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Activist Says Treatment of Blacks in Mauritania Comparable to Situation in Darfur

A human rights group says the oppression of blacks in Mauritania is as serious as it is in Sudan, where black Africans are being driven off their traditional lands. In Sudan’s western province of Darfur, Arab-speaking militias tied to the government are driving out tens of thousands of black Sudanese. In comparison, northern Mauritania is occupied largely by lighter skinned Arab-speakers who lead the government – while black Mauritanians mostly live in the south.

Abdarahmane Wone is the spokesman in North America for the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania, a political group devoted to democracy and federalism. He told Voice of America reporter William Eagle that under a government order issued nearly 20 years ago, the government is able to redistribute lands that are not being farmed. In reality, he says the government uses the policy to redistribute lands from the mostly black south to Arabicized northerners. He says the government has used a series of financial institutions, such as the Central Bank of Mauritania, the Mauritian and Islamic Arab Bank, and the Arabo-Libyan Bank of Mauritania to finance land acquisitions.

Mr. Wone says his group is asking Western and African governments to pressure the government in Nouakchott to respect the political rights of blacks and to stop the harassment of opposition parties. He advocates a democratic – but federalized – form of government for Mauritania that would ensure the rights of the southern portion of the country.

A 2005 country report by the US State Department says Mauritania has made solid improvements in human rights in recent years. It also describes US relations with Nouakchott as excellent.

The Embassy of Mauritania in Washington has not responded to a request to reply to Mr. Wone’s charges.