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Mauritania: Mining Workers Protest ‘New Kind of Slavery’

The northern Mauritanian cities of Zouerat and Nouadhibou are witnessing protests by workers who are not registered. More than 2,300 workers are protesting in the mining city of Zouerat, which has led to complete paralysis of some ten National Mining and Industrial Company sites (SNIM [fr]) in addition to disrupting work in other locations.

The workers are demanding to benefit from the wage increase granted recently by SNIM to its employees; they are also asking for social security, in addition to the right to be given work priority for being Mauritanian citizens, compared to foreign workers from the neighboring states.

New kind of slavery

Such workers, known as “journalia” workers in the local dialect, are also asking for a direct contract with SNIM rather than contracts with outsourcing companies, which only pay 40 per cent of the SNIM wages to every laborer, something they consider human trafficking and a new kind of slavery.

Protesters also threatened to hold a  march from Zouerat to Nouakchott, similar to the one organized by Nouadhibou activists earlier. In Nouadhibou, “journalia” workers are also staging a protest against what they call human trafficking; about 1,000 laborers are threatening to halt work and engage in an open strike.

Photo of the Journalia Protest in Nouadhibou by Mauritannet blog

Photo of the Journalia Protest in Nouadhibou by Mauritannet blog

The demonstration in Zouerat

The demonstration in Zouerat

Mauritannet blog [ar] wrote about these protests and you can read about the Zouerat events in the Facebook Page of the 25th of February Movement:

تعيش مدينة” الزويرات “على وقع اعتصام “الجرنالية” الذي يدخل في أسبوعه الثاني.
هذا الاعتصام وجد تعاطفا كبيرا من سكان الزويرات حيث لم تتوقف المساعدات عن المعتصمين من أجل أن يستمر إعتصامهم.
وكذالك يقوم فنانو المدينة ومداحيها وشعرائها كل ليلة باحياء سهرات من اجل الترفيه عن المعتصمين وحثهم على مواصلة نضالهم من اجل إنتزاع حقوقهم.
وتجد رالاشارة الى أنه في الزويرات يعتصم الان حوالي أكثر من 2300عامل من عمال “الجرنالية” إحتجاجا على مايصفونه بمقاولة البشر ومن.أجل فسخ العقودالموقعة مع الشركات الوسيطة
The city of Zouerat has been living on the rhythm of the protest of workers, which has entered its second week. Zouerat residents have shown their sympathy with the strikers and have manifested this by offering assistance to them so that their protest continues. The city's artists and poets are performing every night for them to incite them to continue their struggle for their rights. In Zouerat now, more than 2,300 workers are protesting against what they call human trafficking and they are calling to terminate their contract established with the intermediary companies.

Mauritanian blogger Alddedd Wald Al Sheik [ar] also wrote about this issue:

المشكلة تعود إلي دفع الشركة لرواتب مضاعفة أربع مرات إضافة إلي زيادة نسبية لرواتب العمال الرسميين بينما تجاهلت عمال” الجرنالية “وهي حسب النقابيين سابقة خطيرة وقد تؤدي إلي انفجار الوضع داخل الشركة.

The problem lies in the fact that the companies pay to its legal official employees four times the salaries it pays to the “journalia,” and has also increased their wages while it ignored the demands of journalia workers, which is according to unionists a dangerous precedent that might lead to the escalation and explosion of the situation in the company.

Ahmed Haymoudane [ar] denounces the absence of any intention to solve the crisis by the concerned company:

بوادر حل الأزمة لم تبد بعد في الأفق نتيجة ل:
- إصرار شركة “اسنيم” على المواصلة في استغلال العمال الموريتانيين في مشهد يعيد إلى الأذهان قصص استغلال العمال الأفارقة في مزارع قصب السكر في القارة الأمريكية في القرون البائدة؛
- إصرار العمال على المضي قدما في إضرابهم السلمي وعدم الخضوع للضغوط التي تمارسها الشركة ضدهم من خلال تهديدها لهم بتعويضهم بالعمال الأجانب.
- إصرار السلطات على إسكات كل من يصدح مطالبا بحقه في هذا الوطن حتى لا تنتشر عدوى الثورة وتخرج الأوضاع عن سيطرتها.

There are no signs of solutions so far and that is due to:

- The insistence of SNIM to continue exploiting Mauritanian workers in a way that brings back the memory of African workers exploitation in sugarcane fields in America in previous times.

- The insistence of the workers to go on with their strike and not bow to pressures applied by the company against them threatening to replace them with foreign workers.

- The insistence of authorities to shut up anyone who raises his voice demanding his rights in the country so that the revolution contagion doesn't spread and things don't get out control.

Alddedd Wald Al Sheikh tweets as well:

@dedda04: ثورة الحقوق وبوادر التمرد التي تعم ‎‫#موريتانيا‏ تصل إلى عمال الجرنالية.
@dedda04: Rights revolution and signs of rebellion prevailing in Mauritania are starting to reach the journalia workers

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