Mauritanian minister responds to accusations that slavery is rampant
March 17th, 2012
09:38 PM ET

Mauritanian minister responds to accusations that slavery is rampant

Editor's note: Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery. This story is part of a CNN special report, “Slavery’s Last Stronghold.”

Human rights groups and a United Nations representative estimate 10% to 20% of Mauritanians live in slavery. CNN spoke with the West African country's minister of rural development, Brahim Ould M’Bareck Ould Med El Moctar, about slavery in the country. The following is an excerpt from that interview, in which the official denies slavery's continued existence:

I must tell you that in Mauritania, freedom is total: freedom of thought, equality - of all men and women of Mauritania. Equality for all people. There is a phenomenon to which you are probably alluding, that has existed in Mauritania, that has existed in other countries, which is slavery. And it is abolished in all communities, and criminalized today by our government. Therefore, there is absolutely no more problem of that in Mauritania. In all cases, especially with this government, this is in the past.

There are probably former relationships - slavery relationships and familial relationships from old days and of the older generations, maybe, or descendants who wish to continue to be in relationships with descendants of their old masters, for familial reasons, or out of affinity, and maybe also for economic interests. But (slavery) is something that is totally finished. All people are free in Mauritania and this phenomenon no longer exists. And I believe that I can tell you that no one profits from this commerce.

The interview was translated from French.

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. EW Jagush

    The so called US ambassador makes me sick. Thia all he is doing? Words?

    March 17, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Reply
    • Rick

      Ummmm that's what diplomats do, they talk.

      March 27, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  2. unger

    ...and what do you expect the American ambassador to do? Become Batman?

    March 18, 2012 at 3:17 am | Reply
  3. alf564

    Must be "W"'s fault

    March 18, 2012 at 11:54 am | Reply
    • Steve

      No, but he did give us the worst recession of the last 75 years, record unemployment and foreclosure levels, and two trillion-dollar wars that both ended badly for all parties and did nothing for our dependence on foreign oil. I think that is plenty of damage for one person to claim. I know Mr. Romney would be able to do some of it over again if he gets the chance.

      March 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Reply
      • Johnoneone

        Just Sayin'...It is about time for us to let go of the blame-game, and the schock of being lead by a mixed (black and white) president. Things are now what they are, and things can continue to improve (the right way). It's on us, you and me to give America a leadership future. Then we can more honestly affect changes of views regarding the policies of other countries. BUT, Please Do Not Be Willing To Go Back To what we were doing that landed us an object of economic failure on the world's charts.

        Mauritania will need time to work out of it's present and forge it's own future...Knowing now that the whole world is watching.

        March 23, 2012 at 11:41 am |
      • rusty

        "Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them!" Both the Democrats and Republicans were to blame for the financial meltdown in the USA. Along with bankers, Wall Street execs, and others. If we don't know how and why it happened, it can happen again. Anyone who puts all of this on Bush, or Obama, or on one party, does not know, and maybe prefers not to know, the reality.

        March 24, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  4. joel paradiso

    "Words?" I am assuming that this means you wanted to know people's opinion? Ok, my first opinion is that there is a pretty good chance that you are an idiot. The US Ambassador is a woman, not the man in this story and is doing what her position allows her to do. You do realize that this story is about the Mauritanian official, right? I hate the fact that people are allowed to comment on actual "newsworthy" stories, another idiot is going to read your comment and think, "you know what the ambassador should do more..." THIS STORY IS NOT ABOUT THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR.

    March 19, 2012 at 1:17 am | Reply
  5. kevin

    This is where slavery started, blacks enslaving blacks, not until much later did the Europeans not Americans get into the slave trade.

