Category: Islamic Land of Mauritania

01 September 2016 Thursday

Inmates at Nouakchott’s Al-Qasr Prison rioted for several hours on Wednesday to protest alleged mistreatment by the prison authorities.

According to local security sources, who spoke anonymously due to restrictions on speaking to media, inmates set parts of the prison on fire causing smoke and flames to billow from the facility.

After several hours, prison guards — using copious amounts of teargas — managed to contain the riot.

“Security reinforcements arrived immediately to the prison to help control the situation,” one security source told Anadolu Agency.

A number of prisoners, the same source said, had suffered temporary asphyxia as a result of teargas inhalation.

In 2015, dozens of inmates at the same prison went on hunger strike following the death of a fellow prisoner during a routine medical operation.

Soon afterward, local media outlets published leaked photos from the facility suggesting that inmates had, in fact, been subjected to ill-treatment by the prison authorities.

In February, Juan E. Mendez, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, described living conditions for most Mauritanian prison inmates as “inhumane”, citing rampant overcrowding, a lack of medical attention and psychological stress.

Source: World Bulletin.



NOUAKCHOTT – Police in Mauritania used tear gas to disperse protesters, after three anti-slavery activists were sentenced to two years in prison on Thursday.

Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, the runner-up in 2014 presidential elections and the head of an anti-slavery group, was convicted along with one of his aides Bilal Ramdane, and Djiby Sow, a civic and cultural rights campaigner.

Seven others on trial for joining anti-slavery protests in November were released.

Dozens of their supporters stormed the courthouse and surrounded the prosecutor’s office while others smashed the windows of the police van carrying the three, according to private news agency Al-Akhbar.

Police responded with tear gas, leaving four injured, according to the news agency.

Amnesty International statement condemned the use of tear gas and batons force by police.

“We are going to appeal,” Brahim Ould Ebetty, a defense lawyer said in response to the guilty verdict.

– Last country to abolish slavery –

The activists were charged with “belonging to an illegal organisation, leading an unauthorized rally, and violence against the police”, their defense team said.

According to Amnesty, the activists were arrested while trying to educate people about land rights in the west African country where slave descendants are often forced to give up a portion of their crops to the traditional masters.

Gaetan Mootoo, Amnesty’s West Africa researcher, denounced the convictions, saying: “The intensifying crackdown on anti-slavery activists in Mauritania has no legal justification and is symptomatic of the government’s lack of respect for human rights.”

Mauritanian authorities have accused Ould Abeid’s Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) of spreading “racist propaganda”

Police have shut down IRA’s headquarters in the capital Nouakchott.

The country was the last in the world to abolish slavery, in 1981, and since 2007 its practice has been officially designated a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison.

But campaigners say the government has failed in the past to acknowledge the extent of the trade.

Forced labour is a particularly sensitive issue in Mauritania, where anti-slavery charities are very active.

Source: Middle East Online.



Mauritania on Thursday (October 6th) released 25 “Hands Off My Nationality” movement members after a week in detention, ANI reported. Thirty-one other participants in the anti-census protests, including 13 foreigners, remain in custody. Protesters claim that the national census excludes the country’s black population.

A young man was killed during a September 27th demonstration in Maghama, prompting calls from political parties Tawassoul, the Alliance for Justice and Democracy – Movement for Renovation (AJD-MR) and the Rally for Democratic Forces (RFD), for the Mauritania census to be suspended until the government addresses the claims of discrimination.




To mark the 54th anniversary of Mauritanian independence on Friday (November 28th), President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz raised workers’ salaries.

The base salary of workers earning less than 100,000 ouguiyas (275 euros) a month will climb by 50%, ANI quoted the president as saying Thursday in a televised statement. Wages higher than 100,000 ouguiyas will increase by 30%.

The pay hikes begin in January 2015.




Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on Wednesday (August 20th) named his new prime minister, AFP reported. Yahya Ould Hademine had served as transport minister.

Outgoing Prime Minister Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf had earlier submitted his resignation.

Source: Magharebia.


By Bakari Gueye in Nouakchott for Magharebia


At the mid-point of Ramadan, Mauritanians are heeding advice to advocate moderate discourse.

“Our genuine Islamic values require us to display solidarity and brotherhood at all times, and especially during this blessed month of transcendence and kindness among Muslims, despite all hardships,” President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on June 28th.

He urged worshipers to stay “within the framework of our holy religion, far removed from any extremism, which spurs some people to commit destructive acts when they believe they are doing good and to make mistakes when they think they are right”.

The faithful have been reading the Quran and holding meetings to spread the good word.

Young people are mainly active at night, when they play ball and card games, and meet at cafés and other venues.

The authorities have taken all steps necessary to ensure that markets are stocked with basic necessities and other goods. They are also making sure the holy month is celebrated in an atmosphere of security.

