Jun 24, 2013

Haratin: Roundtable At French Assemblée Nationale

The writer, Oumar Diagne, reflects on the ideas that came out from the roundtable that took place on June 12 at the Assemblee Nationale in Paris. He points out the necessity to quickly turn these debates into action.

Below is an article published by IRA Mauritania

The meeting took place on June 12, 2013. Generally speaking, both Mauritanian and foreign stakeholders have observed that slavery is still striking in Mauritania. The government of Mauritania was criticized for his lack of action toward a change of situation and, to a certain extent, for his support to slaveholders.

Many meaningful reflections came out. It would be very important to set up a monitoring to make sure that all these good ideas are followed up.

One of the most important idea is probably that of the creation of a civic movement. This idea allows to go beyond particularism and to address issues that, until now, came to nothing. One can think for instance about women condition, which is an issue that has been long studied by the participants of the meeting.

By creating a civic movement, we could bring together different movements or communities, and deal with different questions that undermine Mauritania.

One of the recurring issue in Mauritania is the difficulty to gather because, as one of the stakeholder mentioned, ego prevent from moving forward. He called this the “moi-moi” (self-self).

My experience allowed me to understand that in gathering struggles, leadership is self-evident and usually arise from his action and behavior. Yet, from my point of view, this is not the main point; Ideal is the most important.

If the problem of leadership arises, this is mainly because most of the political and civil actors do not put forward the general interest. If that was the case, the problems they are facing would have never come up.

Generally, the African of the new generation have difficulties to work for the general interest and to get together for a collective goal. Feelings and personal interests often get the upper hand over ideals. Everyone is self-centered.

The second element which seems important to me is to work with the aim of getting an international legal aid. In this way, in case of trial, lawyers from foreign countries and international observers could help to disclose the way activists are treated by Mauritanian Justice. 

Another important idea consists in helping the Haratin to get the capacity to be independent. Some trails emerged.  One consists in a real estate reform which would give access to land to this part of the population; this reform must be followed by anti-slavery organizations so that it is not turned away from its initial objective. It must not be another opportunity to give these lands to the Wealthy or to some persons with no right on it, or to wrest unduly their goods to others.

In the same general idea, someone living in India emphasized the economical aspect of the issue. According to him, in India, a policy has been launched to help marginalized class to get out of this situation. This example could be an inspiration for the Haratin.

The issue of slavery in Mauritania is bounded to mentality but mentalities can’t be changed so easily. This is why one can start with educational and economics programs which would favor the intellectual and economic independence of the Haratin. This independence would lead to a change of behavior within the Haratin who tend to stay with their masters because it is much more difficult to take the step to leave them if they have no means to survive.

Another idea which is worth stating is that of the creation of an organization working for another interpretation of the Koranic texts in favor of emancipation. Indeed, as one of the participant affirmed, Mauritania is a Republic of Marabout whose ideology support the legitimation of slavery, domination over women, etc.

Trails have then be opened; now is time to monitor them because debates alone can’t be sufficient. They have to be followed by action.Oumar Diagne