Mauritania PM Cheikh Sidiya and government resign amid corruption probe

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Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani on Thursday carried out a government reshuffle, replacing his prime minister after a year in office.

The Saharan state’s official news agency AMI said Prime Minister Ismail Ould Bedda Ould Cheikh Sidiya tendered the government’s resignation to the president.

Mohamed Ould Bilal, a former political adviser, was appointed his successor and “tasked with forming a government,” said an official at the presidency.

The reason for the surprise resignation was not immediately clear.

Ghazouani succeeded long-time president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, whom he had previously served as chief of staff and defence minister, on August 1, 2019.

Aziz first came to power in a military coup in 2008, then won an election in 2009, followed by another in 2014.

Read more: Mauritanian court confirms election win for government-backed candidate

The political system in Mauritania has been rocked this year by a parliamentary investigation into alleged corruption in the government of former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who stepped down last year after a decade in power.

His close ally Mohamed Ould Ghazouani won the election to succeed him, but Abdel Aziz quickly found his government’s actions, including deals involving offshore oil projects, under scrutiny by parliament.

The investigators on Wednesday gave a report documenting their findings to the public prosecutor. The report has not been made public but several current ministers were questioned about suspected graft that occurred on their watch while serving in senior positions in Abdel Aziz’s government.

In brief remarks to reporters on Thursday, Prime Minister Ismail Ould Cheikh Sidiya said he had submitted the government’s resignation to Ghazouani but did not provide an explanation.

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