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Mauritanian President Ghazouani Shuffled His Cabinet Again

(Image Credit: Yabiladi, Ould Abdel Aziz et Ould Ghazouani / Archive – DR)

President d Ghazouani shuffled his government again . What does that mean for Mauritania?

What happened?

This week President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani shuffled his cabinet for the second time in less than a year. Of the 22 cabinet members, 14 ministers were replaced. The ministries include the National Education; Health; Public Employment and Labor; Digital Transformation, Innovation and Modernization of Administration; Fishing and Maritime Economy; Agriculture; Veterinary; Trade, Industry, Handicraft and Tourism; Employment and Professional Training, Housing, Urbanism and Land Reclamation; Water and Sanitation; Higher education and Scientific Research; Culture, Youth, Sports and Relations with the Government; and Social Work, Childhood and the Family (UNA-OIC).

Why does it matter?

The shuffle is the result of a corruption inquiry into former President Ould Abdel Aziz. The broader anti-corruption campaign however, stems from the former president trying to return to power and the current President’s drive to prevent that as well as remove the ex-President’s network from the current government.

How did we get here?

In 2005, then Colonel Abdel Aziz was part of a coup that removed President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya from power. Elections were held in 2007 that placed Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi in office. But Aziz overthrew Abdallahi in 2008 when Abdallahi consolidated power and fired Aziz.

Aziz’s administration was well known for its corruption. When he chose Ghazouani as his successor, Aziz planned to retain power but avoid sanctions from the African Union by using Ghazouani.

Aziz’s intentions became apparent when he chaired a meeting of the ruling Union for the Republic Party at the start of 2019—the constitution bars past presidents from political party membership. Aziz said he needed to head the party in order to share power with the current President. No power-sharing arrangement was ever made between the two nor has one ever existed in Mauritania’s history. Instead, Aziz and his supporters were replaced with members loyal to Ghazouani.

By December 2019, the Ghazouani government formed a parliamentary committee to investigate claims of corruption during former President Aziz’s tenure.

Since the start of that investigation, Aziz has continued to try to reenter politics, accused Ghazouani of working with the Muslim Brotherhood to assassinate him, and has been arrested twice.

What comes next?

President Ghazouani has been largely successful at removing the tendrils of his predecessor. As such, neither the reshuffle nor the anti-corruption campaign, in general, represent an increase in the risk environment. While any contracts created under President Ould Abdel Aziz are likely to come under scrutiny in the near term, the investigation is unlikely to disrupt any industry’s activities.

Ghazouani is not trying to radically reform the accountability or transparency of the government, although improvements in those areas can’t be ruled out as a result of the anti-corruption campaign.

By Adam Ragozzino

Adam Ragozzino is a Boston-based analyst who has worked as a research and policy analyst in the US. Currently, he is an independent consultant and runs Acies Lumen, LLC, a fledgling geopolitical research firm. He writes about international affairs and conflict with a particular focus on Africa. When not chained to a desk or under lockdown, you can find him riding or skiing in the northeast US.

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