Large but sparsely populated and extremely poor, Mauritania makes few waves internationally and has distinguished itself in Africa mainly as the only country whose government continues to tolerate slavery in the last decade of the twentieth century. In 1989 a campaign of persecution was launched against Mauritania's non-Arabized black population by the country's dominant, lighter-complexioned Moors and their allies. These groups have sought to im-pose Arabic as the national language and to expel black farmers from the country's only arable land, which lies along the Senegal River, on the pretext that blacks are Senegalese, not Mauritanian.
As documented by extensive testimony collected by Human Rights Watch/Africa (formerly Africa Watch), these expulsions, carried out on a mass scale in 1989-90 and continued intermittently since then, have been accompanied by gross disregard for Mauritanian and international law as well as for Islamic principles of justice. An amnesty proclamation of June 1993 absolved government security forces of all liability for these violations, and by implication legitimized the seizure of land and property belonging to the expellees. The report recommends continued international sanctions against the Mauritanian government until responsibility for these wrongs is acknowledged and restitution made to the victims.
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