Massive protests in Kabylia / Survival of slavery in Mauritania

8 to 14 December

Kabyles protest marginalization of Amazigh language.
Kabyles protest marginalization of Amazigh language. Author:
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. Kabylia has undergone a convulse week as at least tens of thousands have protested in the streets against marginalization of the Amazigh language. Violent clashes have been reported. Also in North Africa, controversy over the survival of slavery in Mauritania has seen yet another chapter, the country’s president blaming abolitionist organizations of seeking to politically exploit that scourge. In Bangladesh, a new Doctors Without Borders estimation puts the number of Rohingya killed during the August-September attacks against them at 6,700, well above official figures.


Massive demonstrations in Kabylia against Amazighlanguage marginalization. Rejection by the Algerian Parliament of a legal amendment that sought to strengthen the place of Amazigh in schools has sparked a wave of protests —media reports speak of tens of thousands of people on the streets— against the government. Demonstrations have now taken place for two weeks, more strongly since 11 December. In some of them, chants for Kabyle independence have been heard.

The Algerian executive has replied that criticism is based on “false rumors” and said that the Amazigh already has its place in Algerian schools since it was declared an official language in 2016. The rejection of the amendment has taken place against the backdrop of a struggle between different political parties.

In spite of this partisan dimension, the rejection of the amendment has not been welcomed in Kabylia, where a feeling of economic, social, linguistic and cultural marginalization is deeply rooted. Student and trade union organizations, as well as the Movement for Self-determination of Kabylia (MAK), have been calling for demonstrations in main cities Tuvirett, Vgayet and Tizi-Wezzu. In Tuvirett (Bouira), clashes have been reported between pro-Amazigh students on the one hand and police officers, pro-government students and “thugs”, according to the words of the former, on the other. Pro-independence news agency Siwel says that “the Algerian colonial power” has thrown “hordes of savages” on the streets of Tuvirett “hunting for Amazighs”.


Controversy in Mauritania over survival of slavery, marginalization of Black people. Following the scandal unveiled by a CNN report on the sale of slaves in Libya, a new crisis broke out between president of Mauritani, Mohamed Abdelaziz and anti-slavery leader Biram Dah Abeid, of the IRA Mauritanie grassroots group. According to estimates, 4% to 15% Mauritanians continue to live under slavery, mostly Black people. Abdelaziz —who belongs to the Beidan group, a light-skinned population group whose members have traditionally been slave masters— admits that this kind of violation of human rights exists in the country, but points out that laws are already being applied to fight it and that certain groups of activists “that they do not rule the country” who are opportunistically seeking to “wake up the issue of slavery”. Abeid has denounced Abdelaziz’s words by reminding him that not only Mauritanian authorities do not enough to put an end to slavery, but also that Mauritania’s Black population —which the activist argues stands at more than 50%— lives under a clear situation of economic and political marginalization.

OIC rejects American recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. At an extraordinary summit, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has insisted that East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine and has asked the United States to revoke the recognition of the city as the Israeli capital. OIC brings together 57 member states, most of which Muslim-majority. The recognition by US president Donald Trump triggered protests, which resulted in four people being killed.

Estimation says thousands of Rohingyas were murdered in August-September Burma crisis. The latest wave of state violence against the Muslim-majority people left 6,700 Rohingyas dead at the hands of the army, police officers and local militias, according to a Doctors Without Borders report based on surveys in Bangladesh refugee camps. The figure of people killed includes 730 children under 5 years of age. The organization says it is a “conservative” estimate and fears that the actual figure could be higher. 655,000 Rohingya have been arriving to refugee camps in Bangladesh since August.