Category: Islamic Land of Mauritania


2011-10-03

Protests against the 2011 Mauritanian national census continued Sunday (October 2nd) in Nouakchott, PANA reported. The Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), an anti-slavery NGO, staged sit-ins to denounce what it calls a “discriminatory and selective” census that it accuses of depriving some Mauritanians of their “natural citizenship rights”.

Meanwhile, the Mauritanian Forum of Human Rights Organisations (FONADH) on Saturday (October 1st) called for an official probe into the death of a teenager killed during an anti-census protest last Tuesday. Lamine Mangane was shot in Maghama during clashes between anti-riot police and protesters from the “Hands Off My Nationality” movement. The members of the movement oppose the census for its alleged exclusion of the country’s black population.

Source: Magharebia.

Link: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/newsbriefs/general/2011/10/03/newsbrief-04.

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Mauritanians upset with the way authorities are handling the latest census are taking to the streets in violent demonstrations.

By Bakari Guèye for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 03/10/11

The southern Mauritanian city of Kaedi erupted into violence late last month as young protesters from the “Don’t Touch My Nationality” movement clashed with security forces over the country’s census.

“The damage is enormous,” according to Hassan Baradji, a prominent Kaedi resident. “Public and private buildings such as the palace of justice, the head offices of the transport federation, the census office and the market have been ransacked and burned.”

The violence began in town along the Senegalese border on September 24th, with rioters saying they feared being treated as second class citizens as a result of the census. Kaedi’s Director of Security was dismissed from his post following the riots. Clashes were also later reported in Nouakchott, resulting in 56 arrests as of Friday (September 30th), according to AFP.

Police tried to restore calm in Kaedi by negotiating with the Don’t Touch My Nationality movement. Group co-ordinator Wane Abould Birane said that the movement was launched “following the wholesale rejection by the enrollment committees of a significant body of Mauritanian Negroes marginalized by an oppressive system which has always been ready to exclude the Mauritanian Negro”.

“The movement was launched on the social networks by young Negro-Mauritanian white-collar workers from various backgrounds,” he said. “The census committees have been humiliating Black African citizens, acting as judge and jury, even putting the nationality of a Bal, Fall, Traore or Sarr to the vote.”

The co-ordinator cited the example of one person who was asked to recite a particular verse from the Qur’an while “another had to prove his Mauritanian credentials by recognizing a key figure from presidential circles or by speaking in the Hassania language”.

Mauritanian Interior Minister Mohamed Ould Bolil met with leaders of the movement following the riots but the clashes continued to spread, reaching the town of Maghama, where one person was killed on September 27th.

The Mauritanian Parliament took up the issue at the opening of its September 25th session. “The biggest threat to national cohesion at this time is the census currently under way,” said National Assembly President Messaoud Ould Boulkheir. He urged authorities to review the census program while at the same time calling for citizens to “return to peace and dialogue in order to resolve all national problems”.

“The waves made by the current census are due to a manifest lack of information,” according to Senate President Bâ M’Baré. He said the census would involve all Mauritanians. “The operation to enroll all Mauritanians will take as long as it takes. No son of this country will be left at the roadside,” he added.

Mauritania’s main opposition party, the Rally of Democratic Forces (RFD), blamed the violence on “authorities’ repression of a demonstration”, adding that the party condemned “all forms of repression against peaceful demonstrations which are provided for in the Constitution”.

Source: Magharebia.

Link: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2011/10/03/feature-02.

2011-09-26

Violent clashes between Mauritanian anti-riot police and protestors from the “Hands Off My Nationality” movement continued Sunday (September 25th) in the southern town of Kaedi (Gorgol wilaya), ANI reported. Protestors in Mauritania, as well as expatriates, have been rallying for months over claims that the national census excludes the country’s black population.

