Refugees are fleeing slavery and torture in Mauritania today–while the U.S. government is deporting people back to these very same abuses. This outline from the Ohio Immigrant Alliance reviews recent political events in Mauritania that show its ruling government’s utter disrespect for human and civil rights.
RECENT EVENTS IN MAURITANIA: A TIMELINE
UPDATED: August 26, 2019
April 2007: Independent candidate Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was inaugurated as “Mauritania’s first freely and fairly elected president,” (CIA World Factbook).
August 2007: Mauritanian Parliament passed a law making slavery a criminal offense (BBC). However, the CIA reports today that the millenniums-old practice persists largely because anti-slavery laws are rarely enforced and the custom is so ingrained. Up to 20% of Mauritania’s population is estimated to be enslaved, the highest rate worldwide, (CIA World Factbook).
August 2008: General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz deposed Abdallahi in a military coup (CIA World Factbook).
July 2009: Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was elected to his first full term in nationwide balloting (CIA World Factbook).
2010: Biram Dah Abeid, leader of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA-Mauritania), was “stripped of his position as Senior Adviser to the President of the National Commission for Human Rights for unceasingly voicing Mauritania’s slavery issues. That same year he was arrested, detained and tortured after protesting against the enslavement of a young girl,” (End Slavery Now).
January 2011: “Abeid and two other activists were imprisoned for allegedly assaulting police officers during a demonstration. Months later, in August 2011, Abeid and 10 IRA activists were injured by Mauritanian police after sitting-in in front of the police brigade to protest against the employment of minors,” (End Slavery Now).
2011: Mauritania instituted a national Census, which resulted in the de-naturalization of Black Mauritanians who were not living in the country at the time, as well other Black Mauritanians subjected to heightened scrutiny from Census officials (Open Society Foundations). For example, in order to “prove” their citizenship, Black Mauritanians were required to produce death certificates for multiple generations of their family members, an impossible feat in a country where 41% of children today do not even have birth certificates (U.S. State Department). Protests about the de-naturalization of Blacks were met with both tear gas (News 24).
April 2012: “Police arrested Biram Dah Abeid for publicly burning Islamic law books that he said justified the practice of slavery. Law enforcement charged him for threatening national security and good morals, managing a non-authorized organization and for apostasy. The courts sentenced him with the death penalty. Following pressure from the European Union, Abeid was released on bail on September 3, 2012, but the death sentence is still pending,” (End Slavery Now).
2012: “Corruption is a serious problem, and political instability has prevented fiscal transparency. While several senior officials were charged with corruption in 2012—including a senior military official and the former minister of finance—these cases have either been dismissed or officials have been ordered to reimburse the government for the amount they supposedly embezzled, with no further legal ramifications. Mauritania was ranked 119 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index,” (Freedom House).
2013: After a 10-day research mission in Mauritania, Amnesty International published a statement indicating that they had found “Police in Mauritania are using torture to coerce men, women and children to confess to crimes while in custody,” (Amnesty International).
January 2014: Mauritanian blogger, Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir, was arrested. The offense of Mkhaitir, who comes from a lower caste known as the lem’almin لمعلمين (les forgerons, or blacksmiths), was to have penned an article criticizing fellow Mauritanians who, he said, cited examples from the life of the Prophet Muhammad to justify racial and caste discrimination today. In December 2014, a lower court convicted him of apostasy and sentenced him to death, a punishment upheld on appeal (Freedom House).
June 2014: Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz “was reelected in 2014 to a second and final term as president (according to the present constitution),” (CIA World Factbook). Biram Dah Abeid came in second, and alleged fraud in the voting process, (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization).
November 2014: Biram Dah Abeid and Brahim Bilal Ramdhane were arrested during a peaceful anti-slavery demonstration and charged with “inciting trouble,” “belonging to an unrecognized organisation,” “leading an unauthorised rally,” and “violence against the police.” In 2015, they were sentenced to two years in prison and in May 2016 they were released (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization).
February 3, 2016: Juan E. Méndez, United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, spent ten days in Mauritania observing prison facilities. He found “some forms of coercion by police and gendarmerie at arrest and interrogation that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under international law, such as beatings, threats, demeaning verbal abuse and slaps. In some testimonies that I received and consider reliable the severity of the pain and suffering endured did constitute torture, such as in prolonged solitary confinement, or stress positions or severe beatings lasting several days” (United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner).
