Ethnic cleansing in Mauritania

Just what we needed to hear. The world stands by as massive ethnic cleansing—perhaps genocide—continue in Darfur. Now we are told of a similar crisis in Mauritania, which hasn’t even come to the world’s atttention. This from Johannesburg’s Business Day, July 12, via, July 12:

Plunder Beyond the Headlines in West African ‘Darfur’
AS ATROCITIES in Sudan’s impoverished Darfur province continue to grab international attention, another similar, although smaller drama has been unfolding — unnoticed for the past 20 years — in the west African state of Mauritania.

For the past two decades ethnic black Mauritanians have been systematically driven from the country’s southern region by an Arab-led government vying to take control of the fertile lands of the southern valley.

More than 120000 “Negro-Mauritanians” have been deported to neighbouring Mali and Senegal, and forced to live in squalid refugee camps unnoticed by the international community, says Abdarahmane Wone, communications director for North America of the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania.

Overseeing the brutal campaign is President Maaouya Ould Sid’Hamed Taya, who has been in power for about 22 years.

The liberation force was created in 1983 in the wake of the forced land evictions in a bid to turn the tide and create a democratic and multiracial Mauritania.

But shortly after its manifesto — which denounces human rights violations and seeks a representative and democratic dispensation — was published, the Ould Sid’Hamed Taya regime swooped on its leaders.

Many were jailed, and the most prominent among them, author Tene Youssouf Gueye, died fighting for the rights of black Mauritanians.

To give a semblance of legality to the land grab and the ensuing deportations, the then government issued Order 83-127 of March 1983.

The text, whose territoriality was limited to the fertile south, says land can only belong to those exploiting it, says Wone.

“This was a way to rob poor Negro-Mauritanians of their ancestral land,” Wone says.

To speed up the process, the government helped set up banks, called the Central Bank of Mauritania, the Mauritanian and Islamic Arab Bank and the Arabo-Libyan Bank of Mauritania to finance land acquisitions in the south by Arab Mauritanians.

Wone, who was in SA on a lobbying trip to try to raise awareness of the plight of black Mauritanians, calls the crisis the “other apartheid” — but one that has been ignored. Similar lobbying missions have been sent to the US, where support for the liberation force is growing.

Wone is optimistic the US administration could be favourable to his organisation’s agenda. But reports and analysis by news agency United Press International suggest otherwise.

According to the agency, although relations between the US and Mauritania reached a low in 1991, they are on the mend.

In its 2005 country report, the US says the west African country has made “solid improvements” since the late 1990s.

The state department says the country has adopted policies facilitating the return of refugees turned away from Iraq and towards the west and initiated a poverty reduction strategy.

The report also describes US-Mauritania relations as being “excellent”. And the sudden discovery of oil in Mauritania last year, making it a promising area for oil companies, could be used by the Ould Sid’Hamed Taya regime in its public relations exercise towards the US.

West African states are well aware of the US interests in progressively increasing their oil imports from the subregion as oil exploitation in the Middle East becomes increasingly risky.

And Wone believes this could prove enough to hide the truth about Ould Sid’Hamed Taya’s deplorable human rights record.

See our last post on Mauritania and the Sahel terror war front.