The moderate Islamist National Rally for Reform and Development (RNRD, or Tawassoul) political party, the Alliance for Justice and Democracy – Movement for Renovation (AJD-MR) and the Rally for Democratic Forces (RFD) issued statements denouncing the week-end violence and calling for the census to be suspended until the claims of discrimination are addressed. Mauritanian human rights organizations AVOMM and OCVIDH are among the census opponents.

Source: Magharebia.
Link: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/newsbriefs/general/2011/09/26/newsbrief-06.

While Mauritania is set to allow private TV stations, some are concerned that licensing requirements will allow the government to maintain control of information.

By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 19/09/11

Mauritania will soon open the nation’s airwaves to private media. The High Authority for Press and Broadcasting (HAPA) promised Thursday (September 15th) to open the field to private enterprise no later than November 15th.

The agency said that it “invites all interested parties to show their desire to create commercial private radio and television stations in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania”. Fees for television applications amount to 500,000 ouguiyas, versus 200,000 ouguiyas for radio station applications.

“In the first stage, the government will allow the creation of five television satellite channels and five radio stations in the commercial field,” Mauritanian Information Minister Hamdi Ould Mahjoub said.

The minister said that “the government has established a broadcasting company, and the ball is now in the court of private investors to submit their applications for creating satellite television channels and radio stations.”

The head of the Union of Mauritanian Journalists, Houssein Ould Imedou, praised the move an important step towards ending the state monopoly on media.

“This decision will enable citizens to own media outlets that would represent their views and expresses their desires without any censorship or dictates,” Ould Imedou told Magharebia.

The union chief said that he expects the media reforms to boost competitiveness “with the entry of new actors who will be forced by the logic of competition to improve their output and respect professionalism and viewers”.

On the other hand, writer Said Ould Habib voiced concerns that state control would continue through other means.

“I think that opening the media field for the private sector under a broadcasting company belonging to the state would further consolidate the latter’s domination over the media scene,” he told Magharebia. “This doesn’t constitute a serious will to have media freedom because the government would still be able to control the output of these private media outlets, and in this way, freedom of media would have no meaning.”

Media professional Mokhtar Ould al-Tameen also believes that press freedom is needed but he wondered about the ability of independent media to improve Mauritanian journalism.

“We’ve had written press since the beginning of the 1990s, but it has committed major mistakes and has been largely corrupt,” Ould al-Tameen said. “Then came the electronic press that made the sector even more corrupt, and when the new television channels open, they will join the same circle and won’t be an exception.”

“We should have improved the level of written and electronic media so as to be prepared for opening radio and television stations,” he added.

In his turn, sociologist Ibrahim Ould Sidi expressed fears that private radio and television stations would be dominated by tribes, adding that this would be “at the expense of professionalism and efficiency”.

“And since the channels that are allowed in the initial stage have a commercial nature, we are afraid of the spread of patronage, abuse of power and businessmen’s monopoly of the media scene, in which case professionalism will be absent,” he added.

However, young political activist Jeddou Ould Ham believes that independent media is an opportunity for various political forces to express their views without harassment.

“Politicians have long criticized the pro-regime parties’ monopoly of official media, especially radio and television stations. With the opening of independent channels, everyone will have multiple opportunities and the monopoly of a certain group will be broken,” Ould Ham said.

“We understand that there will be shortcomings in the beginning,” he added. “However, the positive points will be more than the negative points.”

Source: Magharebia.
Link: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2011/09/19/feature-02.

2011-09-12

Police and demonstrators clashed Saturday in Nouakchott at a rally against the national census under way in Mauritania, Pana reported on Sunday (September 11th). Mauritanian human rights organizations AVOMM and OCVIDH are among the census opponents that claim it excludes the country’s black population. Expatriates also rallied against the census in Paris on Saturday. Protestors carried banners with the slogans “Stop Racism in Mauritania” and “Hands Off My Nationality”.

Source: Magharebia.
Link: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/newsbriefs/general/2011/09/12/newsbrief-05.

