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Chronology for Kewri in Mauritania

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Kewri in Mauritania, 2004, available at: [accessed 23 May 2023]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
1960 Independence from France. No modern, native political institutions were in existence prior to 1959. The Regroupment Party of Mauritania (later the Peoples Party of Mauritania) won all seats in the 1959 general election and ruled until 1978. It is unclear how much popular support there was for this regime, headed by Mokhtar ould Daddah, during its 18 years in power. Ould Daddah did manage to achieve some economic growth in the early 1970s, but the recession in the world steel market and the rise in oil prices during the 1970s brought the economy to its knees. In addition, the issue of the annexation of Western Sahara led to the 1978 downfall of his government.
1978 A coup led to the overthrow of civilian president Mokhtar Ould Daddah. Various military leaders ruled the country until 1984. Political instability defined the early years of military rule as the military failed to achieve its stated aims of ending the conflict in the Western Sahara, and restoring economic growth, national unity, and social justice. Political parties were banned. Ould Daddah, the military rulers, and Maaouye ould Taya (who became president in 1984) were all members of the majority white Moor ethnic group and drew their support mainly from that population.
1981 - 1990 Poor education and employment opportunities led to an upsurge of protest amongst Kewri. A coup plot was discovered in 1987 in which members of the Fulani ethnic minority were prominent, some of whom were close advisors to the president. There was evidence of increased activity by the pro-Iraqi Baath movement amongst Moors. Some Kewri felt the government was supported by Iraq which they claimed was encouraging the government to suppress the black populations.
1983 FLAM, an armed opposition groups of the Kewri, was established. During the late 1980s, it was active in carrying out cross-border attacks from Senegal on Mauritanian military posts. FLAM first advocated a separate state for Kewri, but later toned down its rhetoric to advocate democracy in Mauritania to include both Moors and Kewri.
1984 Colonel Maaouye Sidi Ahmed ould Taya took control. Traditional ethnic loyalties remained strong. Pressure from some of these groups led the government to make some reforms, including education reform (1979), abolition of slavery (1980), application of Sharia penal code (1980), land reform (1984), increased ties with Maghreb states (1989) and administrative reforms (1989/90).
1989 - 1990 Senegal-Mauritania dispute at the border. Mass deportations of "Mauritanians of Senegalese origin" (basically a term used loosely by the Mauritanian government to expel Kewri it felt was a threat to the state) took place in retaliation for deportation of Moors from Senegal. In expelling these Mauritanians, the government often destroyed their citizenship cards which made it nearly impossible for these Kewri to return to their villages after the conflict with Senegal abated. Deaths were claimed on both sides of the conflict.
1990 Several thousand Kewri continued to be expelled from Mauritania and thousands others fled to escape persecution after the 1989 dispute with Senegal over border-crossings and cattle raids. The Mauritanian-Senegalese border closed. Kewri had been used to traveling back and forth to Senegal to visit relatives and obtain goods. Some Kewri expelled to Senegal carried out armed raids on Mauritanian government forces and Moors who attempted to take over Kewri lands after the expulsions. Reports of arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial executions and "disappearances" continued. The dispute with Senegal only scratched surface of ethnic tensions between the Kewri and Moors in Mauritania.
Nov 1 - Dec 31, 1990 Perhaps as many as 3000 Kewri were arrested in the capital Nouakchott and the industrial port of Nouadhibou. Many were members of the armed forces and arrests were in response to an alleged plot to overthrow the government. Hundreds of those arrested were subsequently tortured and extrajudicially executed.
Jan 1991 The Mauritanian government supported Iraq in Gulf War. This angered Saudi Arabia and the U.S. both of whom had aided the Mauritanians prior to this event. Kewri in Mauritania felt government's support of Iraq was another sign of its racism-they felt Iraq was dictating racist policies to the Mauritanian government.
1991 Kewri continued to face arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial execution, though on a lesser scale than during the previous two years.
