Thurston on Census Unrest

Alex Thurston has a sharp and short post on the census unrest in Mauritania. He makes two points: (1) that unease with government censuses has become a flashpoint elsewhere in west Africa and the world (including the United States) and; (2) that ethnic relations in Mauritania have evolved significantly over time and are continuing to do so, pointing to the way Haratine have moved increasingly into public roles unthinkable just a few years ago. The second point is especially interesting when one considers the politics of black identity in Mauritania among Afro-Mauritanians and among Haratines in particular. The government has said it will go ahead with the census, despite the controversy. Part of this is because the census needs to be completed in order to distribute new identity cards which will be needed to come up with voter rolls. Mauritania’s national assembly and municipal elections were postponed at the end of August partly because of this and partly for fear of opposition threats to boycott the election. It is probable that the current parliament will have its term extended through April 2012 (through various technicalities) to allow time for the government to complete the census and for sessions of national dialogue between the opposition and the ruling party and president. A point to watch on this point is (assuming this goes through) whether the opposition declares the government unconstitutional; even if the COD parties do not take that line recent events and fumbling of the elections will put the government’s legitimacy ever more on the line. In any case, Arabic readers will benefit from Abbas Braham’s Taqadoumy column on some historical aspects of the disturbances in Kaedi and what they say about ethnic politics in Mauritania. Last week saw unrest related to the census in Nouakchott, Kaedi, Gorgol and other towns in the south. Among the protesters are partisans of the 25 February youth movement (which recent issued this communique); protesters have told the media that they do not intend for their movement to be interpreted as an “Arab/Moor versus black” issue while the National Commission for Human Rights has demanded an inquiry into the events of the last week.

One thought on “Thurston on Census Unrest

  1. Abbas Braham does not know what he is writing about, after my first reading of his piece. Let me read it again. He is no historian and he looks for me inventing things to fit his article. May be I am wrong.

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