"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Friday, September 13, 2013

African outpost of slavery, 120 on the blog

Map from CIA
A new reader clicked on this blog this week, marking the 120th country to have had readers. I'm astounded, especially since the reader is from Mauritania, the 18th African country on my list.
But when I started looking up facts on this country, I found that it is the "last outpost of slavery" in the world, and that as many as 600,000 people (up to 20 percent of the population of 3.2 million) may be slaves.
That is just hard to imagine. Of course the military government, that overthrew the first elected leader in 2008, denies it, but recent articles by CNN, BBC, the US State Department, and others say differently. It is also cited for other human rights violations including child labor and female mutilation.
Nouachott, with the Atlantic in the background
The capital, on the Atlantic coast, is Nouachott, "the city of dunes, or wind," has an estimated population of about a million. Less than one percent of the country's land is arable, and if other African countries' experience is typical, discovery of oil will only help the rich.
It's a poor Sahara land on the northwest coast of Africa, mostly desert, and most of the people living on less than $2 a day. But it is a new oil country and made news this week for agreeing to sell electricity to Senegal.
The country gained independence from France in 1960, (the U.S. was the first to recognize it)and officially abolished slavery in 1981. But it wasn't a crime to own slaves until 2007, and only one slave owner has been fined. The population is about 30 percent Arab-Berber, 30 percent black and the rest mixed. The north is largely Arab and the south black, and ironically in this African country, many of the slaves are black for white masters.
The overriding color of Mauritania is sand, on the earth and in the sky. The country is larger than Texas and New Mexico combined.
The flag of green for Islam and gold for the sand, carries the crescent and star of Islam, which is the religion of almost 100 percent of the population. I can imagine the reader of this blog surviving in a sad, harsh land. I hope you find it interesting. 
My trip to neighboring Mali a few years ago introduced me to the region, but Mali is a democracy. Poor, yes, but the people were hard working and friendly. I am amazed and learned much.

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