Apr 1991 Military government of Maaouye Sidi Ahmed ould Taya announced plans to reform the political system. The draft constitution proposed was based on a multiparty system which gives wide powers to the president. The draft guaranteed freedoms of association, of opinion, and of expression. It instituted an Islamic Republic, Arab and African. It acknowledged four languages-Hassaniya, Pulaar, Soninke, and Wolof. It would be implemented within 9 months and in the meantime, the National Salvation Military Committee would continue to rule.
Jan 1992 Elections were held. Some unrest experienced in larger cities during the elections. About 100 arrests were made during this time and several deaths were reported when government forces fired on protesters in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. Several opposition parties refused to participate in the elections, claiming fraud. Independent observers also reported irregularities and fraud. The main opposition party (UFD-Union of Democratic Forces) is headed by a Moor, Ahmad ould Daddah (half-brother of the country's first president), but draws much of its support from the Kewri, particularly the Fulani who are the most politically active minority group.
May 1992 Mauritanian/Senegalese border opened at Rosso (Western-most city in Southern Mauritania). This is the main border-crossing point, as there is a paved road between Rosso and Nouakchott. Trade could once again be conducted across the river at this point.
Sep 5, 1992 Ethnic tension in the South and South-East of Mauritania reported. Arabs and Kewri were at odds over livestock theft and occupation of cropping land. Four black Moors and one Fulani were reportedly killed, several others were reported missing.
Nov 1992 Mauritanian/Senegalese border opened along the river at most border villages. However, border crossings were less frequent than before the 1989-90 dispute as the Mauritanian government made it more difficult to obtain the proper papers to travel back and forth into Senegal.
1993 The South remained tense and an unofficial curfew was followed in many villages along the Senegal river. A border patrol was still present. Many expelled Mauritanians living in Senegal still refused to return to their homes because of reports of harassment and killings.
May 1993 A general amnesty was granted to those responsible for the mass killings and "disappearances" of Kewri during the 1989-90 troubles.
Jan 1 - Feb 28, 1994 Local Government elections were held. The government party (PRDS) claimed victory, but this was contested by opposition groups, especially in the South where the majority population is Kewri and the UFD has their political support.
1994 Continued tensions between the Moors and Kewri. The potential for civil unrest remained. Of the 70,000 Kewri who were expelled or fled to Senegal during the 1989-90 problems, 55,000 remained in exile refusing to return because the Mauritanian government did not meet their demands for repatriation (e.g. return of property, recognition as Mauritanian citizens).
Jan 1995 There were mass riots over the government announcement of a pending increase in prices of staple foods such as rice, flour, sugar. Leaders of opposition parties Ahmad ould Daddah and Hamdi ould Moukhas (both White Moors) were arrested following riots. They denied involvement in organizing the unrest. It was unclear whether the majority of rioters were Kewri, but many were students.
1995 Tension between ethnic groups remained high. Discrimination and political restrictions continued. Societal discrimination against the Kewri and Black Moors remained. The government restricted some political activity, seized publications and discriminated on the basis of language. There were some reports of beatings of prisoners and general harassment of villagers by security forces.
Feb 1995 The U.S. opposed loans by international financial institutions to countries with a pattern of serious human rights violations, including Mauritania.
Aug 1995 Action for Change, a political organization supported by Black moors and black Africans was established. It was established by a group of politicians who broke away from the UFD and is led by former UFD Secretary-General Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, a Haratine. (Reuters, 8/22/1995)
Nov 1995 Black Mauritanian refugees living in Senegal planned to petition the forthcoming Francophonie summit in Cotonou to exert pressure on the Mauritanian government to allow them to return home. They have been living in Senegal since being deported from Mauritania in 1989. The Association of Mauritanian Refugees in Senegal sent an open letter to the summit accusing the Mauritanian government of deporting them "because they are Negro-Africans, especially Wolofs, Fulanis, and Soninkes." They have been living on food assistance that is set to expire at the end of the year. (Africa News Service (ANS))
Mar 1996 The U.S. State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1995 states that ethnic tensions persisted in the country, and that many Kewri are under-represented and feel excluded from effective political representation. Of 24 ministerial posts, there are two Haratine, 3 Pulaar and 1 Soninke. They are also under-represented in business, the clergy, and military and security positions.
