Nouakchott - Thousands of Mauritanians lined the road from the
airport on Saturday to welcome back President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz,
who went to France for five weeks of medical treatment after being
accidentally shot in a friendly fire incident.
His return puts an
end to speculation over the state of his health, as well as over the
future of Mauritania. Analysts had warned that his extended departure
could create the instability needed for another coup in this 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," 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, 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 Aziz has since become a
key ally of the West in the fight against terrorism in the Sahara.
Mauritania has led raids across the border into Mali to root out
fighters from al-Qaeda's North African branch.
leader waved to the crowd. Supporters had brought out giant posters of
the president, as well as enormous banners, welcoming him home.
13 October, Aziz left the Mauritanian capital in a private, unmarked
car for a drive in the desert. Aides 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 Nouakchott, and guards opened fire,
hitting him in the stomach. A spokesperson told the Associated Press
that the president drove himself to the capital's best hospital.
being airlifted to France the next day, Aziz invited reporters for a
bedside interview inside his hospital room in order to show the country
that he was conscious and able to function. He was covered from the
waist down in a hospital sheet, making it impossible to see the severity
of his injuries.
But rumours began to circulate with each passing
week that he spent in France, first at a military hospital near Paris,
and then at a private villa where he received physical therapy.