#Mauritania Snippets: Protests, #Slavery, Intrigue, #HumanRights Violations

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A man sentenced to two years in prison by the criminal justice system on slavery charges was released on bail by the Mauritania supreme court without reference to the defendant. The action has been condemned by a large group of anti-slavery and human rights organisations.

Anti-slavery campaigner IRA has accused an accountant working in the Mauritanian embassy in Paris of having brought a young enslaved girl into the country. The allegations have been denied and IRA suggests the girl may have been trafficked out of France.

The suspiciously-timed recent Imam revelations – first, the Saudi cleric suggesting followers of Islam could make penance for atonement by purchasing freedom for slaves in Mauritania; second, the Imam Sheikh Dedew in Mauritania saying slavery doesn’t exist in the country – have had the desired effect, and are creating a rift in the opposition with claims of racism etc being bandied about. This is strongly reminiscent of the “Touche Pas” racism schism I saw being manufactured out of thin air exactly one year ago. Sad part is, people will fall for it again despite themselves.

Transport drivers who began a protest on Sunday blocked to road from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott today, some threatening to burn their vehicles unless licence applications were processed efficiently and without prejudice, and others saying they would begin a hunger strike. By this afternoon there was a 200-vehicle tailback.


[pic: Nouadhibou protest]
In Nouadhibou itself, activists protested outside the Moroccan consulate for two hours against remarks made by one of their delegation which suggested Mauritania was a vassal of the Moroccan state.

The trend of multiple “youth” opposition groups has apparently spread from Nouakchott to Nouadhibou. Quite tiring trying to keep up with all the different groups at the moment, but I expect it will begin to consolidate before too long.

The suicide rate continues to rise alarmingly. The latest is a doctor in Nouakchott, who allegedly died after injecting himself with a drug and then severing an artery.

There are also at least two recent unexplained deaths, to add to the case of the taxi driver found beaten to death in Adrar a couple of months ago.

Police are warning car dealers in Nouakchott not to sell or discard used tires, in an apparent bid to block the fashion seen in recent protests to pile burning tires in the roads. I personally hope they are successful, as I am not a fan of these anti-environmental and rather juvenile acts.

The last of the detained “MJM” activists arrested Friday 20 April have been released from jail.

The UNEM students union held another protest today against the “militarization” of the campus and the general disregard by the administration for student rights.

High school students also protested again demanding.. nothing terribly specific.. I think free transport was on the list at one point. The note I read today mentioned “sector reform” and “improved conditions for students”. Not terribly convincing, makes them look like just another wannabe movement.

The Islamists are raising their game in the race to topple Aziz, putting forward a spokesperson, described by AFP as “one of the protest organisers, Mohamed Fadel of the moderate Islamist party Tewassoul.” I assume they are hoping to force Aziz out, install an interim leadership and then accede to power via the ballot box. Whether they can succeed remains to be seen, but I hope their solution matches what the majority of people want. Certainly it would be appropriate to quiz Tawassoul on their intentions regarding key concerns and critical issues.

Tawassoul also organised a protest in Guerou on Sunday, which is no big deal, as the residents there are already well-organised and never needed any encouragement before: they have frequently protested for water and electricity supplies.

A local journalist was detained by police in the early hours of Monday morning on arrival at Nouakchott airport from Morocco. On Sunday, members of the Mauritanian media protested against police harassment and violent repression of the press. Meanwhile, the massive march on Sunday came to a stop outside the office of the national TV station.

In a glittering example of how France doesn’t really believe in “independence” from French colonialism (or any other brand) the Foreign ministry saw fit to pronounce on how the opposition in Mauritania should return to dialogue and follow the accords of the Dakar agreement – that would be a first from anyone – and that the government should respect the right to peaceful assembly. It sounds more convincing when Hillary Clinton says it.

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