Méndez urged the Mauritanian government “to put into practice the existing laws and safeguards for the protection from torture and ill-treatment for all suspects and detainees in the country.”
August 2016: “Following weeks of arbitrary detention in inhumane conditions, the trial of 13 IRA-Mauritania members was held on 3 August 2016. The anti-slavery campaigners appeared in court in the capital Nouakchott, accused of rebellion, use of violence and attacking public authorities. Opening debates occurred between the prosecutor and the group of lawyers who requested the immediate cancellation of the completely illegal procedure. The tribunal forced the accused to appear before the court despite their wishes. 13 IRA activists were convicted [on 18 August 2016] after a bogus trial, during which the defendants weren’t allowed to argue their case. These prison sentences, which range from 3 to 15 years of detention, come as a “devastating blow” for the IRA and the Mauritanian anti-slavery movement in general, as argued by a spokesperson for Anti-Slavery International. The decision of the court was immediately condemned by the US, UNPO, and IRA founder Biram Dah Abeid,” (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization).
October 28, 2016: “The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the OHCHR issued an opinion finding that the arrest, sentencing, and detention of Biram Dah Abeid, Brahim Bilal Ramdane, and Djiby Sow in 2014-2015 were illegal and in violation of Mauritanian and international law. The WGAD also found that the Mauritanian government should open an investigation and give reparations to the wrongly imprisoned,” (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization).
August 10, 2017: Mauritanian officials arrested opposition leader Mohamed Ould Ghadda,” five days after Mauritanians voted in a referendum to dissolve the country’s Senate, of which Ghadda was a member. Ghadda was an outspoken opponent of that vote, which the opposition characterized as a move by President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to consolidate power and possibly prepare constitutional changes that would permit him to serve beyond his current, second term in office,” (Human Rights Watch).
Speaking about Ghadda’s prolonged detention without charge, Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch said: “The longer Mohamed Ould Ghadda is held without the court clarifying the charges against him, the more this case appears to be about silencing opposition to the president rather than about delivering justice,” (Human Rights Watch). Ghadda remains in jail as of this writing.
September 2017: A delegation of anti-slavery activists attempting to conduct a fact-finding mission in Mauritania were denied entry by the Mauritanian government (News 24).
October 17, 2017: The Committee to Protect Journalists published an article, “Mauritania cracks down on critical press after referendum,” detailing a number of arrests and violent acts carried out by Mauritanian police against journalists (Committee to Protect Journalists).
Fall 2017: The African Union officially reprimanded Mauritania for its egregious failure to address non-discrimination principles and prosecute perpetrators of slavery (African Union Committee Report from Complaint Against the Government of Mauritania).
November 9, 2017: After the Supreme Court ordered a new trial in the case of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaïtir, an appeals court reduced his sentence to two years in prison–which he had already served–and a fine, setting him up for release after more than three years. The prosecutor appealed the verdict (Freedom House).
January 2, 2018: “Nine members of the IRA were arrested when a peaceful protest in Nouakchott was repressed by security forces. The IRA had organised the march to protest the detention of several of its members. Reportedly, Mauritanian security forces used violence against the protesters without any apparent reason, even beating activists that were not willing to leave the premises,” (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization).
January 24, 2018: Abdallahi Salem Ould Yali was arrested for speaking out against the practice of slavery (Human Rights Watch).
February 2018: Human Rights Watch published a report about the repression of human rights defenders in Mauritania. The organization criticized the “heavy repression authorities are willing to use to punish those who speak critically about discrimination within Mauritanian society,” and issued a series of recommendations to improve freedom and democracy in the country which have not been adopted by the government (Human Rights Watch).
February 2018: A Columbus business owner, “Jim,” was deported to Mauritania and arrested upon arrival there. After spending weeks in jail there, his family was able to pay a bribe to the police and secure his release. Jim fled to another country for safety. His experience was referenced in this story from ABC 6 in Columbus (read transcript of story here) (ABC 6 On Your Side).
March 22, 2018: Amnesty International released a major report on the “tactics used by the Mauritanian authorities to silence human rights defenders and activists, including prohibiting peaceful demonstrations, using excessive force against protesters, outlawing activist groups and interfering with their activities,” (Amnesty International). The report states:
Since 2014, Amnesty International has documented 168 cases in which human rights defenders have been arbitrarily arrested, including at least 17 cases where they were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. The 25th February Movement, a youth and pro-democracy group, has seen 23 of its members arrested since 2014, while 63 members of anti-slavery group IRA have been arrested in the same period.
