Mauritania Table of Contents
In 1987 the most visible political organization among Mauritania's blacks was the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (Forces Libération Africaine de Mauritanie--FLAM). Founded in 1983 and outlawed in 1984, the group has developed a complex and clandestine organization based in Dakar, Senegal. It drew its membership primarily from the Toucouleur. Among alleged FLAM members arrested by the government in September 1986 were Ibrahima Sarr, a television journalist; Tafsirou Djigo and Mamadou Ly, former cabinet ministers; Mahmoudi Ould Boukhreiss, a businessman and brother of Colonel Moulay Ould Boukhreiss, a former minister of justice known for his pro-Libyan sentiments; Tene Youssouf Gueye, a writer; Oumar Ba, a noted historian and linguist; and Def Ould Babana, a former diplomat. Several professors and researchers from the University of Nouakchott were also linked to FLAM.
FLAM members have claimed responsibility for distributing a highly articulate, fifty-page pamphlet entitled "Le Manifesto du Négro-Mauritanien Opprime" (The Manifesto of the Oppressed Black Mauritanian), documenting alleged examples of officially sanctioned discrimination. Copies of the manifesto were circulated in Addis Ababa during the spring 1986 meetings of the OAU and during the summer 1986 summit meetings of the Nonaligned Movement in Harare, Zimbabwe. FLAM adherents were also charged with instigating a series of attacks in September and October 1986 against a fish-processing facility in Nouadhibou, a pharmacy and gas station in Nouakchott, and three government vehicles. Although damage from the attacks was minimal, they were the first such acts of sabotage in Mauritania and thus represented a dramatic escalation in political violence.
The government responded quickly and harshly to these attacks. It labeled FLAM leaders as "misled persons" intent on "undermining the values and foundations of . . . society" by sowing "hatred and confusion" with the assistance of foreign enemies, possibly Libya. On September 4 and 5, 1986, army and police units arrested between thirty and forty suspected FLAM members. Twenty of the group were later given sentences ranging from six months to five years. Lieutenant Colonel Anne Amadou Babali, the black minister of interior, information and telecommunications, was dismissed from his post, allegedly for ignoring evidence of FLAM's existence. He was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Djibril Ould Abdallah, who was known for his firmness. Also relieved of their positions were Captain Niang Harouna and Commander Diouf Oumar of the Mauritanian Army, as well as the director of BIMA and other highly placed officials elsewhere in government. Most of those dismissed blacks were replaced by other blacks from Wolof or Soninké groups, and only a few were replaced by Maures. None of the new black appointees, however, supported the FLAM agenda.
With its leadership imprisoned or in self-imposed exile, FLAM's activities through the first half of 1987 diminished considerably; nevertheless, discontent among blacks, and especially among the Toucouleur, simmered. Observers speculated that further outbreaks of violence might erupt if the government attempted to implement its 1983 land reform program on a large scale.
Data as of June 1988