A truck lifts a campaign poster of the President of Mauritania and leader of the Union for the Republic, Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani as supporters celebrate his reelection in Nouakchott on July 01, 2024.

Three people have died after being arrested during riots in southern Mauritania, the government said on Tuesday, July 2, as the election victory of incumbent President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani raised tensions in the West African country.

Looting and vandalism broke out in the town of Kaedi in the Senegal river valley on Monday night, with security forces arresting a number of “rioters”, the interior ministry said in a statement. Two of the rioters died in custody and the third died later in hospital, it said.

The ministry did not provide further details on the circumstances of the deaths. It said there were limited options to detain rioters due to the late hour and the large number of demonstrators. Two members of the security forces were seriously injured, one of whom was admitted to intensive care, the ministry said. It pledged a “transparent and thorough investigation” to establish the causes of the deaths.

The interior ministry did not mention any political motivation behind the unrest. But it took place against a tense backdrop after final provisional election results announced on Monday gave Ghazouani a comfortable victory in Saturday’s presidential poll.

Dozens of people were arrested following disturbances late on Monday in the capital Nouakchott and the northern city of Nouadhibou, a souce close to the police told AFP, adding that many of those arrested were “foreigners”.

Rock of stability

Nouakchott appeared calm on Tuesday, with businesses open as usual, but the capital’s mobile internet access has been cut since Monday night. The authorities have not commented on those cuts.

Internet restrictions have become a common tactic by governments around the world in the face of protests.

The second-place candidate in the vote, anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid, on Monday denounced “massive fraud” and threatened to organize peaceful street demonstrations. Abeid said he was waiting for his own teams to provide election results before taking a “final decision”.

The aftermath of the 2019 election, which brought Ghazouani to power, was marked by clashes and the arrest of opponents as well as nationals of neighboring countries accused of taking part in demonstrations. It was also accompanied by a 10-day internet blackout.

Mauritania’s national electoral commission on Monday declared Ghazouani re-elected in the presidential poll with just over 56% of the vote. The results are yet to be confirmed by the Constitutional Council. The victory gives the 67-year-old former army chief a second term at the helm of the vast country, seen as a rock of relative stability in Africa’s volatile Sahel region. The desert nation has largely withstood the tide of jihadism in the region and is set to become a gas producer.

Le Monde with AFP

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