    March 19, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
    • Gary

      You are so uneducated. Slavery was common place in all societies so to say it started with blacks is at least ignorant and likely sinister. Slavery typically occurred as a result of conquests and local tribe/group against each other. It wasn't until the Portuguese opened up West Africa that the practice took on such large econimic scale. Certainly the pracitce occured within "Arab" communities, the Hebrews in biblical time and as the Arabs crossed the desert. Check your European history, you might find that the root of the word slave came from the Vikings buying and selling the "Slavic" people.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:50 am | Reply
      • Juan Carlos

        The word "Slave" does not come from "Slavic".During the Roman empire ( way before the Vikings) they had slaves... in many diferent cultures slavery has existed since the beginin of times. they were needed to build great Projects and to work the farms....also as house aids. During the second world war the German Nazis used millions of war prisoners as Slave labor. In Spanish the word is Esclavo.

        March 23, 2012 at 5:16 am |
      • Juan Carlos

        The word "Slave" does not come from "Slavic".During the Roman empire ( way before the Vikings) they had slaves... in many diferent cultures slavery has existed since the beginin of times. they were needed to build great Projects and to work the farms....also as house aids. During the second world war the German Nazis used millions of war prisoners as slave labor

        March 23, 2012 at 5:17 am |
  6. sidi verges

    i'am from this country and if don't do anything for them people if we don't get a help slavery well be continued in my country not help for the government bc the government still wanna keep slavery in system of Mauritania culture but we can ask the US government to press-ion the Mauritania government and help the organisations who defend the slave in Mauritania

    March 19, 2012 at 10:06 am | Reply
  7. Molido

    As Mauritanian, I can attest this story is true and there are many more similar stories in the country. The govermenrt has always been on denial state. Great job. I will use my new webpage to help educate about slavery in Mauritania. visit us at:

    March 19, 2012 at 10:25 am | Reply
    • kothej

      its in french......

      March 24, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Reply
  8. ilanblu

    Its very hard to break a nations culture even though its wrong. Especially for an outside nation to impose their views and will on the other nation. This is problems USA face in places like Afganistan. I certainly do not want it to remain but it is more complicated than the one liner that EW Jagush wrote.

    March 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Reply
    • carlie

      so slavery is 'complicated' huh?
      so glad there are many out there, unlike you, who are brave, intelligent, and good, who are actually willing to do something about it.
      Though the only thing I think that would really open your eyes was if you were enslaved and someone who could help you told you it was complicated, I do know someday you will regret your words.

      March 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Reply
      • Samoury

        In Mauritania, slavery exists only in the mind and imagination of Americans. This phenomenon was ended while ago. What is there now is poverty, unemployment and ignorance, so if we are concerned about what we "slaves" we have to seriously bring help to this population and stop manipulating US government, UN bodies to worsen the situation. This story and many more are brought into light by a group of people who want to bargain for personal interest. Mauritanians now are more unified than in any other time.

        March 21, 2012 at 4:07 am |
  9. BD7

    To the people that have gained their freedom and stood up for their rights and the rights of others- You are amazingly brave. Of course the government is not going to admit what is going on. But when more people speak out and share their experiences...the more others will stand up too.

    March 19, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Reply
    • carlie

      Their bravery is in stark contrast to the cowardice of others who would say, 'it's complicated' so I'm not going to do anything about it.'

      March 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Reply
      • jay c

        Carlie, get over yourself. Not everyone can jump on a plane and go fight for slavery. If you're that concerned, please feel free to travel to Mauritania yourself for the cause, or are you too "cowardice" to put your money where your mouth is? Chill out

        March 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
      • Gary

        I agree with your total outrage

        March 20, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Samoury

      What you are talking about?
      There is no such thing. i suggest that you go to Mauritania and see for yourself if there is slavery or not. you can't let a group of people fool you. These commentators want to destabilize our country and its fragile economy.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:16 am | Reply
  10. hgfcyicf

    Muhammad called black people "grape heads", and owned and traded black slaves. The hadiths speak much about the "white" of Mohammed's shown skin.

    Slavery is part of the Sunna of Islam, and Mohammed the slave ower/trader (Egyptian slave-Mary even gave him a son) is supposedly the "best exemplar" to Muslim believers.

