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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Black Moors in Mauritania

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Date(s) Item
1960 Independence from France. No modern, native political institutions were in existence prior to 1959. Regroupment Party of Mauritania (later the Peoples Party of Mauritania) won all seats in the 1959 general election and ruled until 1978. It is unclear how much popular support there was for this regime, headed by Mokhtar ould Daddah, during its 18 years in power. Ould Daddah did manage to achieve some economic growth in the early 1970s, but the recession in the world steel market and the rise in oil prices during the 1970s brought the economy to its knees. In addition, the issue of the annexation of Western Sahara led to the 1978 downfall of his government. Slavery was abolished for the first time.
1971 - 1980 Massive drought in Mauritania. It is estimated that 75% of the country's livestock was killed. This forced hundreds of thousands of former herders to migrate to Nouakchott, Nouadhibou and other larger cities. Of the Black Moors who migrated, most had difficulty finding employment because of their social status and many end up doing the worst jobs-garbage collection, heavy labor.
1974 A group of ex-slaves (Black Moors) formed an emancipation movement known as El Hor (freedom). Slavery, though abolished, remained. El Hor continued to agitate for abolition throughout the late 1970s.
1978 A coup overthrew civilian president Mokhtar Ould Daddah. Various military leaders ruled the country until 1984. Political instability defined the early years of military rule as the military failed to achieve its stated aims of ending the conflict in the Western Sahara, restoring economic growth, national unity, and social justice. Political parties were banned. Ould Daddah, the military rulers, and ould Taya are all members of the majority white Moor ethnic group and draw their support mainly from that population.
1980 Slavery was officially abolished for the second time since independence.
1981 - 1990 Poor education and employment opportunities led to an upsurge of protest amongst the Kewri. A coup plot was discovered in 1987 in which members of the Fulani ethnic minority were prominent, some of whom were close advisors to the president. There was evidence of increased activity by the pro-Iraqi Baath movement amongst Moors.
1983 FLAM, an armed opposition groups of the Kewri, was established. During the late 1980s, it was active in carrying out cross-border attacks from Senegal on Mauritanian military posts. At first, it advocated for a separate state for Kewri, but it later toned down its rhetoric advocating democracy in Mauritania to include both Moors and Kewri.
1984 Colonel Maaouye Sidi Ahmed ould Taya took control. Traditional ethnic loyalties remained strong. Pressure from some of these groups led the government to make some reforms, including education reform (1979), abolition of slavery (1980), application of Shari'a penal code (1980), land reform (1984), increased ties with Maghreb states (1989) and administrative reforms (1989/90).
1989 - 1990 Senegal-Mauritania dispute at border. Mass deportations of "Mauritanians of Senegalese origin" (basically a term used loosely by the Mauritanian government to expel Kewri it felt was a threat to the state) occurred in retaliation for deportation of Moors from Senegal.
1990 Several thousand Kewri continued to be expelled from Mauritania and thousands others fled to escape persecution after the 1989 dispute with Senegal over border-crossings and cattle raids. The Mauritanian-Senegalese border was closed. The dispute between the Kewri and the government affected Black Moors in that the government gave away the land of Kewri expelled to Senegal to Black Moors to tend. The Black Moors were therefore caught in the middle of the dispute between the White Moors and the Kewri.
Nov 1 - Dec 31, 1990 Perhaps as many as 3000 Kewri were arrested in the capitol Nouakchott and the industrial port of Nouadhibou. Many were members of the armed forces and arrests were made in response to an alleged plot to overthrow the government. Hundreds of those arrested were subsequently tortured and extrajudicially executed.
Jan 1991 The Mauritanian government supported Iraq in Gulf War. This angered Saudi Arabia and the U.S. both of whom had aided the Mauritanians prior to this event.
1991 - 2000 There were reports of a rise in Islamic fundamentalism in Mauritania. Black Moors, who are not integrated into White Moor or Kewri society, were particularly responsive to the fundamentalist movement. Black Moors are some of the poorest people in Mauritania and many live in shanty towns around the capital where the fundamentalists were agitating. They preached the effective abolition of slavery.
Apr 1991 The military government of Maaouye Sidi Ahmed ould Taya announced plans to reform the political system. The draft constitution proposed is based on a multiparty system which gives wide powers to the president. The draft guaranteed freedoms of association, of opinion, and of expression. It instituted an Islamic Republic, Arab and African. It called for elections based on universal suffrage.
1992 Elections were held and unrest was reported. Continued reports of torture and extrajudicial executions appeared on a small scale. Tensions remained high, especially at and after the elections as the Kewri and some Moors felt the elections were fraudulent.
Sep 5, 1992 Ethnic tension in the south and south-east of Mauritania was reported. Arabs and Kewri were at odds over livestock theft and occupation of cropping land. Four Black Moors and one Fulani were reported killed, several others were reported missing.
May 1993 A general Amnesty was granted to those responsible for the mass killings and "disappearances" of Kewri during the 1989-90 troubles.
Jan 1 - Feb 28, 1994 Local government elections were held. The government party (PRDS) claimed victory, but this was contested by opposition groups, especially in the South where the majority population is Kewri and the UFD has their political support.
1994 Of the 70,000 Kewri who were expelled or fled to Senegal during the 1989-90 problems, 55,000 remained in exile refusing to return because the Mauritanian government did not meet their demands for repatriation (e.g. return of property, recognition as Mauritanian citizens). The U.S. State Department Report estimated that 90,000 Black Moors remain enslaved in Mauritania and 300,000 former slaves remain working for their former masters because of psychological or economic dependence. The Koran forbids the enslavement of fellow Muslims-both White and Black Moors are Muslims. Children born to slaves are their masters' property. Slaves can be traded for camels and other commodities.