At least 15 IRA members have been sentenced to prison terms in unfair trials and some were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in order to extract “confessions”…
Vicious smear campaigns, assaults and death threats are carried out with complete impunity against human rights defenders, who are often labelled as traitors, criminals, foreign agents, racists, apostates or politicians. Such intimidation has come from the highest levels of the state and religious groups and occured during international meetings in Europe. For example, human rights defender Mekfoula Brahim has been the target of a sustained and co-ordinated smear campaign on social media and has been receiving death threats after she called for blogger Mohamed Mkhaïtir’s death sentence to be quashed.
March 29, 2018: Human Rights Watch published a report, “Mauritania: Administrative Obstacles Keep Kids from School,” about problems with the post-2011 civil registration process that disproportionately harm poor and Afro-Mauritanian children (Human Rights Watch). The organization recommended that the Mauritanian government: “change its policies to ensure that no school-age child is deprived of the right to education because of a lack of proper identity documents” (Human Rights Watch).
April 2018: U.S. Representatives Mark Meadows, Thomas Garrett, Jeff Duncan, Gus Bilirakis, Lee Zeldin, and Scott Perry–all conservative Republicans–sent a letter to Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, urging the IMF to cease funding for Mauritania given the fact that the funds would not be used to benefit the poor in that country, but to further the Mauritanian president’s record of corruption, repression, and torture.
The strongly-worded letter stated that President Aziz’s government had “denied entry to human rights groups, employed torture and detained opposition leaders without cause.” They accused Aziz of “[fostering] an environment unrecognisable to international norms” and urged the IMF to not “become complicit in the Aziz regime.”
CAJ News Africa wrote: “Gone is the diplomatic waffle of politics, replaced by a condemnation of President Mohamed Aziz that goes beyond even the tweets of Mr Trump, accusing Mauritania and its government of theft, slavery, corruption and a ‘heinous human rights record’” (CAJ News Africa).
April 27, 2018: Mauritania adopted a new “blasphemous speech” law making the death penalty mandatory for instances of blasphemy. This law is in response to the Mkhaitir case and serves to suppress speech even further (Human Rights Watch).
May 8, 2018: United Nations Special Rapporteurs demanded the release of Mauritanian political prisoner Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaïtir, stating: “The charges against [Mkhaïtir] and the previous death sentence for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of conscience and expression clearly contravene international human rights law and the international conventions ratified by Mauritania” (United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner).
June 4, 2018: A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators also sent a letter to Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz demanding Mkhaïtir “be freed or allowed to leave Mauritania without further delay.” The senators issuing this letter were Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) (Freedom Now).
June 18, 2018: The Mauritanian government arrested photographer Seif Kousmate for taking pictures that reflect slavery being practiced in Mauritania today. Kousmate was released four days later, but the government confiscated his memory cards that contained the images (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Newsweek).
June 24, 2018: Noted abolitionist leader Biram Dah Abeid filed an affidavit with the U.S. government regarding several U.S. Mauritanian deportation cases, stating: “The deportation of detained Black Mauritanians and all Black Mauritanians, who reside in the United States and are subject to final removal orders, amounts to a death sentence for an entire population,” (affidavit). He goes on to state that “Many Black Mauritanians who were deported to Mauritania have been arrested and put into detention” upon return, and calls upon the U.S. government to end the dangerous practice of deportation Black Mauritanians to this nation (affidavit).
August 7, 2018: The Mauritanian government arrested Biram dah Abeid at home in Nouakchott after a trip to the United States. The IRA believes that his arrest was intended to “prevent Biram from running in the 1 September 2018 elections. He was not given access to a lawyer,” (The Guardian, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization).
August 8, 2018: The Mauritanian government arrested journalists Babacar Ndiaye and Mahmoudi Ould Saibout in yet another instance of the government’s crackdown on dissent, (Africa News, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Alkarama).
August 9, 2018: The Mauritanian government arrested IRA member Abdellahi el Housein Mesoud. “Amnesty International considers the timing of their detention and the pattern of judicial harassment against members of IRA, suspicious of being politically motivated, happening close to the elections,” (Amnesty International).
