continuous increase of prices and major drop of salaries, coupled with rise in the rate of unemployment; something that made many young people emigrate overseas in search of better living conditions.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of government temporary workers on Thursday staged a demonstration in Nouakchott outside the presidential palace. They protested what they described as their dire conditions, which don’t allow them to benefit from many privileges of permanent workers, such as a raise in monthly salary, social security, promotion and right to pension.

They complained about their marginalisation and manipulation, reminding everyone of their conditions which, according to some of them, “have lasted for more than 10 years”.

“I decided to join these protestors because I have no other option,” said Mohamed Ould Ammar, 58, who had been working at the Ministry of Basic Education for nine years as a non-permanent employee.

“I support a family consisting of four daughters and three sons who are all unemployed,” he told Magharebia. “The biggest problem we as non-permanent employees now face is the continuous delay of paying our meagre salaries, which are sometimes delayed for three months.”

Political observer Moktar Ould Ali said that “in view of the youth revolutions which are taking place in the Arab world now, all Arab Maghreb countries have announced political and economic reforms except for the Mauritanian state that has so far preferred to make security forces confront these demonstrations, a method which is useless now and in the future”.

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