UN study denounces racism, slavery in Sudan, Mauritania

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 30 Aug 2001
GENEVA, Aug 30 (AFP) - Sudan and Mauritania were singled out for practising slavery and racial discrimination in a study of countries on the Afro-Arab borderlands released here Thursday by a United Nations research agency.

Mali, Chad, and Niger were also named -- for practising racial discrimination and for causing tension between ethnic groups, notably the Tuareg.

The release of the paper, by the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and entitled "Race, discrimination, slavery and citizenship in the Afro-Arab borderlands", was timed to coincide with the UN conference on racism starting Friday in Durban, South Africa.

"Possibly nowhere in the Afro-Arab borderlands is the problem of race, class, and citizenship in such a high state of tension between Arabs and Africans (or possibly Arabized Africans and Africans) as in the Sudan and Mauritania," the paper said.

A decades-long civil war in Sudan had led to "growing and persistent reports of enslavement of Africans by Arabs, genocide in the Nuba Mountains area, and ethnic cleansing in the Blue Nile area," it said.

"Fundamentalist Islam and Arab fanaticism play a very important role in this."

In Mauritania, a tradition of enslavement of Africans by the country's Arab Moors persists, the paper said, adding that this leads to tension that threatens peace between Mauritania and neighbouring Senegal.

Thousands of black Africans are enslaved by North African Arabs, known as "beydanes," or white Moors, according to the paper.

Furthermore, thousands of ex-slaves, known as haratins, continue working for their former masters.

The study cited western colonialism and the seventh century Arab invasion as two forms of domination instrumental to understanding the current situation in the Afro-Arab borderlands.

A slow process which saw the "replacement of African cultural institutions by Arab ones," has led to a cultural struggle, the paper said, citing most notably the case of the Berbers, particularly in Algeria but also in Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.

UNRISD has organised a seminar between September 3 and 5 on the sidelines of the UN racism conference in Durban with the theme "institutionalised racism."

jlv/cr/me/bp AFP

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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 08/30/2001 13:12:55

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