August 27, 2018: The Washington Post editorial board criticizes the deportation of Black Mauritanians by the Trump Administration in a piece entitled “ICE is sending Mauritanians back to modern-day slavery.” The editorial states, in part: “The West African nation of Mauritania is known for its poets, for its reserves of gold – and for its failure to take meaningful action to curtail the pervasive practice of modern slaveholding. Tens of thousands of people there, especially women and children, are believed to be in bondage, which explains why undocumented Mauritanians living in the United States have seldom been deported in the past – because doing so would mean enslavement and even torture for many of them…. They have suffered brutal discrimination as well as enslavement for decades. More recently, the government stripped them of citizenship, meaning that black Mauritanians living overseas, including in the United States, are stateless….an obvious reason for the administration to use its discretion and spare unauthorized Mauritanians who have lived productive lives in the United States from the possibility of a horrific fate,” (Washington Post editorial board).
August 22, 2018: Seyni Diagne was deported from Ohio to Mauritania. Reveal News, the journalistic arm of the Center for Investigative Reporting, writes: “Diagne’s Aug. 22 flight had a stop in Morocco. One of his friends, Hamidou Sy, spoke to Diagne recently. This is what Diagne told him: After arriving in Mauritania, officers booked Diagne into a jail, where he lived in a cell with more than 70 men who were forced to urinate into plastic bottles and were beaten by guards. After 13 days in jail, Diagne told Sy he bribed officials with about $1,500. He was released and a relative took him to Senegal,” (Reveal News).
October 8, 2018: A peaceful protest lead by IRA Members calling for the release of Biram Dah Abeid from prison was met with violence by the Mauritanian government (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization). Front Line Defenders reported that twelve members of the IRA were attacked by the Mauritanian police (Front Line Defenders). Disturbing photos of the victims of police brutality, which included the wife of Biram Dah Abeid, were published on the blog CRIDEM (CRIDEM).
October 11, 2018: The Board of Immigration appeals grants a stay of deportation to Oumar Thiam, who had been scheduled for deportation on a charter flight on 16 October (group press release).
October 12, 2018: Democratic Members of Congress sent a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and State Department Secretary Mark Pompeo demanding answers about the Mauritanian deportations (bicameral Congressional letter). Senator Kamala Harris put out a press release about the letter, which was covered by the LA Sentinel, Ebony, USA Today, and the Observer (Harris press release).
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Board Chair Reverend Damon Lynch, Jr., and President Dion Brown wrote a column about the Mauritanian deportations in the Cincinnati Enquirer (op-ed). The piece, entitled “Slavery still exists,” contained a simple but profound message for the U.S. government: “No person deserves enslavement. Citizen or not.”
October 16, 2018: After his request for an emergency stay of deportation was denied by the Board of Immigration Appeals, Issa Sao and an unknown number of Mauritanian men were deported via charter flight (Cincinnati Enquirer). The USA Today published a major piece about the situation, which began with this startling comparison:
During a meeting in the White House last week to launch a task force designed to stop human trafficking and modern-day slavery, President Donald Trump vowed to do everything in the federal government’s power to stop the scourge.
“Our country will not rest until we have put these vile organizations out of business and rescued every last victim,” Trump told the officials gathered there.
Yet this week, the Trump administration deported one black man and may deport three others to Mauritania, a Muslim-majority nation in Africa that the CIA describes as a hotbed for human trafficking and slavery of its black minority residents. Tuesday’s deportation represents the latest in a growing number of black Mauritanians forced to return to a nation that their attorneys said could lead to imprisonment, torture, slavery or death.
(USA Today). The piece was reprinted by 103 news outlets in three countries; excerpted in today’s news round-ups; and influenced coverage in Newsweek, Ebony, The Root, and Blavity. It also ran in the print edition of USA Today on October 18. The online story was referenced in nearly 200,000 Facebook posts in its first five days. All together, the article reached about 103 million people, according to this Meltwater impact report.
October 30, 2018: Thomson Reuters Foundation published an article about the ongoing criminalization of rape victims in Mauritania. According to the report:
Adultery, sex between single people and rape are all crimes, yet the law does not define the latter or the notion of consent.
This means rape convictions for men are rare while prosecuting female victims of sexual violence for zina [sex outside of marriage] is common, according to campaigners who say rape victims must generally prove the use of force in order to be found innocent.
“Once a woman becomes an adult, in most cases, they say she consented,” said Aminetou Mint Ely of the Association of Women Heads of Family, which runs support centers for rape victims.
