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MAURITANIA: Duty to remember and refusal to forget

Kaaw Elimane Bilbassi Touré

Thursday 6 November 1986 my first night in prison. Kaëdi Palace of Justice, Thursday, November 6, 1986, our first night in prison, a date and a story.After a week of custody, interrogation and physical and moral torture in the premises of the gendarmerie, a morning of November 6, 1986, 5 days before my birthday, we woke up very early handcuffed and chained like criminals or petty terrorists. By Kaaw Elimane Bilbassi Touré

We are embarked in Land Rover cars and brought before the investigating judge and the prosecutor of the Kaëdi Palace of Justice, both beydanes (white Moors, a Muslim brother and a Baathist) who had not even hesitated to send us immediately.presto at the civil prison of Kaëdi (guard camp) after a few short questions about the PV. They charged us with “disturbing public order, participating in an unauthorized demonstration and members of an illegal and unrecognized association…” (ridicule does not kill).Nineteen prisoners, including a wife, our cousin Ramata Mamadou Siba Sow, will be charged and the others released. Coming out of the palace, we could see all our relatives, friends, comrades, citizens of Jowol in Kaëdi, students and other Kaëdiens coming to support us in front of the building and we greeted them from afar by handshakes with V’s of victory. We could see women crying from a distance before our military truck swiftly eclipsed to head for the Kaëdi Guard Camp, our future place of detention.Once the gate of the civilian prison opened and crossed, We are greeted by hundreds of common-law prisoners, who were apparently waiting for us; all black except two white Moors arrested for camel theft. 

Surrounded by twenty well-armed penitentiary guards, they welcomed us to this “House of Men”, they told us. Seized by a feeling of revolt and anger immediately I watched my brother, companion of fortune and accomplice Ousmane Touré and I sang aloud our anti-apartheid written by our poet Amadou Samba Dembele and he responded to the chorus with another comrade Aliou Mamadou Sow who was at our side and the other comrades followed us in chorus:

1. This world has been a great disappointment, 
2. Some laugh while others cry 
3. This world is a great disappointment 
4. If progress is confused with calamity (massacre) 
5. If only the strongest are right 
6. Then the rights of the weak will be forever violated (drowned) 
7. For us, the most worthy is the one who is most useful, the one who gives to others what they cannot have. 
8. In our understanding, the strongest helps the weak 
9. Here, the strongest is the one who kills others 
10. We have read well in their books, the maxim according to which: 
11. “The reason for the strongest is obscurantism.” 
12. While in reality they kindle the fire of the massacre. 
13. Since WOSTER and BOTHA have been on the throne (alluding to the reign of Muawiya and his). 
14. And the apartheid system has been woven, everything has been missed by the blacks 
15. In the economic, political and educational fields 
16. The universe complained, renowned people spoke out  
17. Singers and writers have never stopped 
18. But they continue to kindle the fire of the massacre 
19. Our fighters have never given up 
20. Mandela is the most obvious example 
21. Mandela is the most obvious example 
22. He is currently struggling in his prison 
23. Domination is not generated by chains  
24. True domination is that of heart and mind 
25. True domination is that of heart and mind 
26. this is never the case for our combatants 
27. This world has disappointed many, 
28. Some laugh while others cry.

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This song of revolt in pulaar was a indictment against the racist Mauritanian power and I also remember that during our interrogation in the gendarmerie, they asked me too much about the meaning and meaning of this poem because it was also taken up in chorus during our great demonstration against the power of Taya in Jowol on the night of October 27, 1986 and it was I who sang and the other demonstrators took it back supported by the echoes of the hills of the village and the river during the night.By taking up this committed song one wanted to challenge the power on its own ground (prison) to tell him that one was ready to pay the price and “ko kalifaandi wonaa ndi callalle, halfatee ko bernde hakkille” otherwise “one can submit only one by chains but by mental domination”. Our guards were stunned by our provocation and our “nerve”. Some of our Negro-African jailers did not hide their sympathy for us and comforted us with very encouraging words. Wallaahi ko on ngenndiyankoo6e, wallaahi ko on jaambaree6e, woto kulee woto kersee” (.you- are true patriots, you- are heroes, do not be afraid, nor ashamed of your imprisonment we are together). 

It was a small page in this history and in this long struggle against the System. November 6, I still remember, I was 18 years old and who made me, for the record, the first youngest political prisoner of Colonel Ould Taya. 34 years later we continue the struggle with the same conviction and the same suffering without taking wrinkles. We will return to it one day more broadly with more detail inchaallah in a book to be published.( almost ready).

Kaaw Elimane Bilbassi Touré LLC

Kaaw Elimane Bilbassi Touré

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