Mauritania. In March, Parliament’s lower house voted to abolish the indirectly elected House of Representatives, the Senate. Later that month, a majority of Senate members voted against the proposal. The country’s president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, then called for a referendum on the issue, something he would have said earlier. Parts of the opposition reacted strongly to the proposed constitutional amendment, including former President Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdellahi, who was deposed in 2008 in a bloody coup led by Abdel Aziz.
According to Countryaah.com, the referendum was held at the beginning of August and dealt with several proposed amendments to the constitution. Voters would decide whether to abolish the Senate and transfer its powers to a single-chamber parliament and whether to set up regional councils. In addition, it was proposed that the country’s flag should change appearance by adding two red bars at the top and bottom. The new flag was used for the first time in connection with the celebration of Independence Day November 28. However, no constitutional amendment that would allow Abdel Aziz to run for additional terms of office, and as some government officials have previously suggested, were not included. Many opposers, however, saw the abolition of the Senate as a way for the regime to extend Abdel Aziz’s power holdings after all. The time before the referendum became concerned with boycott calls from the opposition and clashes between protesters and police in the capital Nouakchott. Of those who went to the polling station, 85% voted in favor of the proposals. According to official data, turnout was 54%.
In February, five countries – Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad and Niger – decided to form a joint force to meet the threat posed by militant Islamist groups. The UN Security Council gave its approval in June and the EU pledged € 50 million. The force will have its headquarters in Mali. In November, Mauritania agreed with Algeria to open a border crossing between the countries for the first time since independence in the 1960s.