Photo Gallery: Police attack peaceful Mauritania election protest


21 November Update: The joint march of youth groups against the elections was again repressed by police but not as violently as on Monday, as these new photos show:

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Police violently suppressed a peaceful protest outside Mauritania’s Election Commission Monday 18 November 2013. The gathering was attended by more than 100 youth from the m25fev movement, COD opposition youth, and the recently formed election boycott protest movement Many of those injured were young women, and several casualties were taken to hospital with wounds from direct impact of tear gas canisters or having lost consciousness after being overcome by the effects of tear gas.

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Nana Mint Cheikhna Mint Mohamed Laghdaf, MP and member of the RFD party

Nana Mint Cheikhna Mint Mohamed Laghdaf, MP and member of the RFD party

Mauritania: Tragedy Prompts Protests Demanding Justice, Legal Reforms


Marking a week of protests to demand action after the rape and murder of a little girl, the march organised by Nouakchott-based women’s rights activist group “Etkelmi” (Scream) has attracted a lot of support and positive reactions from political elites and fellow activists. About 50 protesters set off at 5pm Tuesday, 5th November 2013, from the Ministry of the Interior to the Palace of Justice. The young women leading the march covered the entire distance in their bare feet. They were accompanied by family, friends and supporters of the victims of recent violent assault, including the husband and friends of Penda Soghe, a young wife and mother who was expecting her second child at the time she was savagely beaten, tortured, gang-raped and murdered, after being abducted on her way home from work at the beginning of April this year.

Once at the Judiciary HQ, there were statements of protest by supporters and several representatives of civil groups, to demand a change to the law in Mauritania relating  to rape, and the entrance gates to the building were covered in protest banners.

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The abduction, rape, and murder of six-year-old Khadji (Yaye) Touré, whose body was discovered Sunday, 27 October 2013 on the beach, not far from one of Nouakchott’s hotels, has shocked the entire community. The tragic details were unveiled against the backdrop of the annual Nouakchott short film festival, which had welcomed hundreds of guests from around the world. The Etkelmi event was the fourth protest in the past week.

The first protest saw more than a hundred people accompanying the bereaved family in a march to the Presidential Palace to demand serious action on the crime. The authorities responded by asking for a list of people who wished to attend a discussion, but no further news has been posted so far. News sites reported an announcement late on Tuesday, that police had arrested a man in connection with the abduction, and that he had confessed to murdering the little girl. There are some doubts about the veracity of this statement.

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Mid-week, a group of Mauritanian ex-pats living in Paris, which has staged weekly protests for the past several months, demanding a fair and transparent approach to registration procedures for Mauritanian citizenship, held a vigil in memory of the murdered child, adding their voices to the call for justice and legal reform.

On 1 November, 2013 the pro-morality activist group staged a protest immediately after Friday prayers in Nouakchott, which was also very well-attended.

It now remains to be seen whether this concerted effort can continue to build and raise awareness, eventually creating enough pressure to initiate the needed reforms. All those involved are aware there is little chance of making any real progress until after the upcoming elections, scheduled to take place on 23 November.

Strike Season in Mauritania


26 Apr 2013 update: video of the workers hearing details of the deal.

There are precious few videos of worker protests or meetings in Mauritania.

24 Apr 13 Mauritania dockers gather outside Ministry building
24 April 2013: Striking dockers in Mauritania gathered outside the ministry of transport. They avoided a replay of this week’s violent police oppression by arriving early in the morning, making their way in small groups or alone.

24 Apr 13 Mauritania dockers hear details of win over ministry from strike leaders

24 Apr 13 Mauritania dockers hear details of win over ministry from strike leaders

The workers heard from their representative, who announced that agreement had been reached to meet their demands, most importantly a 5MRO increase in the per-kilo lifting payment, and provision of a medical centre and ambulance. Thousands of dockers working as day labourers currently earn something like 4 Euros per day.

Dockers shoulder-carry an injured colleague while celebrating decisive win from strike action over pay and conditions

Dockers shoulder-carry an injured colleague while celebrating decisive win from strike action over pay and conditions

Workers insisted on staying until the agreement was signed. Even so, vigilance will be maintained to make sure the government does not renege on the deal. As I wrote this, I saw an update warning that the 5MRO pay increase was already in doubt.

24 Apr 13 Mauritania dockers decide to stay at the ministry until the new deal is signed

24 Apr 13 Mauritania dockers decide to stay at the ministry until the new deal is signed

A press conference scheduled for 2pm Wednesday by the free trade union would have been the rallying point for further peaceful protest, one which the media could not be banned from hearing or pretend to ignore. In light of development, the dockers called their own press conference for 10am Thursday 25 April.

