Mauritania's former defence minister, Mohammed Ould Ghazouni, was sworn in as president on Thursday, in the country's first peaceful transition of power.

Ould Ghazouni had won the presidential election in June, which pitted him against five other contenders. Some rivals claimed voter fraud.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Council, the country's highest constitutional authority, swore in Ould Ghazouni for a five-year mandate in the presence of Mauritanian and foreign dignitaries.

In his inaugural address, he pledged to be a ‘president for all Mauritanians’ of different political orientations.

‘My ultimate aim will be to serve all Mauritanians and fulfil their aspirations,’ Ould Ghazouni said, according to Mauritania's independent news agency al-Akhbar.

He succeeds outgoing president Mohammed Ould Abdel-Aziz, an ex-army general who came to power after a 2008 military coup.

Ould Ghazouni is a close associate of Ould Abdel-Aziz and has been his right-hand man for a long time.

In an address at his successor's inaugural ceremony, Ould Abdel-Aziz voiced support for the new president. ‘I am proud to hand over to an elected president the leadership of Mauritania,’ he said.

‘The president-elect deserves trust in his experience and efficiency,’ Ould Abdel-Aziz added at the ceremony held at a convention centre in a Nouakchott suburb.

Mauritania, a former French colony in north-west Africa, witnessed military coups in 1978, 2005 and 2008. Other failed coup attempts were also reported over that decades-long period.

Ould Ghazouni, 62, has built a reputation as a warrior against militant insurgents.

During his presidential election campaign, he had pledged to continue Ould Abdel-Aziz's policies of fighting radicalism and boosting national development if he were elected.

Mauritania, a Western ally, is part of Africa's Sahel region, a hub for militant extremists.

Ould Ghazouni, who took part in the 2005 and 2008 coups, was backed by the ruling elite in his bid for the presidency.

Related Story