Mauritania protesters want better salaries, lower food prices

Hundreds of people took to the streets after Friday afternoon prayers, demanding more jobs and decent food prices. What was initially meant as a peaceful protest, ended with protesters throwing stones at security forces and setting fire to car tires

Isselmou Ould Sidi Mohamed, a leader of the ‘Facebook Youth Movement of 25 February’ explained that since their initial peaceful protests had been crushed, they would continue to develop a long-term revolution. “The police is now denying us access to our Freedom Square because the square was sold to businessmen who are cousins of President Aziz.”

Jobless and hungry

Dispersed protesters sang slogans to get their point across nonetheless. ‘Change or you will be changed’, ‘The square of our protests is illegally sold and we are jobless and hungry in our country’ and ‘We want tangible urgent reforms in all domains’ were among their demands.

Protesters distributed bottles of fresh water to security forces surrounding them, while the authorities continued to deny any access to Blokat square. Demonstrators prevented Mauritania TV from covering the protests, fearing the station would use the footage for political propaganda. Protesters earlier complained about police women pretending to be journalists. The videos were reportedly used by intelligent forces to identify youth leaders and facilitate future arrests.

Women’s burden

Workers’ unions were allowed to organize allies. In addition to the capital Noukchott, cities such as Atar (tourism capital), Zouerate (mining center) and Aleg (home village of toppled president Ould Cheikh Abdellahi) organised sporadic protests requesting an increase in salaries and revision of ‘rocket prices’ of basic necessities.

Female representatives told the unions that women were especially hit by the economical crises. “ Some have lost their husbands or gotten divorced. They’re on their own with many children to take care of. Most men can’t provide food for their families anymore.”

Deaf ear

Mohamed Mahmoude Ould Saleck , general secretary of Mauritania workers’ federation, said he was surprised the government has increased fuel prices. “This will be reflected in other commodities becoming more expensive, when what we need is for them to become cheaper. The government is turning a deaf ear on us, but we will use all legal means to combat for workers’ demands like our colleagues did in interior regions”.

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