FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2017
Rainbow PUSH and Abolition Institute Delegation Investigate Modern Day Slavery in West Africa
An American delegation of civil rights leaders and anti-slavery advocates, including Jonathan Jackson, national spokesman for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition (www.Rainbowpush.org) was denied entry on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 into the West African nation of Mauritania, where reports from journalists, human rights leaders, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations show a significant amount of the population - men, women and children - living in a particularly cruel form of race and descent based slavery – in 2017.
Undaunted, the delegation – currently in Dakar, Senegal – has continued to travel throughout West Africa to learn more about human rights issues and advocacy.
“We are engaged in this work to show solidarity and support for those working against slavery and its legacy – and to strengthen partnerships,” Jackson said. “Collaboration is key to addressing these issues and we came to Mauritania in this spirit. It is unfortunate that the Mauritanian government dismissed this opportunity, but it will not stop us from continuing our ongoing work to eradicate global slavery.”
Before being suddenly turned away at the airport in Nouakchott, Mauritania the human rights activists had planned to conduct a week-long “listen and learn tour” focused on the progress Mauritania has achieved in addressing slavery. Progress has been made by many sectors; from civil society organizations, from individual activists, and from the Mauritanian government which established anti-slavery courts.
“Global human rights issues – including forced labor and trafficking – are extremely interconnected,” said Abolition Institute(www.StoppingSlavery.org) Co-Founder Sean Tenner, “though our group and our Embassy were surprised and disappointed that the Mauritanian government blocked this attempt at constructive dialogue at the last minute, we are now mobilized more than ever to work against modern day slavery every way we can.”
Slavery was not criminalized in Mauritania until 2007 – although laws against the practice have seldom been enforced. In 1981, Mauritania became the last nation on earth to officially outlaw slavery – though no criminal penalties or procedures related to slaveholding were put in place at that time. Global media attention has increased dramatically in the last five years and anti-slavery leaders from Mauritania have been recognized internationally for their courageous work.
The delegation intended to learn about anti-slavery successes as well as ongoing efforts to eradicate the evil practice in Mauritania once and forever. Interviews were scheduled with both government officials and local anti-slavery advocates.
In addition to Jonathan Jackson, of Rainbow PUSH, the delegation includes, James Gomez, Rainbow PUSH director of international affairs, Bakary Tandia (a native of Mauritania) and Sean Tenner; co-founders of the Chicago-based Abolition Institute, Shiwali Varshney, founder of Tribhang, a Chicago-based organization using performing arts to teach global women’s rights issues, and Che “Rhymefest” Smith, human rights activist and Grammy and Oscar winning recording artist.