During a recent marriage in Mauritania, a country in Western Sahara, a man offered a dowry to his wife, a black slave in her fifties named Moima, a member of the Haratine ethnic group. The NGO “SOS Esclaves” revealed the case at the end of March.
This practice of offering a slave as a dowry is still a respected tradition in the northeast of the country today. Haratine women are especially targeted. Known locally as the “Black Moors”, the Haratine tribes constitute the largest ethnic minority in Mauritania. The country is dominated by Arab-Berbers, the “White Moors” who enslaved the Haratines when they took control of the region in the distant past.
The government of Mauritania, through its misnamed National Human Rights Commission, has tried to deny the facts. “It has not been established, after investigation, of any proof of these allegations.” In a press conference on April 6, “SOS Esclaves” claimed that those involved themselves claimed that Moima was their slave and complained “about the disclosure of the matter,” according to the news site. The Calame.
“Black Moors” demonstrated on March 31 in front of the presidential palace in the capital Nouakchott. The issue of slavery is particularly embarrassing for the government. In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to officially abolish slavery. It took another 26 years (in 2007) for anti-slavery laws to be passed and for it to be criminalized.
But slavery still persists. The World Slavery Index estimates that Mauritania still has one of the highest slavery rates in the world today. According to some estimates between 80,000 and 160,000 people live in slavery in the country of four million people.
Minority Rights says the government’s continued failure to protect the Haratines exposes them to widespread exploitation and dehumanization. According to the NGO, slavery practices primarily concern black women who are used to look after children, cook and breed. They are at the mercy of their masters and can be subjected to violence and rape. They give birth to children of their owners, both at arm’s length and the perpetuation of slavery.
Some sentences have been passed, but anti-racist activists denounce parodies of trials which often end with dismissals. In a recent case, the African Union berated Mauritania for failing to take action against slavery and ordered the government to provide financial compensation to two child slaves who were unable to secure the protection of its system. judicial. This historic decision (2018) is the first time that the AU has spoken out against the practice of hereditary slavery in Mauritania. Moreover, in 2019, the United States withdrew the status of privileged trading partner from it, due to the persistence of hereditary slavery of the Haratines.
The founder of “SOS-slave”, Boubacar Messaoud is himself a former slave. Her mother’s teacher made the mistake of allowing her to send her to school. Having obtained his freedom, he now devotes his life to fighting for the liberation of slaves.
How long will it take Mauritania to effect a change of mentalities in a culture which does not really consider slavery as a societal problem of great importance?