Mauritania Maunderings

Being a collection of good and bad news concerning Mauritania.

The Baltimore Sun has caught the Mauritania bug.

Last year 30,000 African illegal migrants landed in the Canary Islands. Spain returned as many as quickly negotiated repatriation agreements allowed. Mauritania is serving as a major route for West African emigrants who would once have left from Morocco to take to the Canary Islands and Spanish soil. In recent years Morocco has clamped down on human traffickers, forcing the routes south through Mauritania. The longer routes mean more die from thirst and exposure on the way. Senegalese fishermen are performing much of the ferrying duties. Spain has begun to repatriate again in 2007.

More than twenty alleged Islamic militants, some with Al Qaeda training from Algeria’s Al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (formerly the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, or GSPC), are being brought to trial in Mauritania by the newly elected government. They are accused of attempting to set up a branch of Al Qaeda in Mauritania. Some are accused of a military raid that killed fifteen Mauritanian soldiers. According to prosecutors, one defendant even tutored Osama bin Laden on the Koran. The accused are claiming torture by the police under the previous government. Every time a jihadist goes on trial, charged with anything, one of his tactics will be to accuse the police of torturing him. The tactic is even in their Jihad manuals.

In the counterpoint, exiled Mauritanians living in New York City have filed a civil suit against former president Taya, who was overthrown in a 2005 coup by the junta that set the stage for free elections earlier this year. They are accusing him of ethnic cleansing of black Africans, torture, and forced migration between 1989 and 1991.

Mauritanians are among the more than 170 Jihadists arrested in April by Saudi Arabian authorities who are charged with planning to overthrow the Saudi government.

The Tasiast gold mine project has been commissioned and begun operations in Mauritania. It is owned by Rio Narcea Gold Mines, Ltd, a Canadian mining company with projects in Spain, Mauritania, and Portugal.

According to Reuters, Mauritania has the highest measured neonatal death rate in the world, with 70 deaths per 1,000 births.

Mauritanian nomads, migrating from the Sahara to the city have begun to question their ancient traditions, such as the force-feeding of young girls to produce the “fat look” their culture finds so attractive. The main factor in the rethinking is the ten years of drought that have hit so hard in the Saharan north of the country. This is producing unexpected side-effects. For instance, nomad women who migrate to the city have discovered they can purchase cattle hormones that will fatten them up. They take them and fatten up themselves and their daughters. But cattle hormones can cause death by heart attacks or renal failure. The extent of the problem is not known for certain, as autopsies are illegal in Muslim Mauritania.

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