Mauritanian exiles file lawsuit against ex-dictator for ethnic cleansing

From the Global Information Network, May 21:

New York, NY — Mauritanian exiles living in New York filed a class action lawsuit today against Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya, for the crimes committed during a campaign of ethnic cleansing of Black Mauritanians from 1989 to 1991. The lawsuit was filed in United States Federal Court by attorneys from the Refugee Defense Alliance.

Mauritania, situated on the edge of the Sahara along the west coast of Africa, is divided ethnically between the Arab north and Black African south. Black Africans in Mauritania have long resisted the policy of Arabization and continued practice of slavery in the country.

Using a 1989 border skirmish with neighboring Senegal as a pretext, government forces acting under the command of defendant Taya used torture, murder and large-scale deportation to establish Arab domination of the land, military and government. By 1991, thousands of Black Africans were murdered and more than 120,000 were deported.

Defendant Taya, who is also under indictment by the International Court of Justice, led a dictatorial regime for 21 years with Ely Ould Mohamed Vall acting as chief of his secret police. In August 2005, Vall seized power through a military coup, but has since permitted elections and the transfer of power to a newly elected president.

Lead plaintiff Abda Wone stated, “Some people say that we should not open old wounds after the country has experienced what was characterized as a democratic election and a peaceful transfer of power. But until the thousands of Black Mauritanians living as slaves are free and the refugees can return home, we have a country that is neither democratic nor peaceful. At least now we might have justice.”

A press conference will be held on May 24th in New York at 6:30 PM at the Global Information Network, 146 W 29th Street, Suite 7E.

See our last posts on Mauritania and the struggle for the Sahel.