A Good Coup
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania – Blue-robed nomads, village elders, lawyers and civil servants stream into Mauritania’s presidential palace, urging the bespectacled man who seized control of this desert nation in a coup to stay in power. But Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall calls the cream-colored palace generations of dictators have refused to leave his “prison” â€” and pledges to turn it over as promised to a democratically elected president after an election Sunday.
Coups are typically seen as the enemies of democracy, but it was just such a military takeover that brought the seeds of freedom to this nation on the edge of the Sahara. Vall is packing his bags after two years in power, but many here fear whoever replaces him could plunge the country back into autocratic rule.
“As long as Mauritanians keep on thinking of the president as someone who is indispensable, they will continue to make a monumental error of judgment,” said the bookish, soft-spoken man who has the manner of a shy college professor rather than a shrewd military commander. “It’s that kind of thinking that leads to dictatorship.”
(Emphasis mine.) I should state from the outset that this is in no way intended to be a defense of military coups. 9.9 times out of 10, they turn out badly, for the reasons discussed in the comments section of the post I referenced above. However, it is nice to see that even in backwater parts of the world, there are still those who are willing to defend liberty at the expense of their own personal power.
One thing no one doubts is that Vall will step down.
Not far from the presidential palace, workers in the dying light apply plaster to the walls of the home where Vall lived before the coup, and where he plans to return next week.
Under plastic sheets in a back room are Vall’s belongings â€” furniture, books, his children’s toys, none of which he brought to the palace his predecessor occupied for 21 years.
“I always knew I wouldn’t stay long,” Vall said, sitting on the cream-colored couch where the dictator once held court. “And because I knew I wouldn’t stay long, I didn’t bring much. There will be no need for packing boxes.”
Hmm…that sounds familiar.