#Mauritania News and Updates 8 May 2012


Following on from an eventful Monday on May 7, with no less than 5 separate protests in Mauritania, I will be attempting to track events today by updating this post.


Police raided Nouakchott Uni Arts faculty this morning 8 May 2012, where students were using the student’s union office to stage a lock-in to protest the increased militarisation of the campus. Officers attacked the students with batons and 16 arrests were made, including 6 female students. More than a dozen students are facing expulsion following recent protests. There were accusations following the arrests that the dean of the Arts faculty had enlisted the security services to intercept and monitor student phone calls. Detainees include Mohamed Lamine Dabo, student union organiser.


Heavy security presence observed around the Ministry of Justice, where the political opposition’s youth group has called for a protest against the attack on last Thursday’s sit-in. No news so far of the protest going ahead. Meanwhile some of the tents and other equipment confiscated by police last week has “gone missing”. Organisers were told to make a complaint to the chief prosecutor if they wished to reclaim items used “in connection with civil offences”.


Protesters from Kamour, who blocked the road and demonstrated outside the presidential palace yesterday remained in situ overnight and are continuing their protest today. Kamour, in the Gorgol region, suffered devastating damage to local oases and wells after severe floods in 2010. In January of this year the sole water pump failed, and residents have been relying on water brought by tanker (at significant additional cost) while waiting for the state to arrange repairs.


Activist Ahmed Ould Eddyd, admin of the popular “Yezza” FaceBook group and houriyeti website has added a UStream channel. Very exciting times to see Mauritanian activists expanding their use of social media. Ahmed has recently arranged Q&A sessions with representatives of various civil society groups such as the February 25 Movement in Mauritania. I am hoping this new U-Stream channel will suport that initiative so that more people can observe and participate.


Hundreds of youth in Adrar formed a protest today outside the regional administration building against the marginalisation of young people and raising concerns about various grievances such as rising prices, education and employment as well as the lack of civic amenities and social facilities in general.


Dozens of secondary school teachers continued the protest actions which began last week with a stand outside the presidential palace in Nouakchott today. The teachers are exasperated by the refusal of state officials at the ministry of education refusing to accept their petitions or to open a meaningful dialogue to address their concerns.


More evidence of the regime’s fading popularity. A festival in support of Aziz’ party last Saturday in Mederdra, an isolated community whose youth organised a 50km march to demand a paved road, attracted a tiny gathering of only the officials and state employees whose attendance is mandatory. Pictures released today are all quite narrowly focused to give the appearance of a crowded arena, but this one shows almost the entire crowd. Officials are trying to brush the poor attendance off by claiming it is linked to lower population density. Officials have also encouraged the creation of a rival youth activist group, seeking to undermine the activities and reputation of the original group. It’s all rather unpleasant.


As the controversy over the burning of books of Islamic jurisprudence continues, a number of imams and religious scholars have called on Mauritanian sources of jurisprudence and emulation to issue a fatwa about slavery. IRA campaign leader Bira Ould Abeid remains in detention.


Residents of Nema are experiencing a severe shortage of electrical power. The blackout began two days ago and is causing serious problems for the town’s inhabitants.


An outbreak of deadly viral meningitis has been confirmed by health officials in Mauritania after the death of at least 10 people and hospitalisation of several more.


Alakhbar News Agency has posted this video of a massive Nouakchott protest in support of jailed anti-slavery campaigned Biram ould Abeid.


The wife of Biram ould Abeid has been arrested by police at her home this evening. Reasons are unclear, but it is assumed the arrest is linked to the massive protest today.


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