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Looters vs. Traitors: The Muqawama (“Resistance”) Narrative, and its Detractors, in Contemporary Mauritania

  • Elemine Ould Mohamed Baba and Francisco Freire

Abstract:

Since 2012, when broadcasting licenses were granted to various private television and radio stations in Mauritania, the controversy around the Battle of Um Tounsi (and Mauritania’s colonial past more generally) has grown substantially. One of the results of this unprecedented level of media freedom has been the propagation of views defending the Mauritanian resistance (muqawama in Arabic) to French colonization. On the one hand, verbal and written accounts have emerged which paint certain groups and actors as French colonial power sympathizers. At the same time, various online publications have responded by seriously questioning the very existence of a structured resistance to colonization. This article, drawing predominantly on local sources, highlights the importance of this controversy in studying the western Saharan region social model and its contemporary uses.

Depuis 2012, année où les licences de radiodiffusion ont été accordées à diverses stations de télévision et de radio privées en Mauritanie, la controverse autour de la bataille d’Um Tounsi et du passé colonial de la Mauritanie, plus généralement, s’est considérablement accrue. Un des résultats de ce niveau sans précédent de liberté médiatique a été la propagation de vues défendant la résistance mauritanienne (muqawama en arabe) à la colonisation française. D’une part, des récits verbaux et écrits ont apparus dépeignant certains groupes et acteurs comme des sympathisants du pouvoir colonial français. Parallèlement, diverses publications en ligne ont réagi en remettant sérieusement en cause l’existence même d’une résistance structurée à la colonisation. Cet article, qui s’appuie principalement sur des sources locales, souligne l’importance de cette controverse dans l’étude du modèle social ouest saharien et de ses utilisations contemporaines.

Desde 2012, quando foram concedidas licenças de transmissão a várias estações privadas de televisão e de rádio na Mauritânia, a controvérsia em torno da Batalha de Um Tounsi (e, mais genericamente, em torno do passado colonial da Mauritânia) tem sofrido desenvolvimentos substanciais. Uma das consequências deste nível sem precedentes de liberdade de imprensa foi a disseminação de pontos de vista enaltecedores da resistência mauritana (em árabe, muqawama) contra a colonização francesa. Em contrapartida, surgiram testemunhos escritos e orais que retratam determinados grupos e atores como sendo simpatizantes das forças coloniais francesas. Em simultâneo, várias publicações online têm reagido, questionando seriamente a simples existência de uma resistência organizada contra a colonização. Partindo de fontes predominantemente locais, o presente artigo sublinha a importância desta controvérsia para o estudo do modelo social oeste saariano, bem como dos seus usos contemporâneos.

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Keywords

Looters vs. Traitors: The Muqawama (“Resistance”) Narrative, and its Detractors, in Contemporary Mauritania

  • Elemine Ould Mohamed Baba and Francisco Freire

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