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Mauritania Flag Change Proposal (2016-2017)

Last modified: 2017-04-21 by rob raeside
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[Mauritania flag change proposal] image by Zachary Harden, 13 March 2017

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Flag change proposal (2016)

The ruling party in Mauritania, Union pour la République (UPR), has proposed to amend the national flag by the addition of a thin red stripe at the top and bottom. The stripes symbolize "the efforts and sacrifices that the people of Mauritania will keep consenting, to the price of their blood, to defend their territory".

The proposal was part of a more general project of institutional reform presented during the Conference on Inclusive Dialogue. Inaugurated on 29 September 2010, the conference rallied the ruling party and the "moderate" opposition, here the Alliance populaire progressiste (APP), while the "radical" opposition refused to join. The proposed reform also included the adoption of a new national anthem and the proclamation of the Second Republic. Observers quickly pointed out that the Constitution would be automatically invalidated, especially the Articles prohibiting the President of the Republic to run for a third mandate. The second mandate of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2014) should end in 2019; the announcement of the reform, accordingly, was probably not a mere coincidence. The suspicion of "Constitutional coup" was confirmed by a declaration of the government's spokesperson, Mohamed Lemine Ould Cheikh, who said that "mandate limitation was an anti-democratic principle". This statement prompted Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, the historical leader of the APP, to withdraw in the beginning of October from the conference, which he called a "farce".

http://www.pointschauds.info/fr/2016/10/06/le-parti-au-pouvoir-propose-un-nouveau-drapeau-pour-la-mauritanie/ - Points Chauds Online, 8 October 2016
http://afrique.le360.ma/mauritanie/politique/2016/10/09/6298-mauritanie-la-2e-republique-une-diversion-pour-un-3e-mandat-presidentiel-6298 - 9 October 2016
Ivan Sache, 17 October 2016

La Libre.be reports:
The Mauritanian National Assembly adopted Thursday a bill of constitutional review including the abolition of the Senate and the change of the national flag, found the AFP correspondent. The draft submitted by the Government "has been adopted by the majority of 147 MPs present", "121 voted in favour of the text, 19 against," said Mohamed Ould Beilil, president of the National Assembly, dominated by the presidential party. The radical opposition, represented by the Forum national unity and democracy (FNDU), which consisted of 15 Parties, voted against the Bill after leading a campaign against its adoption. The text approved Thursday by the MPs, which amends the Constitution in force since 1991, includes a deletion of the Senate, replaced by regional councils, and a change of the national flag. Two red ribbons, symbolizing the blood shed by the "martyrs of the resistance", will be added to the Crescent and the yellow star on a green background on this flag already.

The text also provides for the removal of the High Court of Justice, the Ombudsman of the Republic and the high Islamic Council. It must then be submitted to the Senate for approval, at a date that has not been indicated. If it is adopted by each of the two houses of Parliament by a majority of two-thirds, the text should be submitted to a parliamentary Congress. The power is largely majority in the rooms.

Two amendments to the draft Thursday, by a member of the moderate opposition, Malouma Mint Bilal, for a maintenance of the High Court of justice and the current national flag, were rejected. Members of the majority strongly hailed adoption of the text, giving himself accolades to the outcome of the vote by secret ballot. The radical opposition tried Tuesday to hold a rally in front of the National Assembly, but its activists, who carried signs denouncing a "tinkering" of the Constitution, were dispersed by the police. The FNDU denounced in a statement "blind repression" on its activists that some were, according to him, injured. Parliament began on 22 February in Nouakchott the special session essentially devoted to the review of constitutional amendments.

These amendments had been arrested during a dialogue between power and opposition known as moderate in September-October 2016.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 11 March 2017

Websites at http://taqadoum.mr/fr/2017/03/13/le-projet-de-revision-constitutionnelle-adopte-la-mauritanie-change-son-drapeau-et-son-hymne-national/, http://www.assembleenationale.mr/2017/03/09/adoption-du-projet-de-loi-11817/
and http://fr.ami.mr/Depeche-39905.html have given more details about the stripe ratio. Each stripe is 15% of the flag's width (15/70/15) but so far I cannot confirm the sizes of the crescent and star or any other specifics. The law in question is Constitutional Project Law 118/17. Attached is the revised flag that will most likely become the new national flag.
Zachary Harden, 13 March 2017

Several photos have been published that show the Minister of Defence showing what the proposed flag looks like for those looking to vote on the issue.
    Photo 1    Photo 2
    Photo 3    Photo 4
Jason Saber, 13 March 2017

The proposal was passed by the National Assembly on Thursday [9 March 2017]. The report sent by Nozomi spelt out that it will also need to be passed by the Senate, and then to the two houses in congress.

Ivan's report from 2016 said that the constitutional changes would be going to a referendum. The constitution allows a referendum after a bill has passed both houses of parliament with a 2/3 majority, or alternatively, the president can present it to the parliament in congress. The referendum has apparently been abandoned in favour of this alternative, ostensibly to save money. [The requirement when a proposed change goes to such a joint session is 3/5 majority - less than needed to go to a referendum to start with. So in this circumstance, it should be a rubber stamp.]
Jonathan Dixon, 13 March 2017

The timeline for the change is quite interesting:

  • 29 September, 2016: National Inclusive Dialogue "dialogue national inclusif, DNI" began at the capitol of Nouakchott . The government and moderate opposition included, among trade unions, Mauritanians from abroad and civic groups. Some opposition boycotted the meetings.
  • October 6th, 2016: The main party of Mauritania, the Union For the Republic (UPR), proposed the change to the national flag with the red stripes. The reasoning was to recognize "the efforts and sacrifices that the people of Mauritania will keep consenting, to the price of their blood, to defend their territory”.
  • October 20th, 2016; the DNI ends with an agreement by the government and the opposition to call for a referendum, something that has been sought since 2010 (not specifically about the flag but to more get rid of the Senate and the two limit term and 75 age limit for the presidency). Slated for end of 2016, then pushed back to early 2017.
  • November 2016: Opposition calls for boycott of the referendum, has felt that the national symbols should not be modified.
  • December 30th, 2016: Referendum cancelled due to costs and economic concerns; debate moved to the National Assembly and Senate (source: http://afrique.le360.ma/mauritanie/politique/2016/12/30/8570-mauritanie-pas-de-referendum-constitutionnel-cause-de-la-crise-economique-8570)
  • February 28th, 2017: Debate on the constitutional changes begin in the National Assembly, including the national flag.
  • March 8th, 2017: the proposed flag, in cloth, was presented to the National Assembly by Defense Minister Diallo Mamadou Bati.
  • March 9th, 2017: the National Assembly voted 121-19 (with 147 present) to change the national flag. (This vote also confirms the stripe ratio of 15/70/15, which I reported on in my previous email.)
  • March 13th, 2017: the Senate takes up the issue about the flag.

Zachary Harden, 14 March 2017

The amendment to Mauritania's constitution, which would abolish the Senate and change the national flag, will be put to a referendum "as quickly as possible," the president said on Wednesday [22 March 2017].
http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/mauritania-vows-referendum-to-abolish-senate-change-flag-20170323
Nozomi Kariyasu, 25 March 2017