Thursday, May 7, 2015


When God decided to create the world, his intelligent design appears to have had some major flaws, of which tectonic plates, volcanoes, and the creation of human beings are the most strikingly obvious, but which must also include the distinct imbalance of climates around the globe, leaving large swathes under solid ice, and others as uninhabitable and infertile deserts. Mauritania attempts to inhabit one of the latter, known as sub-Saharan Africa, and it thanks its god daily that it was only given the sub part, and not the full dead region. Those prayers are fixed in time, but not in place, for the Arab-Berber and indigenous African peoples who share the wilderness are mostly nomadic – they have to be, because this is the nature of the land. The god in question, by the way, is al-Lah, who was brought to Mauritania by the Almoravids long, long ago, in the days that followed the first Caliphate.

The French took control of it in the 19th century, the coast first, then the whole country, as a “protectorate”, which is a very ignoble euphemism for “empire” and an utterly ignoble self-vindication for the enslavement, cultural destruction and degradation of a people as "savages" which followed. In 1960 they decided to relinquish their protection, which was also very noble, though Morocco did attempt to block the deal as part of its somewhat ignoble aspiration to grab the country for itself. You might ask why Morocco 
would want such an arid land; and the answer is – oil. Morocco was prevented, but the thought of oil, or at least of oiling their own palms, led various tribal leaders and self-made warlords to undertake a smash-and-grab raid, which is an ignoble euphemism for civil war. Mauritania itself grabbed (annexed) huge chunks of land to the south, but gave them up again after three years, unable to defeat the Polisario, who resisted them. That land is now Western Sahara

A bloody coup in 1984 led to two decades of military rule, ended by a bloodless coup in 2005, again by the military, but this time with a commitment to take off their uniforms and rule as elected civilians. When those elections brought the independent and non-military Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi to the Presidency, the military changed their minds and deposed him, putting their own man, General Aziz, back in charge, as he still is, despite being “accidentally shot” by one of his guards (a rather charming euphemism on this occasion; the phrase normally used is “botched assassination attempt”). Aziz is still in charge, and his palms are becoming blacker every day; metaphorically of course; the oil has started flowing.

The saddest part of Mauritania is the same sad story everywhere that human beings blight the planet. Mauritania is listed as a significant source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking, with both adults and children from what have been the slave castes for so long they are now widely described as "the traditional slave castes", subjected to every imaginable form of the disease (it is the masters, of course, who have the disease, but the slaves who suffer from it). Young male students, for example, known as Talibe, are trafficked within the country by religious teachers for forced begging. Young females, and you really don't want me to tell you how young is young, along with girls from Mali, Senegal, Gambia, and other West African countries, are forced into domestic servitude, or simply carted away to work the cocoa plantations (most of the chocolate we eat in the West is farmed by underage female slaves who are also expected to provide sexual services to their male owners outside work hours), or coerced into prostitution at home, or else transported to countries in the Middle East for the same purpose.

And if you don't believe me, watch this CNN documentary.

Marks for: None, I'm afraid.

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