Sep 1996 The U.S. Congress imposed a ban on all economic and military assistance to the government of Mauritania until slavery is eliminated (Christian Science Monitor, 2/13/1997)
Oct 1996 Parliamentary elections were tainted by allegations of fraud. The ruling PRDS won 72 of 79 seats while independents won 6 seats and the opposition won one, its first victory in general elections. (Africa Review World of Information, 3/98)
Feb 1997 Action for Change leader Messoud Ould Boulkheir and five others were arrested on suspicion of relations with Lybia and "plotting to break the law." Boulkheir won the only opposition seat in the October parliamentary elections. It was the first ever opposition seat won in a general election. The government released Boulkheir after two days. (Arab Press Service, 2/8/1997; African Economic Digest 2/10/1997)
Apr 1997 Amnesty International reported that the human rights situation in Mauritania has deteriorated over the past three months. Authorities have increasingly sought to silence opponents by detaining them for short periods of time. At least 27 people have been arrested since the beginning of the year and detained from 1-27 days. Only six were eventually brought to trial. The African Commission undertook a mission to Mauritania in 1996 after receiving complaints from human rights organizations and individuals of massive human rights violations including torture, extrajudicial imprisonment and executions. No report has yet been issued.
Aug 11, 1997 Kaedi (southern Mauritania) mayor Tidjane Koita, also a Senator, was suspended from his party, Action for Change, for warmly welcoming the Prime Minister to town. (BBC, 8/11/1997)
Nov 1997 The first Black African presidential candidate stood in elections. Pulaar Kane Amadou Mokhtar represented the Party for Liberty, Equality, and Justice. (BBC, 11/12/1997)
Dec 1997 The five party Opposition Parties' Front boycotted presidential elections. President Ould Taya won with 90% of the vote.
Jan 1 - Feb 28, 1998 Several prominent opposition leaders were arrested after a report on slavery in Mauritania aired on French television. They include Prof. Cheik Saad Bouh Kamara, President of the Association for Human Rights, Boubacar Ould Ebetty, Secretary-General of the National Order of Lawyers and a UFD member, Fatima M'Baye, and Boubacar Ould Messaoud, President of SOS Esclaves and Vice President of the Action for Change party. Lawyers in the country went on strike in protest at their arrests. The Association for Human Rights, SOS Esclaves, and Organization for the Promotion of Development and Democracy were declared non-authorized organizations by the government, though they maintain their observer status with the African Human Rights Commission. They were given a pardon by President Ould Taya on 24 March 1998. (BBC, 1/22/1998; ANS, 4/9/1998)
Jan 15, 1998 Two independent weeklies have been censored. The January 12th edition of "le Calame" was seized because of an article on the banned opposition movement African Liberation Forces of Mauritania while the weekly "Mauritanie Nouvelles" has been suspended for three months. Article 11 of the Press Law permits the Ministry of the Interior to seize any publication without explanation. (ANS)
Apr 23, 1998 A Pulaar gang consisting of Mauritanian refugees reportedly has been terrorizing the Kidira District in Senegal. Three people were killed when the gang attacked a village in the district. The gang is reportedly led by Abou Oudou Ba. (BBC)
Nov 1998 Activists protested at the Mauritanian embassy in Paris against continued human rights violations against Black Africans in Mauritania. The human rights activists also protested against the exclusion of Blacks from the latest national census and the presence of President Ould Taya in France. (BBC, 11/28/1998)
Jul 1999 France arrested and is investigating a Mauritanian army officer Ely Ould Dha on allegations of torture during 1990-1991. France is obligated under the UN Convention Against Torture to institute criminal proceedings against anyone within its territory who is alleged to have committed torture, even though the incidents may have taken place outside France. Mauritania cut military cooperation with France after the officer was arrested. He was in France for military training. (ANS, 7/5/1999; Xinhua, 7/6/1999)

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