Mauritania
Overview
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb
Maghreb
The Maghreb is the region of Northwest Africa, west of Egypt. It includes five countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania and the disputed territory of Western Sahara...

 and West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 in the west, by Western Sahara
Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to . It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly...

 in the north, by Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 in the northeast, by Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

 in the east and southeast, and by Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 in the southwest. It is named after the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania
Mauretania
Mauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...

, which later became a province of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, even though the modern state covers a territory far to the southwest of the old kingdom. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott
Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

, located on the Atlantic coast.

The government of Mauritania was overthrown on 6 August 2008, in a military coup d'état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is a Mauritanian politician, currently serving as President of Mauritania...

.
Encyclopedia
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb
Maghreb
The Maghreb is the region of Northwest Africa, west of Egypt. It includes five countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania and the disputed territory of Western Sahara...

 and West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 in the west, by Western Sahara
Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to . It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly...

 in the north, by Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 in the northeast, by Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

 in the east and southeast, and by Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 in the southwest. It is named after the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania
Mauretania
Mauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...

, which later became a province of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, even though the modern state covers a territory far to the southwest of the old kingdom. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott
Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

, located on the Atlantic coast.

The government of Mauritania was overthrown on 6 August 2008, in a military coup d'état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is a Mauritanian politician, currently serving as President of Mauritania...

. On 16 April 2009, General Aziz resigned from the military to run for president in the 19 July elections, which he won. In Mauritania about 20% of the population live on less than US$1.25 per day.

Ancient history

The Bafours were primarily agriculturalist, and among the first Saharan people to abandon their historically nomadic lifestyle. With the gradual desiccation of the Sahara, they headed south.
Following them came a migration of not only Central Saharans into West Africa, but in 1076, Moorish Islamic warrior monks (Almoravid or Al Murabitun) attacked and conquered the ancient Ghana Empire
Ghana Empire
The Ghana Empire or Wagadou Empire was located in what is now southeastern Mauritania, and Western Mali. Complex societies had existed in the region since about 1500 BCE, and around Ghana's core region since about 300 CE...

. Over the next 500 years, Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s overcame fierce resistance from the local population (Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 and non-Berber alike) and came to dominate Mauritania. The Mauritanian Thirty-Year War (1644–74) was the unsuccessful final effort to repel the Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

i Maqil
Maqil
The Maqil were an Arabian nomadic tribe that emigrated to the Maghreb region, with the Banu Hillal and Banu Sulaym tribes, in the 11th century. They mainly settled in and around Morocco's Saharan wolds and oases; in Tafilalet, Wad Nun , Draa and Taourirt...

 Arab invaders led by the Beni Hassan
Beni Hassan
Beni Ḥassān were a nomadic group of Arabian origin, one of the four sub-tribes of the Maqil Arabian tribes who emigrated in the 11th century to the Maghreb with the Bani Hilal and Banu Sulaym Arabs.. They originally lived with their Maqil relatives in the area between Tadla, Moulouiya River...

 tribe.

The descendants of the Beni Hassan warriors became the upper stratum
Hassane
The Hassane is a name for the traditionally dominant warrior tribes of the Saharan-Moorish areas of present-day Mauritania, southern Morocco and Western Sahara...

 of Moorish
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 society. Berbers retained influence by producing the majority of the region's Marabout
Marabout
A marabout is a Muslim religious leader and teacher in West Africa, and in the Maghreb. The marabout is often a scholar of the Qur'an, or religious teacher. Others may be wandering holy men who survive on alms, Sufi Murshids , or leaders of religious communities...

s—those who preserve and teach Islamic tradition. Many of the Berber tribes claimed Yemeni (and sometimes other Arab) origin: there is little evidence to suggest this, though some studies do make a connection between the two. Hassaniya
Hassaniya
Hassānīya is the variety of Arabic originally spoken by the Beni Hassān Bedouin tribes, who extended their authority over most of Mauritania and the Western Sahara between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. It has almost completely replaced the Berber languages spoken in this region...

