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Protests to end slavery in Mauritania

A fire broke out during a demonstration against slavery in Mauritania on 30 April 2017 [Weddady/Twitter]
A fire broke out during a demonstration against slavery in Mauritania on 30 April 2017 [Weddady/Twitter]

Hundreds of Mauritanians marched on Saturday against slavery and to denounce the injustice against them.

Despite slavery being abolished in the West African nation in 1981, it is still a fabric of social life.

People took to the streets in the capital Nouakchott to mark the fourth anniversary of the creation of a group calling for the rights of slaves and former slaves called Haratine Charter.

Light-skinned Berber and Arab Moors traditionally enslaved local black populations after settling in Mauritania centuries ago.

“This has become an annual tradition and it is now attracting more and more participation from the social elite, indicating that there is popular support for our demands,” Samba Ould Yahya an activist told the New Arab.

Thousands of former slaves are left in poverty because of our lack of education while slavery persists and those who practice it are left unpunished.

Rights activists called on the government to prosecute slave owners and ensure greater measures to integrate former slaves into society.

One protester said:

I have come here in order to free us Haratine of oppression. We are marginalised in the workplace and humiliated by those in power. We are demanding full rights as Mauritanian citizens. We will no longer accept slavery and exclusion. The times when we were downtrodden has ended.

Anti-slavery activists have faced the law in the past for their efforts.

Last year, 13 anti-slavery activists were given sentences ranging from three and 15 years in prison. Ten of them were later released, with others having their sentences reduced.

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