Issues of pay and conditions have been a source of contention among port workers for a long time, and there are several reasons behind the decision to strike from Monday 22 April:

  • Their appeal for a very moderate pay increase had not been addressed by authorities for many months
  • 180 dockers were arbitrarily dismissed last month; they have no contractual employment protection or rights to appeal and this highlighted the precarious lack of job security for all port workers
  • A docker died a couple of weeks ago after an industrial accident. He had to wait over 3 hours for medical help to arrive because there is no on-site medical facility.
  • Price inflation has been eating away at the dockers already meagre earnings, yet being  employed means they are far less likely to benefit from charitable or state-run projects for poverty reduction.

On a video posted on Facebook, a dock worker reveals the extent of dire working conditions, Aziz’ broken promises.

Rough transcript: “My name is Mohammed, I work nights. We have no safety clothing, not even when we descend into the holds loaded with agricultural insecticides. There’s no healthcare or medical centre on the site, and we are decducted 6-7000 MRO a month for access to the only water – an open-air bath outdoors. The President came to visit here and said he would improve conditions, but it has only gotten worse and he has forgotten his promises.”

22 Apr 13 Porters in Nouakchott protesting in Mauritania

22 Apr 13 Porters in Nouakchott protesting in Mauritania

The most recent protests began at the port on Wednesday 13 March but many people were unaware of the scale of unrest until the sit-in on Monday 22 April, which gained the support of a majority of workers. Security police rushed to the scene, confiscating cameras and sending media away from the area before launching a barrage of hundreds of tear gas canisters and sound grenades at the workers, attacking them with batons and arresting about 25 protesters.

22 Apr 13 Porters show gas grenade cartridges s used against them by gendarmes in Mauritania today

22 Apr 13 Porters show gas grenade cartridges s used against them by gendarmes

Several injuries were reported and nine protesters were taken to the hospital for emergency medical treatment.

23 Apr 13 Docker injured by tear gas canister. Shot by Mauritania security forces with ammunition supplied by France and Spain

23 Apr 13 Docker injured by tear gas canister. Shot by Mauritania security forces with ammunition supplied by France and Spain

A small fire using scraps of board and a discarded tyre was extinguished by some of the strike leaders, who explained to the others that this type of action was not necessary or in keeping with their image, and would be used against them as a stain on the character of the peaceful protest action.

22 Apr 13 Strike leaders extinguish burning tyre

22 Apr 13 Strike leaders extinguish burning tyre

Several members of the m25fev civil activist movement are port workers, and they rallied support from m25fev and others for the following day, at which point the centre of protest moved towards the city centre and the presidential palace. Once again, security launched a violent attack and made several more arrests. Four detained workers were seen being taken to an unknown location.

23 Apr 13 M25Fev outside security HQ solidarity with detained dockers

23 Apr 13 M25Fev outside security HQ solidarity with detained dockers

Members of m25fev held a vigil outside Nouakchott security HQ to protest the arbitrary detentions and demand the release of all protesters. In the dead of night, the detained workers were taken outside the city limits and abandoned there to make their own way back on foot.

The presence of civil activists resulted in a rapid spread of news on social media networks, and some opinion pieces, with statements of support from labour groups and condemnation by human rights organisations, but the overall lack of media coverage was deplorable.

The media need to raise their game, because it would seem that a season of industrial action in Mauritania is looming:

  • port workers in Nouadhibou reached a compromise agreement Thurday, 25 April with authorities to end their long-running strike and protest actions over pay and conditions
  • workers at the SNIM mining operation are planning industrial action beginning with a limited work stoppage on Sunday
  • at the Kinross Gold mine, CGTM union members are threatening to strike over non-payment of a promised bonus
  • teachers in Zouerate are threatening three days of strike action and a boycott of exams over pay and conditions

Civil protests in Mauritania continue with almost daily events demanding electrical power and/or drinking water in many parts of the country, plus a protest today by traders in Nouadhibou, who have no replacements for plastic bags which were banned in January and again in February after a brief respite.

There was a great deal of sympathy and support for the workers expressed by social media users, but not all reactions were favourable. A  Mauritanian news website,, posted an item claiming that the workers were chanting racist slogans and making other outrageous comments which were completely fabricated. The item was quickly removed, but not before activists made a screen capture image and located the page in a search engine cache. Such blatant propaganda – commonly held to be enacted in support of the regime – is incredibly dangerous, but it does hint at the level of fear which might be generated within the regime by the prospect of united protests involving workers and civil activists. At an individual level, I saw one or two fairly typical remarks accusing m25fev of trying to capitalise on the workers’ situation. Such comments were made in ignorance of the broad-based support and membership of m25fev, which is often mistakenly viewed as a political entity.

