Showdown in Mauritania
Exactly one year after his appointment, the Mauritanian prime minister Ismail Bodde Ould Sidiya resigned, and President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani appointed Mohamed Ould Bilal, a technocrat, as the new head of government. Bilal is a Hartani—member of the largest, yet usually discriminated, ethnolinguistic group in Mauritania, the Haratin—
from the southern region of Trarza. This change is linked to the ongoing corruption investigation on oil and gas contracts that has put the previous president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, into the spotlight. The names of several members of the outgoing government also appeared in this investigation, thus forcing them to leave. The past few months have been characterized by the mounting tension between Ghazouani and Abdel Aziz. This trend had become more and more discernable since December when the problems between the two former allies started becoming visible. Through the appointment of Bilal, Ghazouani tried to send a message of discontinuity and inclusivity, yet change risks remaining mostly cosmetic if the profound causes of economic inequality, racial discrimination, and political exclusion in Mauritania are not addressed systematically.