In DepthColumnsMauritania: Enslaving Africans in Africa in 2012

Thu,24Apr2014

Posted on Tuesday, 28 August 2012 16:58

Mauritania: Enslaving Africans in Africa in 2012

Abda Wone

To better comprehend Mauritania, one should understand that slavery has been abolished three times! The fourth abolishment of slavery is yet to be announced as the widespread practice continues unabated.

 

The West cum North African country's first abolishment was put on paper in 1905 when the country was colonised by France.

The second, as a result of a continuing of the practice, was to be enforced when Mauritania joined the United Nations. But that second abolishment law was so ambiguous it only implied that the practice would be prohibited under the constitution. At a later date!

The third was in 1981 by the Military Committee of National Salvation, under Mouhamed Khouna Ould Haidallah.

In what is seen as an incredible disrespect for the sanctity of the law, the three too-many abolitions are not clear and the language used to enforce them remains ambiguous.

The very classes who are in charge of the laws are the same who benefit from slavery, and the regime continues to exploit the citizenry considered as "slaves". There are no signs that the authorities are sincere about any talks of freedom, be it of movement, thought or economic.

Consequently, some blacks, known as "Negro-Mauritanians", are still owned as slaves by rich Arab masters, who despite being African prefer being referred to as Arab.

So, such is the struggle in 2012 to free slaves in Mauritania in a modern society.

The pre-historic political consciousness is such that Birame Ould Dah, a Mauritanian abolitionist and leader of the Initiative for the resurgence of the abolitionist movement (IRA-Mauritania) has been in detention since April 2012.

Tens of thousands of Black slaves in Mauritania? The property of Arab-Berber masters?

Birame has been accused of burning scholarly Muslim works, while insisting that their authors justify the practice of slavery in Mauritania by virtue of Islam. National and international opinions associate his arrest to his anti-slavery activism and his fight to inform the world about what is really taking place in his country, Mauritania.

Birame's imprisonment does not meet standards designed for stray animals being led to the slaughter and without much surprise his life is in grave danger due to his condition of health. A condition designed by the very authorities who on three occasions have banned the very practice Birame is reminding them of.

Sudan and Mauritania, where blacks and so-called Arabs co-exist in the same geographical space, have long been in the business of slavery.

Dr. Samuel Cotton, author of the masterpiece "The Silent Terror: a Journey into Contemporary African Slavery", expresses his shock upon discovering the extent of slavery.

"Tens of thousands of Black slaves in Mauritania?

"The property of Arab-Berber masters? The idea struck me as absolutely incredible! How could this be going on and how could the rest of the world not know".

Cotton attributes the continuation of slavery in today's Mauritania to the world's near ignorance of the situation.

"As my research continued, it became clear to me that although there was certainly an abundance of data, the world did not know what was happening in north western Africa. As I worked my way through the various maps, documents, and articles I had requested and received, a picture of Mauritania began to emerge in my mind's eye."

As you read this article, "slaves" who have taken the bold step to move into cities like Nouakchott and Nouadhibou are living under atrociously difficult economic conditions. This situation is echoed by Kevin Balance in Disposable People, which reveals that Haratines earn about $8 a month and are forced to pay fees, as common slaves, to the government.

For those blacks (Fulani, Wolof and Soninké) who live in the southern parts, and thus a distance away from the traditional settlements of the Arabs, life couldn't be any worse. Legal discrimination is the order of the day despite the first president of Mauritania, Mokhtar Ould Daddah having declared his political goal of seeking a country in which Arabs and Blacks lived together in peace and together build a Nation-State, in 1960.

But there is a big gap between Mokhtar's declarations and what occurred. Dating from the time Mauritania became independent on November 28 1960, and continuing to the present day, national construction focused only on affirming a discriminatory system. Mokhtar, as well as his successors, broke the promise to build an egalitarian country and, instead, treated Black Africans as second-class citizens, in legal terms.

In 2000, for reasons best described as self-explanatory, Mauritania left the Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS), to join the mainly Arab North African grouping, thus consolidating its "Arabisation" programme.

The implementation of this Mauritanian Apartheid system has led to serious problems of co-existence between Arabs and non-Arabs.

In 1989, more than 120, 000 Blacks were deported to Senegal and Mali and the reasons behind it were to have fewer Blacks- since their goal has been to create an all Arab country - and to exploit their lands. Mauritania is known among certain circles as "The Other Apartheid."



Abda Wone

Abda Wone

A dedicated human rights activist and panafricanist, Abda Wone holds a Masters Degree from the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University and a post graduate degree in journalism from Senegal. Born in Kaedi, Mauritania on 16 June 1973 Wone is an exiled academic and activist. In 1989 his family, along with more than 120,000 other black Africans, was deported from Mauritania by the then Arab dominated regime, Wone was just 16 years old. After relocating to Senegal, he completed his schooling and later worked with Sud Quotidien, a Sengalese daily newspaper and Diamono FM, as an interviewer and commentator. In 2000, he moved to Buffalo, New York, where he completed a degree in International Affairs at SUNY Buffalo.

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