[QODLink]
Africa

Mauritania president welcomed home by crowds

President Aziz returned after five weeks in France for medical treatment following a friendly-fire shooting accident.
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2012 08:27
Thousands of Mauritanians lined the streets from the airport waiting to welcome the president [AFP]

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has returned to Mauritania after being in France for five weeks recovering after being shot by a soldier in what officials claim was an accident.

On October 13, Ould Abdel Aziz left the capital city, Nouakchott, in a private, unmarked car for a drive in the desert.

Aziz later said that he had the habit of going out without his official convoy. He failed to stop at a checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital, and guards opened fire - hitting him in the stomach.

Before being airlifted to France the next day, the president invited reporters for a bedside interview in his hospital room to show the country that he was conscious and able to function.

His absence had been marked by weeks of opposition protests, who have questioned the president's ability to lead the country after the attack and decried what they described as the power vaccuum it had created.

Ould Abdel Aziz made no statement upon his arrival at the Nouakchott airport on Saturday, but greeted the thousands of Mauritanians who lined the road from the airport to welcome him back.

The 55-year-old leader travelled along the streets in the back of a roofless car, shaking hands and waving at the crowd.

Supporters had brought out giant posters of the president, as well as banners welcoming him home.

Political insecurity

His return puts an end to speculation over the state of his health, as well as over the future of the country - as analysts had warned that his extended departure could create the instability needed for another coup in the desert nation which has suffered six since the 1970s.

"At no moment did I fear a coup d'etat by the army... because [our army] has better things to do than lead coup d'etats," Ould Abdel Aziz told the French radio station Radio France International on Saturday morning.

"I have total confidence in the Mauritanian military."

Formerly a general in the army, Ould Abdel Aziz came to power himself in a 2008 coup, ousting the country's first and only democratically elected leader.

His coup was widely denounced by the international community, but he has since become a key ally of the West in the fight al Qaeda in Africa.

Mauritania has led raids across the border into Mali to root out fighters from al-Qaeda's North African branch.

390

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
Spirits are high in Scotland's 'Whisky Capital of the World' with one distillery thirsty for independence.
President Poroshenko arrives in Washington on Thursday with money and military aid on his mind, analysts say.
Early players in private medicine often focused on volume over quality, turning many Chinese off for-profit care.
Al Jazeera asked people across Scotland what they think about the prospect of splitting from the United Kingdom.
Blogger critical of a lack of government transparency faces defamation lawsuit from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
join our mailing list