Does Mauritania's Facebook-Planned Rally Signal The Beginning Of The End?

Mauritania became the latest nation to have demonstrations organized via Facebook, albeit more peacefully and on a smaller scale than other nations have experienced.

Reports of the mostly student protesters holding an overnight sit-in on Mauritania’s streets have grown in number from “dozens” in some of yesterday’s news reports to what Reuters today calls up to 1,500 beneath a headline saying “hundreds.”

Reuters quotes Mocktar Mohammed Mahmoud, a social worker who said he got involved in the protests through Facebook, where posts have demanded the resignation of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz:

The president has to respect his people. Aziz has always said he’s the president of the poor; now the poor are in front of you asking for dialogue…cThere is no party behind us, there is no particular tribe behind this. We are behind you in your war against terrorism but you’ve got to stand behind us in our war against hunger.

Before the protest got started yesterday, Mauritania’s Prime Minister Ould Mohamed Laghdaf said the government would try to help the local economy, creating 1,700 jobs, increasing food production and creating new infrastructure. It’s possible his promise might have diffused the intensity of the demonstrations, although similar moves by government officials in other Middle Eastern nations haven’t had much peaceful effects.

Regardless, the more peaceful nature and smaller number of participants in Mauritania’s demonstration compared to neighboring countries in northern Africa might signal that the wave of revolutions in the region might begin to slow down. That would seem like a good thing, given how violent things have gotten in nations like Libya. And the more peacefully these changes come about, the better not only for the citizens involved but also for Facebook, which has gotten flack from people who exaggerate the site’s role in the Middle East.

What do you think the low-key nature of Mauritania’s demonstrations augurs for the rest of the region and Facebook’s presence there?

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