Middle East

Mauritania decries ‘hate speech’ amid row over slavery

Government insists that slavery no longer exists in the country.

Ali H. M.Abo Rezeg   | 01.01.2019
Mauritania decries ‘hate speech’ amid row over slavery


By Mohamed Bakay  

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania

The Mauritanian government on Tuesday said it would not tolerate "hate speech" amid continued allegations that the practice of slavery still exists in some parts of the North African country. 

In an address delivered at a government-sponsored seminar, government spokesman Sidi Mohamed Ould Mohamed cited what he described as "a recent escalation of hate speech and attempts to sow hatred among the Mauritanian people".

He did not specify, however, who he believed was responsible for the alleged “hate speech”.  

Mauritanian officials frequently accuse the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania (IRA-Mauritania), which is ostensibly devoted to fighting modern slavery, of “sowing discord” among Mauritanian society.

“We will strike hard against any attempt to undermine social cohesion,” Ould Mohamed asserted. “Nor will we tolerate promoters of hate speech.”  
The current government, he added, had made “great strides” toward addressing the country’s “historical injustices”. 

Earlier Tuesday, the authorities released MP Biram Dah Abeid, the leader of IRA-Mauritania, after withdrawing charges of slander and incitement lodged against him by a local journalist. 

Mauritania’s ruling Union for the Republic (UPR) party recently announced its intention to organize a protest march later this month against hate speech and racism “whatever its source”. 

Some Mauritanian activists say slavery still exists in the country. The government, however, strongly denies this, but admits that the practice still has a “lingering presence”.

In 2015, it approved legislation definitively outlawing slavery.

Controversy over slavery dates back to the early years of Mauritania’s independence in the early 1960s, when the practice was still relatively common.

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