November 2, 2018: Recognizing that “Mauritania continues to have the highest prevalence of hereditary slavery in the world,” the Office of the United States Trade Representative announced the termination of Mauritania’s trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The Mauritanian government’s lack of progress on and commitment to ending slavery was cited, along with its crack down on human rights advocates.
“Specifically, Mauritania has made insufficient progress toward combating forced labor, in particular the scourge of hereditary slavery. In addition, the Government of Mauritania continues to restrict the ability of civil society to work freely to address anti-slavery issues,” the Office of the USTR said in a statement (Office of the US Trade Representative).
November 8, 2018: Thirty-two human rights and free speech organizations, including Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists, issued a statement decrying the fact that blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaïtir remains in jail, without access to his lawyers, one year after he was ordered to be released (Publishing Perspectives). Kine Fatim Diop, Amnesty International’s West Africa Campaigner, said: “Continuing to detain Mohamed Mkhaïtir demonstrates serious contempt for the rule of law by the Mauritanian authorities. He is a prisoner of conscience whose life is in the hands of the authorities solely because he peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression,” (Amnesty International).
Amnesty International’s Francois Patuel said: “Mauritania gets a lot of support because it is considered a key ally on the war on terror, both by the U.S. government and European governments. We’ve been telling them to make sure this isn’t used as a carte blanche for authorities to do what they want without repercussions…. To be coherent, the U.S. should stop deporting individuals to Mauritania where they would face discrimination and arrests,“ (Associated Press).
November 12, 2018: NBC News published a major article about the Trump Administration’s efforts to coerce certain countries into accepting deportees, with particular emphasis on how this impacts Black Mauritanians who are at risk of slavery and other abuses when deported. “It’s an unprecedented push to deport a relative small number of people,” writes NBC News in the article, entitled “he Trump admin sent him ‘home’ to a land where slavery lives on” (NBC News).
December 14, 2018: Immigration and Customs Enforcement published their Fiscal Year 2018 deportation statistics, showing a greater than 1000% increase in deportations to Mauritania (ICE data, Ohio Immigrant Alliance press release).
December 17, 2018: Thomson Reuters Foundation published an article confirming the arrests, detention, and torture of Black Mauritanians deported from the United States: “Because Mauritania does not recognize their citizenship, interviews suggest dozens have been interrogated, detained and forced to hide…. The Thomson Reuters Foundation spoke with six of them, all of whom were arrested and detained immediately upon arrival and five of whom have since fled to neighboring countries in fear” (Thomson Reuters).
The story was picked up by thirty-two news outlets located in nine countries in the first five days, reaching 103 million people (Meltwater Impact Report). It also inspired additional articles including Newsweek’s “Ivanka Trump Continues ‘Fight to End Trafficking’ Despite Her Father’s Administration Deporting Human Trafficking Victims”; Face to Face Africa’s “Mauritanian deportees affected by Trump’s policies face jail on arrival”; and Columbus Free Press’ reprint of an Ohio Immigrant Alliance press release.
December 31, 2018: Biram Dah Abeid was released after five months in a Mauritanian jail–not because he was found to have been unfairly detained, but because he had been judged to have largely served out his “appropriate” sentence (RFI Africa). In commenting on Abeid’s release, a government spokesperson “seized the opportunity to warn those who exploit the legacy of slavery to undermine national unity”–showing that Mauritania will continue to deny human rights abuses and repress human rights activism (RFI Africa).
January 5, 2019: The BIA granted emergency stays for Amadou Sow and Goura Ndiaye, removing them from the list for charter deportation on January 8. This news was covered locally by the Cincinnati Enquirer and two local TV stations (WKRC Local 12 and Fox 19).
NBC News published a major story about how the federal government’s partial shutdown is affecting immigration cases (NBC News). The article was reprinted in thirty-four outlets and was share more than 182,000 times on social media (not including Twitter). It reached more than 114 million people in the first five days (Meltwater Impact Report).
The NBC report included extensive discussion of Mauritanian deportations, which were continuing during the shutdown via $148,000 charter plane. Before his stay was granted, Amadou Sow told the reporter: “We’re just scared. As soon as I get [to Mauritania] I believe something is going to happen. I don’t know what. I might be in jail. I might be killed.”
