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Assessment for Kewri in Mauritania

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 31 December 2003
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Kewri in Mauritania, 31 December 2003, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Mauritania Facts
Area:    1,030,700 sq. km.
Capital:    Nouakchott
Total Population:    2,511,000 (source: U.S. Census Bureau, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Kewri have few factors that indicate a high likelihood of future rebellion. Levels of protest have been consistently low, probably as a result of poor mobilization. The Kewri, while territorially concentrated, have low levels of group organization and cohesion. The Mauritanian regime, while consistently challenged, has remained fairly stable. While the Kewri have experienced government repression, levels since the 1989-90 crackdown have been low. Some nominal compensation has also been provided to victims, although not to the satisfaction of Kewri human rights groups. FLAM, the Kewri organization which led the rebellion of the 1980s, has been largely suppressed militarily, and recently has engaged in more conventional political activities.

Protest, while low, has been persistent, and this is likely to continue so long as Kewri groups are not allowed more access to political, cultural and economic resources. However, given the fragmented nature of Kewri identity and the weakness of alliances with other dissident groups (especially Black Moors) protest is unlikely to escalate to mass rallies.

The welfare of Mauritania's Kewris remains sensitive to Mauritania-Senegal relations. The 1989 expulsion was in response to a Mauritania-Senegal dispute, and continuing tensions between the two countries mean that Kewris (who are related to the dominant groups in Senegal) live in a precarious environment. Improved relations and Mauritanian cooperation with Senegal could improve the situation of Kewri groups.

Analytic Summary

The Kewri, who are mainly agriculturalists, pastoralists, and fishermen, are composed of three black ethnic groups – the HalPulaaren (speakers of Pulaar, Toucouleur and Fulani (Peuls)), the Soninke (Sarakole) and the Wolof. These groups are concentrated in the southern border regions of Mauritania (GROUPCON = 3), and each group has its own language. French is spoken by the educated as a second language and was used in the school system until the White Moor-dominated government introduced a single, Arabic-language school system. Specific population estimates of each ethnic group are unavailable, though it is generally accepted that the largest (and most politically active) of the groups is the HalPulaaren followed by the Soninke and the Wolof.

French colonial administrators favored the Kewri, in particular the Fulani, allowing them to acquire civil service training and French language skills. Hence, the Kewri played a larger role in colonial administration than did the nomadic Moors. However, upon independence, White Moors quickly gained political and economic dominance, although the Kewri did not give up their privileged position without protest (PROT65X = 4).

The Kewri, who are ethnically and culturally Black Africans, live in a political culture dominated by Arabized White Moors, whose political culture has been shaped by both their Arab, Middle Eastern and Berber, North African origins. While ethnically, linguistically and culturally distinct, the Kewri, like the Moors, are Muslims.

The Kewri are fragmented along ethnic (tribal) and linguistic lines (COHESX9 = 2). There are also significant class divisions, including a slave class (consisting primarily since the abolition of slavery of former slaves and their descendents). They are represented primarily by the organization FLAM, which staged an unsuccessful rebellion in the 1980s (REBEL85X = 4, REBEL90X = 4). Some Kewri also support Black Moor-dominated political parties such as the Action for Change Party.

Kewri are underrepresented in security, military and police forces as well as in cabinet positions (one is HalPulaar) (POLDIS03 = 3). The Kewri are also economically disadvantaged (ECDIS03 = 3). Most Kewri grievances stem from their general political, economic and cultural disadvantages. However, much rhetoric focuses on the events of 1989-90 and their aftermath.

During 1989-90, the government expelled thousands of Kewri from the country in a dispute with Senegal. The Kewri were also purged from the police and armed forces with hundreds tortured, disappeared, and/or extrajudicially executed. Many Kewri who were expelled lost their land to Moors and have been unable to retrieve it. Many others have refused or been unable to return to their homes. Multiple Kewri organizations, including the Mauritanian Association for Human Rights (AMDH) and the Association of Women Survivors of Repression, still pressure the government to compensate victims of the 1989-90 repression and to bring those responsible to justice (despite an amnesty law). These groups also use the events of 1989-90 to highlight the disadvantages and vulnerability the Kewri suffer. However, no instances of protest or rebellion were reported during 2001-2003 (PROT01-03 = 0; REB01-03 = 0).


Lexis-Nexis news reports, 1990-2003.

U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Mauritania. 1999-2003.

United Nations Integrated Regional Information Reports, various reports, 1999-2000.

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