Black College Students in Mauritania Take to the Streets

Blacks make up about one third of the population of the nation of Mauritania in northwestern Africa. Arabs and Berbers constitute a majority of the population. Recently black students at the University of Nouakchott in the nation’s capital mounted protests over their perception that the government is seeking to further “Arabicize” the nation and the university. The protests began after the government’s minister of Youth and Culture stated, “The national languages are obstacles to the emergence of the Arabic language.” Black students are concerned that state-run television and instruction at the university will increasingly be conducted in Arabic.

The black students at the university were met by counterprotesting Arab students. There was some violence and several arrests were made. Government officials issued an apology and reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining French as the nation’s official language.