Apr 1994 Human Rights Watch/Africa issued a report on human rights abuses against Kewri and Black Moors in Mauritania. Torture was reported as routine punishment for slaves for disobeying orders or attempting to escape. Human Rights Watch reported the case of a female slave fleeing to relatives and claiming the protection of the police. The police then notified the former master and returned the slave to him. The court defended this action on the basis that the slave was a minor and there was no one else responsible for her.
Jan 1995 Mass riots occurred over the government's announcement of a pending increase in prices of staple foods such as rice, flour, sugar. Leaders of opposition parties Ahmad ould Daddah and Hamdi ould Moukhas (both White Moors) were arrested following the riots. They denied involvement in organizing the unrest.
1995 Tension between ethnic groups and societal discrimination continue. The government restricted some political activity, seized publications and discriminated on the basis of language.
Feb 1995 The U.S. opposed loans by international financial institutions to countries with a pattern of serious human rights violations, including Mauritania.
Aug 1995 Action for Change, a political organization supported by Black Moors and black Africans was established. It was established by a group of politicians who broke away from the UFD and is led by former UFD Secretary-General Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, a Haratine. (Reuters, 8/22/1995)
Sep 1996 SOS Esclaves, led by Boubacar Ould Messoud, accused the government of not really trying to eliminate slavery because it reinforces the existing power arrangements in the country, concentrating economic and political power in the hands of white moors (Bidan). (The Economist, 9/21/1996) The U.S. Congress imposed a ban on all economic and military assistance to the government of Mauritania until slavery is eliminated (Christian Science Monitor, 2/13/1997)
Oct 1996 In legislative elections, the UFD lost seats in two southern strongholds and in Nouakchott. UFD leader Ould Daddah claimed that censorship cost the UFD its seats, and pulled the party out of the elections after the first round claiming massive fraud. Action for Change is fast becoming the main opposition party in the country. Turn-out for the elections was only 30% in Nouakchott and much higher in the north and east where President Ould Taya is popular. (Reuters, 10/13/1996) The African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM) protested against the voting conditions stating that many Haratine had their names falsified on the voting lists, so less than one-third were able to vote (BBC, 10/14/1996)
Feb 1997 Action for Change leader Messoud Ould Boulkheir and five others were arrested on suspicion of relations with Lybia and “plotting to break the law.” Boulkheir won the only opposition seat in the October parliamentary elections. It was the first ever opposition seat won in a general election. The government released Boulkheir after two days. (Arab Press Service, 2/8/1997; African Economic Digest 2/10/1997)
Apr 1997 Amnesty International reported that the human rights situation in Mauritania has deteriorated over the past three months. Authorities have increasingly sought to silence opponents by detaining them for short periods of time. At least 27 people have been arrested since the beginning of the year and detained from 1-27 days. Only six were eventually brought to trial. The African Commission undertook a mission to Mauritania in 1996 after receiving complaints from human rights organizations and individuals of massive human rights violations including torture, extrajudicial imprisonment and executions. No report has yet been issued.
Aug 11, 1997 Kaedi mayor Tidjane Koita, also a Senator, was suspended from his party, Action for Change, for warmly welcoming the Prime Minister to town. (BBC, 8/11/1997)
Dec 12, 1997 Presidential polls were boycotted by the opposition Popular Front, an umbrella organization of the UFD-New Era, Action for Change, El Altala, the Progressive People’s Alliance, and Union for Democracy and Progress. (African News Service (ANS), 12/12/1997)
Jan 1 - Feb 28, 1998 Several prominent opposition leaders were arrested after a report on slavery in Mauritania aired on French television. They include Prof. Cheik Saad Bouh Kamara, President of the Association for Human Rights, Boubacar Ould Ebetty, Secretary-General of the National Order of Lawyers and a UFD member, Fatima M’Baye, and Boubacar Ould Messaoud, President of SOS Esclaves and Vice President of the Action for Change party. Lawyers in the country went on strike in protest at their arrests. The Association for Human Rights, SOS Esclaves, and Organization for the Promotion of Development and Democracy were declared non-authorized organizations by the government, though they maintain their observer status with the African Human Rights Commission. They were given a pardon by President Ould Taya on 24 March 1998. (BBC, 1/22/1998; ANS, 4/9/1998)
Jan 15, 1998 Two independent weeklies have been censored. The January 12th edition of “le Calame” was seized because of an article on the banned opposition movement African Liberation Forces of Mauritania while the weekly AMauritanie Nouvelles@ has been suspended for three months. Article 11 of the Press Law permits the Ministry of the Interior to seize any publication without explanation. (ANS)
Aug 3, 2005 A bloodless coup d’état removes Taya from the presidency and installs a military transitional government, the Military Council for Justice and Democracy (CMJD). Black Moors held 2 of 19 seats in the CMJD. (US Department of State. 03/08/2006. "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices-2005: Mauritania." Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.)
Nov 19, 2006 In Parliamentary elections, Black Moors run as part of the Popular Progressive Alliance (APP) and win seats. (Sadi, Hademine Ould, 11/21/2006, “Mauritania's opposition leading from post-coup elections,” Agence France Presse)

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Information current as of July 16, 2010