May 05, 2014

Haratin: Thousands Protest Against Slavery

On 29 April 2014 in Nouakchott, Mauritania, thousands of Haratin marched to demand more rights and the enforcement of existing laws against slavery. The march was held on the anniversary of the publishing of a manifesto for the political, economic and social rights of the Haratin, who are descendants of slaves and face marginalization and exclusion.

Below is an article based on a piece originally written in French by

In Nouakchott on Tuesday 29 April 2014, Haratin, who are descendants of slaves, gathered to demand more rights. It was the first public demonstration organised since the 2013 publishing of the Manifesto for the political, economic and social rights of the Haratin, which aimed at denouncing the marginalization and exclusion of the members of this community. The manifesto proposed the creation of preferential education zones in the areas of the countries that face extreme poverty, in order to put an end to analphabetism, and the effective implementation of the law against slavery.

According to estimations of the press, between two and three thousand persons, including leaders of the political parties and civil society, participated in the march. The organizers hope to convince the authorities so that the situation of the Haratin sees concrete change. Samory Ould Bèye, one of the figureheads of the fight for the social emancipation of the Haratin in Mauritania, expects from the march that a “new political option” will be defined.

 “Drastic measures” must be taken, according to Bèye, in a way that “all the perspectives are undertaken, allowing them to recover their rights”. He asked for “something concrete” instead of the law that abolishes slavery, ”which has not been implemented”. Samore Ould Bèye further demanded the state to no longer leave the Haratin “in uncertainty” in the suburbs of Nouackchott and the big cities.

Slavery has officially been forbidden since 1987 in Mauritania, and since a constitutional reform in 2012 the practice is considered a crime. Since 2007, persons convicted of slavery face punishments up to 10 years in prison. In the beginning of March 2014, Noukachott adopted a ‘road map’ for the eradication of slavery, drafted with the help of the UN, to fight against this phenomenon.

But according to NGOs, the phenomenon continues anyway. At the end of December 2013, the Mauritanian government announced the creation of a special tribunal, charged with judging the crimes of slavery, which was until then dealt with by ordinary courts. Nine months earlier, it had set up a national agency charged with financing micro-projects that benefit the former slaves.