- Police in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott used teargas and batons to disperse a student march protesting the Arabisation of the city's university. At least 30 students were arrested.
Yesterday's demonstration regarding "an Arabisation of university administration" was the second by Nouakchott students this week, both ending up in confrontation with teargas-using Mauritanian police forces. While the Tuesday protests were pro-Arabisation, Thursday marchers were anti-Arabisation.
Mauritanian students disagree about the official languages to be used at the University of Nouakchott, where authorities want to make classic Arabic the only administrative and teaching language.
Tuesday protesters demanded university administrators and lecturers should use only Arabic and "other national languages" such as Soninke and Wolof. Their main slogan was against the continued use of French. "No to French, the colonial language" student slogans said. The demonstration was dominated by sons and daughters of Mauritania's majority conservative population of Arab and Berber descent.
Yesterday's demonstration against Arabisation was more dominated by minority "African", non-Arab, students that have a tradition for using French as a lingua franca. Soninke and Wolof speaking Mauritanians traditionally have been educated in French language and customs and have less understanding of Arabic.
The non-Arab population of Mauritania traditionally has been discriminated against by the ruling Arab-Berber class, to a large degree being enslaved. Class division in Mauritania still mainly goes along ethnic lines. Many fear that an Arabisation of Mauritanian administration and education will deepen differences and segregation.
Mauritania's Prime Minister Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf on 1 March announced that classic Arabic would soon become the country's only official and administrative language. French, African languages and the majority language Hassaniya - a Berber-influenced dialect relatively far away from Arabic - are not to be used in administration and teaching.
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