The Abolition Movement to End Slavery in Mauritania
Slavery in Mauritania was abolished 4 times but still continues
EDDIE CONWAY: Welcome to The Real News. I’m Eddie Conway coming to you from Baltimore. African Americans are comforted by the assurance that the buying and selling of black Africans ended in the distant past but such a belief is myth. It has become clear that the enslavement of black Africans did not stop with the demise of the Atlantic slave trade, that on this very day and hour as you watch this video there are black people being bought and sold in at least two northwestern African countries, Mauritania and the Sudan.
MOCTAR TEYEB: In Mauritania slavery has never ended. 800 years ago Arab-Berber tribesmen rode south across the western Sahara Desert and enslaved black African.
VICTORIA AJANG: That night it was like [foreign language 00:01:00] “Praise the Lord, God is great” in Arabic.
S.E. ANDERSON: Your child, coming out of an African woman’s womb, is automatically capital to produce capital.
EDDIE CONWAY: In the United States of America the slave trade was based upon work in the fields, the cotton fields, the rice fields, the tobacco fields and what was required was the use of male slaves to do that heavy work. Although female slaves sometimes were kept in capacities of mistresses by the slave owners, the primary slave population and economic reason for the existence of the slaves were in the male worker.
By contrast in the Arabic world, the slave trade, the domestic slave trade in Africa was primarily focused on female slaves and those female slaves were used in most cases to produce offsprings and then populate the Muslim and Arab populations.
Mauritania has no overtly racial discriminatory laws. Blacks and whites are not forced to attend separate schools, or live in separate neighborhoods and unlike black South Africans, Mauritania Africans did not need passbooks. Interracial marriage is not illegal and everyone can vote. So, what is the problem? The problem is that Mauritanian Arabs sincerely believe that black people are inferior and are born to be slaves.
SPEAKER: It is a physiological issue because when the former slave, in the society the former slave he is still be seen as a slave.
SPEAKER PANELIST: Sounds like Mississippi to me.
REP. BARBARA LEE: I believe this country should be very involved in addressing death and destruction and slavery, and I don’t want to play the race card, we’re always accused of playing the race card if we’re black. I’m gonna reserve that until I hear from the witnesses, in a very objective way, what you think the reason is for this country’s very minimal, if any, response to the crisis in Sudan as well as throughout the continent of Africa.
VICTORIA AJANG: I never forgot the histories that I see. Even though I’m here. I feel myself in two world. I’ll be here why thinking about myself “Why I have to be here, why I have to dress up? Who am I, I don’t have my freedom.” I can see the people who fall in the river, they don’t know how to swim. And they are telling me “Goodbye Victoria. We will meet two days or three days in Heaven. You also will die soon.” These are the dreams. I leave now.
SAMUEL COTTON: The articles are written about Mauritania and Sudan. The slavery has been validated by a number of sources.
EDDIE CONWAY: Samuel Cotton first learned of the existence of slavery in contemporary Mauritania and the Sudan from writings of the American Anti-Slavery Group in the early 1990s. His consciousness was profoundly disturbed and in 1994 he became a reporter for the City Sun, an African American weekly newspaper published in Brooklyn. He caused a deep stir with his expose of the situation and his description of the mental and emotional suffering the enslaved people underwent.
SAMUEL COTTON: There are allies that do not totally agree with each other, that’s not totally important. We are fighting slavery in Mauritania. What is the nation of Islam’s stand on Mauritanian slavery? What is the nation of Islam’s stand on the slavery in Sudan?
SPEAKER: We are opposed to slavery anywhere by any means, but I do not appreciate using the nation of Islam, and the name Louis Farrakhan in two of those audibles.
SAMUEL COTTON: And wait a minute (crosstalk) let me just say. The nation of Islam cannot enter the political context of a community and a country and then expect to be exempt from examination. That particular article also said “Where is any African American leader at this point?”
SPEAKER: Every one of us must feel the symbolism of this moment.
BAKARY TANDIA: This is a list of the black officials who were killed by the government of Mauritania. My brother here, the first abolitionist movement, himself he has still some relatives in slavery.
BAKARY TANDIA: It is good to talk about slavery and to ask for reparation, but it is also very important, since we are dealing with principals to deal with slavery that exists today in Mauritania and Sudan. I know that they are not happy what I did, what we did this afternoon, but our job is to make them unhappy. And we are happy with that.
EDDIE CONWAY: Although slavery has been outlawed in Mauritania, a number of times, dating back as far as 1901, 1905, 1961, 1980, the system of slavery of black Africans by Arabs in Mauritania seems to still be alive and well. What is the situation there today, because it’s my understanding that, and you just pointed out that, slavery has been abolished there several times in the past century. Why then is there still that slave caste in existence today, and what does it look like now?
ALICE BULLARD: I would say that social change is very difficult to achieve. And you can compare the situation to the United States, for example where slavery was outlawed after the Civil War, but then we had Jim Crow and then we have ongoing discrimination against people of color, African Americans in particular. Problems that are in the news daily that we’re all well aware of.
S.E. ANDERSON: First and foremost, we understand that this country was founded by criminals. We understand that capitalism is the highest form of criminalism, and therefore those in power, those criminals in power, define the laws that keep them free of being imprisoned. And so the struggle as it has been over the past, I guess now, 1000 years, 1200 years, is the struggle for people to control their lives and their society.
EDDIE CONWAY: So what’s being done if anything about this in the United Nations or in the world court in general?
ALICE BULLARD: The case that I point to is that at the same time that the IRA-Mauritania leadership was receiving the trafficking and persons award, here in the United States at the State Department, that the same day, the Mauritanian government arrested the whole leadership of…that was still in Mauritania. So they arrested about 18 people, two of whom are still in jail to this day. And what about the slavery courts? Well, on that same day there were convictions, but the slave masters who confessed to holding two women in slavery for 30 years, both of these women had multiple children, who would have been born of rape, while they were in slavery. And the masters received suspended sentences. So you see the government prefers to imprison the anti-slavery activists and meanwhile the slave owners are at most given a slap on the wrist, nothing more.
DR. AISHA EL-AMIN: That’s a sit with women who had gone through this, there were so many stories, one story in particular by Sister Celine, and she talked about how her master raped her and impregnated her, and then when she gave birth to the child, the wife knew that it was by the master.
SPEAKER: But why are we still having this issue? Why wouldn’t the government support anti-slavery? Well, I know the trip didn’t go exactly as planned, but you guys did get a chance to leave a little bit of love behind.
DR. AISHA EL-AMIN: Yeah, and we did this while we were being detained at the airport, and as you all-
SPEAKER: Making good use of your time, right?
DR. AISHA EL-AMIN: Yes, we had to, right?
S.E. ANDERSON: Defending the stopping of this form of slavery that we see all over the world now, is a battle against the capitalist system. The capitalist system must be destroyed in order for all forms of slavery to disappear.