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Freedom from Slavery in Mauritania

Slavery in Mauritania has deep roots, stretching back 800 years. In 2007 the practice was finally criminalised, but is the master/slave relationship still just as entrenched?

Mauritania - a desert country on Africa's north west coast - has a history of slavery going back 800 years.

Over the last century Mauritania has made several attempts to ban slavery.

But finally, in August 2007 owning slaves became a criminal act for the first time.

Overnight, half a million people - a fifth of the country's population - were officially freed from bondage.

However many of them didn't hear the news.

Without having access to broadcast media or the ability to read, even if they had, it might not have meant much.

David Gutnick of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation visits Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania.

He travels around the city - including bustling shanty towns - and finds out more about the rigid caste system that affects all walks of life in Mauritania.

During his journey he travels with his interpretor - who helps him to meet residents in Nouakchott including teachers, religious leaders, and former slaves.

David discovers how the master/slave relationship can't be swept aside so easily.

First broadcast on Monday 18 May 2009.

22 minutes

Last on

Mon 25 May 2009 02:06GMT

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