Nouakchott was divided into three zones protected by the National Guard, the gendarme and the police. An increasing number of officers from the General Group for Road Safety (GGSR) can also be seen on the streets of Nouakchott.

Media outlets, both state-run and private, changed their scheduling for the month. Most programs are about Ramadan. They feature scholars and doctors who explain the virtues and consequences of fasting.

“Ramadan is a holy month and in Mauritania, we give it all the importance it deserves,” said Cheikh Tourad Ould Sidi, a teacher at a mahdhara.

“It’s a month of joy when people celebrate God and his prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him,” he told Magharebia.

“In our country, religion pervades everything and we celebrate values such as love, brotherhood, solidarity and forgiveness,” Ould Sidi added. Ramadan is also good for Mauritanian merchants.

In preparation for the holy month, they stock up on all kinds of food and kitchen items.

“Customers have been flocking to buy dates. It’s an item that sells well, and we have dates to suit all tastes and budgets,” vendor Sidati Ould Ahmed said.

“This month is the most profitable time of the year for us. Demand is very high, as you can see,” Nouakchott trader Mohamed Lemine Ould Limam told Magharebia. “Thank God, business is brisk.”

Charitable NGOs are also stepping in to offer relief to the poor.

Mariem Mint El Mokhtar of the Women’s Association to Combat Poverty and Illiteracy said the group organized a project this year to “co-ordinate all of the good work that people do to help the most disadvantaged in society”.

“The goal is to strengthen the ties between the different segments of society,” she said.

Source: Magharebia.


June 21, 2014

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) — Mauritanians voted Saturday to choose their next president, but the incumbent seems certain to retain power because of a boycott by major opposition parties.

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who assumed power in a coup in 2008 and won elections a year later, has been a staunch ally of the West in facing the growing terror threat in West Africa. The National Forum for Democracy and Unity, a coalition of main opposition parties, decided to exclude themselves from the contest when the election date was chosen without their input. They complained that Aziz’s control of state institutions would ensure his victory and described the vote as “grotesque theater.”

Security forces guarded polling stations as voters cast their ballots amid mixed turnout. But in the capital city’s poorer outskirts, which are Aziz strongholds, long lines formed. In some areas, so many people were still in line when polling stations were supposed to close that voting was extended.

Aziz faces four candidates, one of whom is the descendant of slaves. Provisional results are expected overnight and official results Monday. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff vote will be held July 5.

Aziz is from the country’s ethnic Arab elite that long has dominated the ruling class, but his policies have made him popular among the poor black majority. “The important thing is to keep the state strong where citizens can freely express themselves and vote freely,” said Mariam Mint Abdallah, a shopkeeper who was voting in an area north of the capital where Aziz himself voted Saturday.

The next president will face huge challenges. Insecurity is growing in the Sahel, a band of countries including Mauritania south of the Sahara Desert. Islamic militants roam in its vast ungoverned spaces. Mauritania’s neighbor Mali was overrun by al-Qaida-linked fighters in 2012, until a French-led intervention pushed them back.

But the economy may pose an even greater hurdle. Mauritania is one of the world’s poorest countries featuring great economic inequality with Arabs on top, blacks on the bottom. Even though illegal, slavery persists.

“There are not going to be a big fixes to Mauritania’s democratic process any time soon. And the much bigger challenges are those of economic growth, employment and youth employment,” said Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


NOUAKCHOTT – The United Nations envoy on modern-day slavery said on Thursday Mauritania had agreed to adopt a roadmap for eradicating the trade, which campaigners say remains widespread in the west African nation.

The country was the last in the world to abolish slavery, in 1981, and since 2012 its practice has been officially designated a crime, but campaigners say the government has failed in the past to acknowledge the extent of the trade, with no official data available.

Gulnara Shahinian, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on contemporary slavery, announced as she ended a four-day visit that Mauritania would adopt a roadmap on March 6 which had been prepared with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

She said the plan was “an important step in eradicating slavery in the country” and would include “a number of economic projects” to help victims out of the trade.

Shahinian added she was “satisfied with the action of the government, which has taken important steps towards the eradication of slavery” since her last visit in 2009.

Forced labor is a particularly sensitive issue in Mauritania, where anti-slavery charities are very active, especially SOS Slaves and the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Struggle against Slavery (IRSS), which supports victims in court.

Shahinian told reporters she had obtained a commitment from the government to appoint lawyers specifically trained to represent slaves in the courts, however, rather than leaving the work to charities.

She praised the “political will displayed by the authorities” in introducing anti-slavery legislation but called for better enforcement of the law.

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is in the process of setting up a special tribunal to prosecute suspects accused of involvement in slavery and various social security programs have helped former slaves in the past.

But the beneficiaries were never recognized as such, with schemes officially targeting other disadvantaged groups.

