Mauritanian president moves against slavery

25 March 2007

Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, Mauritania’s first democratically elected president, pledged he would toughen the country’s anti-slavery legislation and take action to help former slaves.

This is the first time slavery has been officially acknowledged as a problem in Mauritania and that a commitment has been made to address it.

Abdallahi made the proclamation following the 25 March elections, the first presidential elections after 20 years of dictatorship. He vowed remaining cases of slavery would be punished, and former slaves and their descendants would benefit from positive discrimination.

Anti-slavery activist and SOS Esclaves president, Boubacar Messaoud, said he looks forward to working with the new president and his government to develop a national action plan to end slavery.

Despite being banned since 1981, slavery, which is inherited over generations, is found throughout the country.