In my opinion, most of these identity issues for m25fev stem from the  organisers’ decision to retain the name after the debacle of April 2011, when the original 25 February group was compromised by infiltration and there was a lot of confusion and unpleasantness. Two years later, they are still paying the price of this decision, which is compounded by a lack of consistent effort to confront persistent misconceptions and re-frame their story. Meanwhile, the abolitionist movement IRA appears to be moving in the opposite direction to m25fev, towards the political arena. Time will tell what this gamble might cost them.

Thousands turnout for #Mauritania 1 Nov 2012 protest march and rally


Thousands turnout for #Mauritania 1 Nov 2012 protest march and rally

Photo from شباب التكتل | La Jeunesse de RFD | RDF Youth Group Facebook page shows thousands gathered to hear speeches from the COD political opposition coalition leaders in this first major public protest since president Aziz left the country for France the days after after reports he was accidentally injured on the evening of 13 October 2012.
Many civil activists have posted status updates on social networks to confirm that they would join the march to demand an end to military rule, even though they have no political affiliation.
Four groups of civil society activists today issued a joint statement condemning the atmosphere of intrigue which has created an intolerable situation in Mauritania since Aziz’ departure, and calling for a united effort to transition from the pseudo-military dictatorship to a true civilian government and independent institutions.

#Spain Surrounds Police In Anti- Austerity Riot! | Political Vel Craft


Spanish protesters enraged with austerity cutbacks and tax hikes clashed with police near the country’s Parliament, while the nation’s borrowing costs increased in an auction of its debt.

More than 1000 riot police blocked off access to the parliament building in the heart of Madrid, forcing most protesters to crowd nearby avenues and shutting down traffic at the height of the evening rush hour.

Police used batons to push back some protesters at the front of the march attended by an estimated 6000 people as tempers flared, and some demonstrators broke down barricades and threw rocks and bottles toward authorities.

Television images showed officers beating protesters in response and several people being dragged away by police, one with his head bloodied.

Spain Financial Crisis

Spain‘s Parliament has taken on the appearance of a heavily guarded fortress with dozens of police blocking access from every possible angle.

Spain’s state TV said at least nine people were injured, including one officer, and that 15 were detained.

The demonstration, organised with an Occupy Congress slogan, drew protesters from all walks of life weary of nine straight months of painful economic austerity measures imposed by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his solid majority of politicians. Smaller demonstrations overnight attracted hundreds of protesters in Barcelona and Seville.

Angry Madrid marchers who got as close as they could to parliament, 250 metres away, yelled “Get out!, Get out! They don’t represent us! Fire them!”

spain protests

Their message is clear.

“The only solution is that we should put everyone in parliament out on the street so they know what it’s like,” said Maria Pilar Lopez, a 60-year-old government secretary.

Ms Lopez and others called for fresh elections, claiming the government’s hard-hitting austerity measures are proof that the ruling Popular Party misled voters when it won power last November in a landslide.

While Mr Rajoy has said he has no plans to cut pensions for Spaniards, Ms Lopez fears her retirement age could be raised from 65 to as much as 70. Three of her seven nieces and nephews have been laid off since Mr Rajoy ousted Spain’s Socialists, and she said the prospect of them finding jobs “is very bleak.”

Spain is struggling in its second recession in three years with unemployment near 25 per cent. The country has introduced austerity measures and economic reforms in a bid to convince its euro partners and investors that it is serious about reducing its bloated deficit to 6.3 per cent of gross domestic product in 2012 and 4.5 per cent next year.

The deficit reached 50.1 billion euro ($62.51 billion), equivalent to 4.77 per cent of GDP, through August, the government said overnight. Secretary of State for the budget Marta Fernandez Curras said the deficit “is under control.”

Spain has been under pressure from investors to apply for European Central Bank assistance in keeping its borrowing costs down. Mr Rajoy has yet to say whether Madrid will apply for the aid, reluctant to ask since such assistance comes with strings attached.

Concerns over the country’s public finances were evident when the Treasury sold 3.98 billion euro in short-term debt but at a higher cost.

It sold 1.39 billion euro in three-month bills at an average interest rate of 1.2 per cent, up from 0.95 per cent in the last such auction August 28, and 2.58 billion euro in six-month bills on a yield of 2.21 per cent, up from 2.03 per cent.

The government is expected to present a new batch of reforms later tomorrow as it unveils a draft budget for 2013.

The Daily Telegraph

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