Despite international outcry against slavery across the globe, Mauritanian authorities continue their crackdown on anti-slavery activists with the arrest recently of abolitionist Biram Ould Abeid who was interrogated by authorities following three days of demonstrations led by the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA).
Analysts consider his arrest as a move by the government to silence the IRA movement, which is gaining ground among the under-privileged black population, called Haratin in the West African country.
In a recent report issued in February 2018, Human Rights Watch (HRW) deplored that anti-slavery groups endure police repression in Mauritania.
Mauritania outlawed slavery only in 1981, criminalized the practice in 2007, and created specialized courts in 2015 to prosecute slavery cases. Authorities claim success in eradicating slavery and say that today the challenge is to address the lasting socioeconomic effects, or “legacy” of slavery.
The Human Rights Watch report noted that both Mauritania’s main anti-slavery non-governmental associations, IRA and , challenge the official discourse by affirming that slavery continues to be practiced, though differ in their approaches.
Cited by the report, IRA’s President Biram Bah Abeid, maintains that slavery, far from being eradicated, affects 20 percent of Mauritania’s population; he also denounces the under representation of Haratines and other blacks in senior government positions.
Last January, the African Union rebuked Mauritania for falling short of fully eliminating slavery after the country handed out lenient sentences to a slave owner.
IRA is the largest anti-slavery organization in Mauritania, with members throughout the country who regularly mobilize to protest slavery and state-endorsed discrimination based on race, caste and gender.