NBC News also pointed out that “The State Department has documented myriad human rights violations toward black Mauritanians. In November, the Trump administration also terminated trade benefits with Mauritania for its insufficient progress in eradicating the ‘scourge of hereditary slavery'”–yet deportations continue.
January 8, 2019: Oumar Thiam and another Mauritanian man were deported from Arizona via ICE charter plane.
The Atlantic published a column by Franklin Foer, “The Shutdown Makes Trump’s Priorities Painfully Clear,” which also focused on the Mauritanian deportation charter flight (The Atlantic). Foer wrote:
Food stamps will likely go unfunded this month; workers will fail to make mortgage payments. Trump might not be able to find the cash to pay the agents who keep his family safe, but he has the cash to send longtime law-abiding residents to their likely doom. His priorities are perfectly clear.
This article reached more than 26 million people (Meltwater Impact Report).
January 18, 2019: Fifty-three refugees, most of them from Mauritania, drowned while trying to reach safety in Europe. (Europa Press)
February 25, 2019: The Guardian published “One in 200 people is a slave. Why?”, an updated snapshot on the global slavery epidemic (The Guardian). Yet again, Mauritania ranks as having one of the highest incidences of slavery today.
March 22, 2019: Bloggers Abderrahmane Weddady and Cheikh Ould Jiddou were arrested after exposing a corruption scandal involving President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists).
Nasser Wedaddy, the brother of Abderrahmane Weddady, wrote about this injustice in major national U.S. newspapers (The Atlantic, the Washington Post). He noted that Mauritania is ranked as the 11th “most corrupt country” in the world and 5th worst in honoring the rule of law (World Justice Project).
May 2019: After spending approximately one year in immigration detention, three Mauritanians from Ohio–Mohamed Diaby and two others–were released from detention on orders of supervision (ImmPrint).
April 5, 2019: After Brunei passed a law making same sex relationships punishable with death, reports reminded the world that this was already the law of the land in places like Mauritania (News.com.au).
June 2019: After spending approximately one year in immigration detention, two Mauritanians from Ohio were released from detention on orders of supervision. Another Mauritanian man was arrested and detained by ICE outside his home.
June 2019: The presidential elections on June 22 resulted in declaration of victory by the ruling party’s candidate, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, despite accusations of fraud and corruption in the voting process (Reuters). Ould Ghazouani was the hand-picked successor to President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, and was challenged by abolitionists who have a large amount of popular support, including Biram dah Abeid (Cleveland Scene).
To quell criticism, the Aziz government then instituted rolling Internet blackouts (ABC 22), called “a violation of the right to freedom of expression” by Amnesty International (Amnesty International). Amnesty also reported:
In an apparent continuation of the post-election repression, a number of opposition figures have been arrested. These include Samba Thiam, the leader of the Forces progressistes pour le changement (Progressive forces for change); and Cheikhna Mohamed Lemine Cheikh, the campaign manager of the Coalition Sawab/Initiative de resurgence du mouvement abolitionniste (Initiative for the resurgence of the abolitionist movement) in the Ksar neighbourhood in Nouakchott.
As Mauritanians protested the declared results and arrests of leaders as well as a large group of other protestors, they were attacked brutally by the police (Middle East Eye). Meanwhile, human rights groups continued to demand the release of detained journalists, including Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mkhaitir, whose release had been ordered by a Mauritanian court more than two years ago (Voice of America).
Mr. Thiam and Mr. Cheikh were released on July 3, 2019, but the bloggers mentioned earlier remain detained.
July 2019: In the US, Mauritanians in Washington, DC and Ohio protested the election results and called for international efforts to improve respect for democracy there. Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) pledged to help the Mauritanian community in the United States (WOSU).
Amadou Sow, a Black Mauritanian who had been detained in the United States since August 2018, was released from immigration jail and went home to his family (Cincinnati Enquirer). Later that month, three other Mauritanian men who had been detained long-term in Ohio immigration jails were released to their families.
A Cincinnati, Ohio weekly newspaper published a story about “Aissata,” a Black Mauritanian woman fearing deportation (Cincinnati CityBeat).
August 2019: Goura Ndiaye, an electrician who owned his own home, was deported to Mauritania. He has a necrotic hip and had been scheduled for surgery before his detention. Instead of treating his severe condition, he was deported in shackles via charter plane (NBC News).
Despite this, three more Mauritanian men from Ohio were released to resume their lives.