2011-09-09

The Mauritanian interior ministry on Thursday (September 8th) officially recognized new political party “Surge of Youth for the Nation”, ANI reported. The new party merges several youth movements. The 53-member provisional executive committee will be chaired by Lalla Cheriva, a former national executive board member of the ruling Union for the Republic (UPR).

Source: Magharebia.
Link: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/newsbriefs/general/2011/09/09/newsbrief-05.

2011-09-06

Mauritania on Monday (September 5th) dispatched teams to monitor the movement of locusts, APA reported. The move comes after heavy rainfall created conditions favorable to the crop-destroying insects, which have already been observed in Assaba and Tamachekatt. Early monitoring by the national locust control center (CNLA) aims to prevent a possible invasion. Ground and air units will treat some 30,000 hectares across the country.

Source: Magharebia.
Link: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/newsbriefs/general/2011/09/06/newsbrief-07.

The Mauritanian military is looking to put previous abuses behind it and pay recompense to those who were wronged.

By Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 06/09/11

The Mauritanian defense ministry began implementing a program late last month to compensate past victims of human rights abuses committed by the army.

The move follows a decision by President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to pay damages to black military personnel who were either abused or arbitrarily dismissed during the 1981-2004 timeframe.

The defense ministry pledged to compensate the families of missing personnel, adding that the measure would include nearly a thousand soldiers of various ranks. Authorities have budgeted 8.5 billion ouguiyas (21 million euros) for the program which began August 28th.

“These decisions come in the framework of final settlement with the aim of putting an end once and for all for this dark page of the history of human rights violations in Mauritania, where injustice was done to individuals and whole families in society,” said Thiam Ousman, a brother of a soldier who was killed on charges of taking part in a coup attempt in the early 1990s.

For his part, General Ahmed Ould Bekrin, defense ministry secretary-general, said in press statements that the compensation follows the creation of a list of dead and missing from various actions of the Mauritanian army.

“It includes all those who were affected by the events that took place in Mauritania in 1981, 1982, 1989, 1990, 1991, 2003 and 2004 in the army, gendarme and national guard,” the general said. “Through that, we’re trying to make a final and comprehensive settlement of the human heritage file on the level of military institution.”

Ould Bekrin added that authorities agreed with families of the missing and those who were dismissed on the terms of a settlement, saying that they aimed to form “a consensus and a final solution”.

For his part, retired colonel Niang Abdelaziz, head of the League of Mauritanian Army Retirees, said that he was “very happy that such a humanitarian demand, which has always been raised by benevolent people in the Mauritanian society before the families of victims themselves, has been met”.

“I congratulate all Mauritanians, especially President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, on this courageous collective decision that will put an end to this file once and for all,” he said.

Aisata Diallo, wife of a victim who disappeared in 1990, said that “it’s very difficult to compensate for the death of someone who is dear to our hearts, like a husband or a son, especially if this was the result of injustice.”

“However, today I’m feeling happy for the first time since the disappearance of my husband in ambiguous circumstances. Receiving a financial compensation makes me feel that the current government cares about our ordeal and tries to fix mistakes that were made in the past,” Diallo said.

Family members of other victims echoed her sense of relief. “This step is some sort of rehabilitation for those who disappeared in ambiguous circumstances although they didn’t do anything wrong,” said Amadou Sow, whose father was killed. “It’s the mistakes of former regime, but those who forgive are generous and forgetting is a grace from God.”

“The decision of the current government in revealing the victims’ graves and giving financial assistance to their children and wives, and for compensating those who were laid off, is a generous gesture that makes us feel that Mauritania is a country for all in spite of its different cultures and ethnicities,” he added.

But not everyone was pleased by the conciliatory steps. A group of black military personnel abused during the 1990s objected to what they said was a “discriminatory nature” in resolving the claims.

“The settlement that the Mauritanian government committed itself to included only 5-10% of the victims” from the 1987-91 period, according to protestor Mansour Ba. He added that he submitted a list of other victims but it was not properly acted on.

Source: Magharebia.
Link: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2011/09/06/feature-07.