SHEIKH BEKAYEJuly 13, 1991
NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) _ Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitution drafted by the military
government to return this desert nation to multiparty democracy, the government said Saturda
Voting came amid threatened strikes to force the resignation of leader Col. Maawiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya and the detention since June of politicians who formed an opposition front to the Arab-dominated government.
Ninety-seven percent of registered voters cast ″Yes″ ballots in Friday’s referendum on the constitution. The balloting was boycotted by seven opposition groups, mainly minority blacks and Marxists, and by Islamic fundamentalists.
The government says it will end 13 years of military rule and bring multiparty democracy. Anti-government forces say the constitution is a ploy to enhance an image tarnished by repression and corruption.
International human rights organizations have reported that more than 200 black civilians and soldiers considered opponents of the government have been summarily executed or tortured to death since October.
Taya had promised to return democracy to this sparsely populated desert nation of 1.6 million people when he took power Dec. 12, 1984, in a bloodless coup, 20 years after the country became a one-party state.
Taya has promised political opposition and press freedom will be legalized two weeks after adoption of the constitution and that free legislative elections will be held by the end of the year.