Mauritanian in Chicago says 50 years of independence no cause for celebration

December 1, 2010

Produced by Becky Vlamis

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(WBEZ/Becky Vlamis)
Abdul Kamara fled Mauritania in 1987. He now lives in an assisted-living community for the blind on Chicago’s North Side.

The West African nation Mauritania celebrated its independence from France 50 years ago on Sunday. Slavery remains widespread in the poor desert nation of 3 million, despite several attempts to ban it.

Seventy-two-year-old Abdul Kamara is a French-speaking Fulani from Southern Mauritania. He was among the tens of thousands of black Mauritians who fled the country in the 1980s to escape violence. He now lives in Chicago and says the Arab-led governments that took over after independence tore his life apart.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Worldview producer Becky Vlamis visited him at his studio apartment at Friedman Place, an assisted living community for the blind on the North Side.