    This is why up until late as 1962, Saudi openly practiced state-slavery! They still do it today under the disguise of "lost-passport guest workers".

    March 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Reply
    • Samoury

      Allow me here to tell you that you don't know any thing about Muhamad (pbuh) and Islam. Muhamad came as a saver for humanity when people were massacred for ethnic and racial reasons. He spread peace among Arabs and Non-Arabs. If we want to go back to history, you will have to give answers to what Europeans did for people of African and what Americans did for Indians and Africans. After that you can say something about Islam and his prophet. Study your history first before jumping to nonsense.

      March 21, 2012 at 4:27 am | Reply
      • mm

        No, it is Jesus who came as savior. The truth is the saving grace of Christ, not the false teachings of Islam and Muhammad. You should open your hear to what so many other former Muslims have, to the truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ.

        March 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  11. Haj

    what CNN failed to report is that the speaker of the elected house of representatives is a slave descendant + half of the government. Mauritania has many challenges including the sequels of slavery. Focusing only on this issue and presenting the country as "the last strong hold of slavery" may be a rating booster, but certainly not objective journalism.

    March 19, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Reply
    • KC

      Obviously you are an elite, fair skinned person that feels it is ok to have servants do what you are too lazy to do yourself because anyone that has had family, friends or descendants that were slaves would not make such a comment. What does the fact that the speaker of the house was a former slave have to do with anything. Does mean you are making progress, while others are trapped mentally and physically in a horrible situation. Walk a mile in their shoes before you attempt to justify something so bass ackwards.

      March 23, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Reply
  12. amf

    As hgcyicf apptly pointed out slavery can be masked in many disguises. A classic example of my country's previous government's policies of apartheid and the dismantling of that system brought about by an incredible leader. It usually takes a brave leader to show the way forward.......

    March 20, 2012 at 9:49 am | Reply
    • H. (Bart) Vincelette

      I'd like to comment on your comment, from here in Canada. I remember fund raisers & protest marches across the country in opposition to apartheid in your country. Canada was so appalled at the introduction of the apartheid laws, that the Prime Minister at the time; John Diefenbaker, lead the drive to expel South Africa from the British Commonwealth. You refer to a great leader; that being, Nelson Mandela. It is my firm opinion that he is one of the greatest men of the 20th century & beyond. Only five persons have ever been granted honorary Canadian citizenship. Nelson Mandela is one. The honor is ours, believe me. After all he had been subjected to; he came out of it a man of wisdom & peace. Imagine a world with more leaders like Mr. Mandela.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Reply
  13. Mervyn

    Minister of rural development, Brahim Ould M’Bareck Ould Med El Moctar ... a typical politician who doesn't have a clue about what really is happening in his own backyard!

    March 21, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
  14. KC

    That is why Africa is still stuck in a time warp.

    March 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  15. Abundant Denial

    So much denial that one can only conclude he is denying something!

    March 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  16. Never again

    This is what drives me to the point of no return,there is nothing that any of you can say this is Islam at its very best,this is the reason I will have nothing to do with Islam,not satisfied with taking over these peoples lands making them become muslim,which they never where,and then enslaving them in the mean while,the year is 2012. The west treats Mugabi worse than these people....

    March 27, 2012 at 7:09 am | Reply
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    March 29, 2012 at 6:51 am | Reply
  18. gideon

    Let's also stomp down on our ALLIES crimes, before we look outward.

    Stop supporting Israeli aggression.

    Research israels crimes against humanity.

    Remember the white phosphorus.

    April 2, 2012 at 2:25 am | Reply
  19. herbivore

    The Ambassador is correct in his statement. I recently traveled to Mauritania in search of 3 or 4 slaves. None could be found. I promised good jobs on the filtration units of my sewage treatment plant. Acquisition costs would be deducted from wages so that each slave would be free to find their way back home in less than 7 years. I avoid purchasing children, but prefer the elderly over age 75, but there are so few of them. My slave agent in Sudan advises me to get there fast to see the summer collection.

    April 7, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Reply
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