Mauritania cops kill census protester
Nouakchott – Mauritanian police shot dead one man and wounded several others Tuesday while dispersing a rally against the country’s census, which critics claim discriminates against black people, a security official said.
“A demonstrator was shot and killed when police tried to disperse people demonstrating against the census” and “several people were wounded on both sides” in the town of Maghama in the south of the country, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The protesters “started by setting fire to the government offices” responsible for carrying out the census “before marching on the gendarmerie’s premises,” the official said.
The source added that a small number of police “felt threatened and shot into the air and then into the crowd,” explaining the sequence leading to the casualties.
Black Mauritanians have rallied against the census for weeks, blasting it as racist.
A spokesperson for the protest movement, Wane Birane, has said the census was “solely aimed at depriving black Mauritanians of their citizenship”.
Over the past months, authorities have conducted a nationwide census to get a modern, secure, biometrics-based population count to replace the current one, which many view as “unreliable and subject to falsification”.
The government has launched a media campaign to deny what it calls false rumours, and “to reassure the people that they will all be registered, without restrictions,” the official in charge of the drive, M’Rabih Rabbou, has said.
Mauritania has a multi-ethnic population of around three million made up of white and black Moors as well as various black African tribes.
The large West African nation has a long history of inter-ethnic conflicts.
A government source said the authorities wanted to ensure the security of the city while negotiating with the leaders of the protesters to bring peace.