Group warns Mauritania against violence
Dakar - The African Encounter for the Defence of Human Rights (Raddho) on Thursday urged Mauritania's government to opt for dialogue over a census under way and to reject "blind police violence".
One man has been killed and at least 15 others have been injured, according to Mauritanian rights groups, in southern Mauritania since September 24 during clashes between police and black opponents of the census.
Raddho, which is based in Dakar, said in a statement that it was "very preoccupied by the clashes between Mauritanian security forces and black Mauritanian demonstrators of the 'Don't Touch My Nationality' movement".
The dead man was shot and killed by police when they were breaking up a rally at Maghama in the south of the country on Tuesday, a security official who asked not to be named told AFP.
The Don't Touch My Nationality movement claims that one aim of the census is to deprive black Mauritanians of their citizenship, while the Nouakchott government denies this and says the goal is to give the country a modern, accurate biometric census.
Raddho said that "blind police violence... brings back bad memories of the regime of [Maaouiya] Ould Taya", the Mauritanian president overthrown in 2005 after 21 years in power, when he was accused of atrocities against the non-Arab populations of the country making up about 20% of the three million Mauritanians.
The rights body "invites the Mauritanian government to give priority to inclusive dialogue, as it did" in the days following Ould Taya's rule to reconcile the country.
Apart from Maghama and Kaedi in the south, demonstrations against the census have taken place in the capital Nouakchott and other towns by people who want the exercise stopped. The government has stated that it needs a new system of identifying citizens after promulgating a new Civil Code in 2010.