Magharebia (Washington DC)

Mauritania: Islamist Leaders Attend Tawassoul Congress

Nouakchott — Political leaders from across Africa and the Arab world gathered in Nouakchott at the week-end for the second congress of Islamist party Tawassoul.

"The presence of symbols of Islamist movements who came to attend this conference had great significance for Islamists in Mauritania, highlighting their ability to mobilise and garner support", Tawassoul member Mohamed Ould Slama said.

It was also an opportunity to promote the party's moderate Islamist approach, he told Magharebia at the event's conclusion on Saturday (December 22nd).

The gathering provided an occasion for Islamist movement leaders to share insights on a variety of topics.

The head of Tunisia's ruling Ennahda party, Rachid Ghannouchi spoke at a session titled, "A Nation Between Two Stages".

"The winds of change will include all Arab countries, and Arab rulers have to respond to their peoples to spare them revolutions," Ghannouchi said.

"The rulers must know that we're in the time of freedom and democracy, and if change doesn't come from within the regimes themselves, they will be swept away by floods, like other stronger and fiercer regimes in some Arab countries," he added.

With Tunisia still suffering from the repercussions of the revolution, Ghannouchi did not present his country in a rosy way.

"Tunisia, like all other Arab Spring countries, is still in transition," he said. "However, we're proceeding with national reconciliation to get past this stage."

Talking about the reasons for Arab Spring, Ghannouchi noted, "It came after 50 years of absence of development, repression and numbing of peoples. However, we're required to exert more efforts to realise peoples' dreams."

Discussions also covered the experiences of Islamist movements in running governments and the challenges they face.

General Supervisor of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, Bashir Kabti said, "Moderate Islamists in Libya played a major role in the revolution that toppled Kadhafi's regime."

"Today, they represent the second largest political force in terms of representation in the General National Congress," he added. "They have chosen to take part in government rather than compete against other forces," Kabti said.

In his turn, Algeria's Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) chairman Bouguerra Soltani said that Arab regimes often promoted the idea that "Islamist movements were not suitable for running governments and that their natural place was opposition".

"Islamist movements," he said, "must understand well that moving from the sphere of preaching to the sphere of state needs competency and expertise".

Moroccan State Minister Abdellah Baha, representing the Justice and Development Party (PJD) at the congress, indicated that work remained.

"Some of the Islamist movements in the Arab world haven't represented the Islamists in the best way," he conceded.

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