Mauritania insists on census despite death

NOUAKCHOTT — Mauritania released more than a dozen protestors in the south of the country on Wednesday, activists said, a day after weeks-long demonstrations over a controversial census turned deadly.

“Twenty of those detained have been released,” Dia Gando, an official with the protest movement, told AFP, adding that the authorities had promised to release another 20 during the day if protestors continued to respect a “truce” with the authorities.

On Tuesday police shot dead one man and wounded several others, according to security officials, while dispersing a rally against a census that is fiercely opposed by members of the West African nation’s black community.

The government has vowed to pursue the census despite the violence.

“The government will … take the necessary time to allow all Mauritanians to register and get secure documents,” Interior Minister Mohamed Ould Boilil said in a radio and television address.

Critics claim the census discriminates against black people, but Ould Boilil insisted it was aimed at giving Mauritania “a modern and trustworthy biometric register.

The demonstrator was shot and killed when police tried to disperse people protesting the census in the town of Maghama in the south of the country, an official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Witnesses said a tense calm reigned in the town on Wednesday.

Black Mauritanians have rallied against the census for weeks, condemning it as racist.

Over the past months, officials have conducted the 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”.

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