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In Mauritania, a Community’s Quest for Dignity to Honour its Ancestors

Donaye is a Mauritanian village, mostly populated with Negro-Mauritanians from the Fulani ethnic group, on the banks of the River Senegal, acting here as the border between the country of the same name and Mauritania. If the landscape looks peaceful, it has been in reality the theatre of a thorny conflict between Senegal and Mauritania in 1989, leading to ethnic cleansing and ending with the deportation of many Negro-Mauritanians. It’s necessary to wait for an agreement to be signed in 2009 to allow for the return of the refugees to their lands. So, after 20 years of exile, the Fulani could finally return home to their former properties. Unfortunately for the villagers of Donaye, the right to return excluded the access to their former cemetery, today to the hands of a Moor. Hamed Salek had transformed the ground of the cemetery into a vast agricultural field and doesn’t want to know anything about their funeral customs. Meanwhile, the Fulani are obliged to bury their deaths on the Senegalese side of the river. Amadou Wane, the leader of the village, tries to assert the rights of his community with the local authorities. After the xenophobic madness of 1989, the villagers want to be able to live in peace, their traditions being respected. Ready to launch a court case, they already know that the return to the cemetery will be a long combat for them: the reconciliation is an affair much more difficult than the one who consists in throwing hostilities…