A Mauritanian opposition figure and leading anti-slavery activist, Biram Ould Abeid, was arrested and interrogated by authorities this week following three days of demonstrations lead by the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA).
Abeid was arrested at his home and transferred by authorities to the Regional Police Directorate of the Arafat region. According to local reports, the reasoning behind his arrest is fear by the government that the presence of the IRA will intensify if Abeid chooses to run as a candidate next year.
The IRA has taken advantage of the severe drought and the increase in prices of basic necessities in the country to mobilise the social sectors most affected by problems and poverty.
Though Abeid was not physically mistreated by the police, the interrogation was conducted in a “tense” manner, Jeune Afrique reported.
Abeid fears that “next time they will come to get me to put me in jail” and warned authorities “we will continue our marches” which the government is unlikely to tolerate. During the last three days of demonstrations, around 20 IRA militants were arrested by police and imprisoned and denied food, according to the opposition group.
The IRA condemned the detained activists being mistreated by the police.
Mauritania last abolished slavery in 1981 but slavery continues to exist in the social dichotomy between the country’s Arabs, generally better off and who occupy important positions in public life, and the blacks of the Wolof, Soninké communities which are seen as “inferior” and more prone to slavery.
Anti-slavery groups are the most vocal against this practice with leaders often in opposition groups to the country’s president and ex-coup general, Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz.
The government has accused the anti-slavery activists of exaggerating the situation, destabilising the country and creating a bad image of Mauritania globally.