Vanguard Africa has partnered with Biram Dah Abeid, who’s campaigning as presidential hopeful in Mauritania's upcoming elections next year.

An anti-slavery abolitionist and human rights activist who was himself the son of a slave, Abeid founded anti-slavery group IRA-Mauritanie in 2008. Abeid, who ran a failed presidential bid in 2014, has been imprisoned three times for his activist efforts to free slaves in that Northwest African country.

Biram Dah Abeid
Biram Dah Abeid

The last country in the world to abolish slavery, Mauritania didn’t officially outlaw the practice until 1981, but unofficially slavery continues. Current CIA World Factbook figures suggests that up to 20 percent of Mauritania's population is estimated to remain enslaved.

Vanguard Africa will build awareness around Mauritania’s upcoming elections and will advocate Abeid’s pro-reform credentials as well as the need for human rights and democratic reforms in the country, according to Foreign Agents Registration Acts documents filed in August.

Key elements of the campaign will include outreach to journalists in a bid to secure media opportunities for the candidate, and to enact a fundraising operation to support a “free and fair” Mauritania campaign.

D.C.-based Vanguard Africa was launched in 2016 by former Ted Kennedy media consultant Joe Trippi, who later worked for Greece’s former prime minister Andreas Papandreou, ex-UK PM Tony Blair and Italy’s ex-leader Romano Prodi; and Sanitas International founding partner Christopher Harvin, who held senior advisory positions in the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

The nonprofit bills itself as a pro-democracy advocacy group that lends PR and campaigning services in a bid to support pro-democracy candidates and advocate for free and fair elections across Africa.

Vanguard Africa supported efforts last year to usher in The Republic of Gambia’s newly-elected president Adama Barrow, which resulted in the shocking ouster of longtime dictator Yahya Jammeh, who initially refused to cede his office before eventually going into exile.

The nonprofit has also supported recent democratic presidential elections in Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Kenya.

Vanguard Africa’s campaign for Abeid began in late July. The contract brings the advocacy group $7,500.