In March last year Mauritania announced the launch of its first government agency charged explicitly with helping former slaves.

“While the train is certainly in motion, much needs to be improved, but as long as the will is there, the rest will follow in time,” Shahinian said.

The envoy, a lawyer with extensive experience as an expert consultant on children’s rights, migration and trafficking, was appointed as the first Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery in 2008.

Her findings and recommendations will be presented at a session of the UN Human Rights Council in September.

Source: Middle East Online.


November 24, 2013

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) — A previously banned Islamist party that promotes Shariah law is poised to win seats in Mauritania’s parliament following the weekend election, analysts said Sunday.

Election officials in Mauritania began releasing a few early results from Saturday’s legislative and municipal races. It was the first time legislative polls were held since President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz took power in a coup in 2008. Opposition parties largely refused to participate because of concerns the vote would not be credible.

One likely consequence is that the Islamist Tawassoul party will win legislative seats for the first time, said Mohamed Ould Mokhtar, professor of political science at the University of Nouakchott. The party was banned until 2007.

The election commission said Saturday that turnout was at 60 percent and that results were expected by the middle of this week.


By Hademine Ould Sadi – NOUAKCHOTT

Mauritania’s main Islamist party has emerged during an otherwise unremarkable election campaign as an unknown quantity which observers believe will be greatly strengthened by Saturday’s polls — or killed off completely.

The former French colony’s ruling Union for the Republic (UPR) is widely expected to retain power, but opinion is divided over whether Islamist party Tewassoul, only legalized in 2007, will give the favorites a bloody nose.

The mainly Muslim republic on the west side of the Sahara desert is seen by Western leaders as strategically important in the fight against Al-Qaeda-linked groups within its own borders, in neighboring Mali and across Africa’s Sahel region.

Around a third of its 3.4 million people are eligible to vote in the first parliamentary and local polls since 2006, a test of strength for President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz five years after he came to power in a coup and four years after he won a widely contested presidential vote.

Around 1,500 candidates from 74 parties representing the administration and the so-called “moderate” opposition are registered to vie for 147 seats in parliament and the leadership of 218 local councils dotted across the shifting sands of the vast nation.

But Tewassoul is the only member of the so-called “radical” opposition, the 11-party Coordination of Democratic Opposition (COD), contesting the polls.

It describes its participation as a form of struggle against the “dictatorship” of Abdel Aziz.

The rest of the COD coalition said it would “boycott this electoral masquerade” after talks on how the vote should be run broke down in early October.

The UPR is the only party fielding candidates in every constituency, making it a strong favorite over Tewassoul, its closest rival, and the People’s Progressive Alliance of parliament leader Messaoud Ould Boulkheir.

Tewassoul, associated with the Mauritanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, professes to hold more moderate beliefs and goals than the country’s jihadist fringe.

A sophisticated political entity with a youth wing and a women’s group, Tewassoul has a website, YouTube channel and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

It draws support from female voters and Mauritania’s young, urban middle-class, but remains a fringe party with modest electoral traction.

Its main policies in recent years have included anti-Israel activism and support for increasing the use of Arabic in higher education.

UPR national campaign director Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Jaavar told a meeting in the capital Nouakchott on Tuesday that Tewassoul must “set themselves apart from the Islamists who have committed a lot of damage in the Arab and Muslim world”.

“No party has the right to appropriate Islam, which is the religion of all of us, for itself,” he said.

Make-or-break vote

Observers envisage two possible scenarios, in which the elections either give Tewassoul a major boost or stymie the nascent party.

“Islamists face several challenges, including President Abdel Aziz’s success in co-opting their rhetoric, the pitfalls of preserving Islamic principles while navigating electoral politics, and the need to respond to jihadism,” analyst Alex Thurston said in a report on Tewassoul for the Carnegie Endowment think tank.

“But the trends that gave rise to Islamism continue: urbanization proceeds, social inequality remains, and mosques and Islamic schools still proliferate, allowing Islamists to expand their influence in urban spaces and reach new audiences, particularly among the youth.”

The polls are also a test for the rest of the COD, which says election day will “intensify the political crisis in the country”.

It says it is counting on a “relatively large” proportion of the electorate to heed its call for a boycott.

Ahmed Ould Daddah, one of the main leaders of the “radical” opposition, warned on Tuesday that the UPR was “about to commit fraud as it did in the 2009 presidential election”.

The “moderate” section of the opposition, which decided not to follow the COD boycott, includes the three-party Coordination for a Peaceful Alternative, a key player in Mauritania’s nascent democratic process responsible for negotiating the establishment of the independent electoral commission which will supervise the vote.

Following independence from France in 1960 and the ensuing one-party government of Moktar Ould Daddah, deposed in 1978, Mauritania had a series of military rulers until its first multi-party election in 1992.

Source: Middle East Online.