, a Berber-influenced Arabic dialect that derives its name from the Beni Hassan
Beni Hassan
Beni Ḥassān were a nomadic group of Arabian origin, one of the four sub-tribes of the Maqil Arabian tribes who emigrated in the 11th century to the Maghreb with the Bani Hilal and Banu Sulaym Arabs.. They originally lived with their Maqil relatives in the area between Tadla, Moulouiya River...

, became the dominant language among the largely nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic population.

Modern history

Imperial France
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 gradually absorbed the territories of present-day Mauritania from the Senegal river area and upwards, starting in the late 19th century. In 1901, Xavier Coppolani
Xavier Coppolani
Xavier Coppolani was a French military and colonial leader, who was instrumental in the colonial occupation and creation of modern-day Mauritania....

 took charge of the imperial mission. Through a combination of strategic alliances with Zawiya tribes, and military pressure on the Hassane
Hassane
The Hassane is a name for the traditionally dominant warrior tribes of the Saharan-Moorish areas of present-day Mauritania, southern Morocco and Western Sahara...

 warrior nomads, he managed to extend French rule over the Mauritanian emirate
Emirate
An emirate is a political territory that is ruled by a dynastic Muslim monarch styled emir.-Etymology:Etymologically emirate or amirate is the quality, dignity, office or territorial competence of any emir ....

s: Trarza
Trarza
Trarza is a region in southwest Mauritania. Its capital is Rosso. Other major cities and towns include Mederdra and Boutilimit. The region borders the Mauritanian regions of Inchiri and Adrar to the north, Brakna to the east and Senegal to the south...

, Brakna
Brakna
Brakna is a region in south-west Mauritania. Its capital is Aleg. Other major cities/towns include Bogué. The region borders the Mauritanian region of Tagant to the north-east, the Mauritanian regions of Assaba and Gorgol to the south-east, Senegal to the south-west and the Mauritanian region of...

 and Tagant quickly submitted to treaties with the colonial power (1903–04), but the northern emirate of Adrar held out longer, aided by the anticolonial rebellion (or jihad
Jihad
Jihad , an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning "struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God ". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is...

) of shaykh Maa al-Aynayn. It was finally defeated militarily in 1912, and incorporated into the territory of Mauritania, which had been drawn up in 1904. Mauritania would subsequently form part of French West Africa
French West Africa
French West Africa was a federation of eight French colonial territories in Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan , French Guinea , Côte d'Ivoire , Upper Volta , Dahomey and Niger...

, from 1920.

French rule brought legal prohibitions against slavery, and an end to interclan warfare. During the colonial period, the population remained nomadic, but many sedentary peoples, whose ancestors had been expelled centuries earlier, began to trickle back into Mauritania. As the country gained independence in 1960, the capital city Nouakchott
Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

 was founded at the site of a small colonial village, the Ksar, while 90% of the population was still nomadic.

The great Sahel drought
Sahel drought
[[File:Greening Sahel 1982-1999.jpg|thumb|300px|Recent "Greening" of the Sahel: The results of trend analyses of time series over the Sahel region of seasonally integrated NDVI using NOAA AVHRR NDVI-data from 1982 to 1999...

s of the early 1970s caused massive problems in Mauritania. With independence, larger numbers of indigenous Sub-Saharan African peoples (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof
Wolof people
The Wolof are an ethnic group found in Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania.In Senegal, the Wolof form an ethnic plurality with about 43.3% of the population are Wolofs...

) entered Mauritania, moving into the area north of the Senegal River
Sénégal River
The Sénégal River is a long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania.The Sénégal's headwaters are the Semefé and Bafing rivers which both originate in Guinea; they form a small part of the Guinean-Malian border before coming together at Bafoulabé in Mali...

. Educated in French language and customs, many of these recent arrivals became clerks, soldiers, and administrators in the new state. This occurred as France militarily suppressed the most intransigent Hassane
Hassane
The Hassane is a name for the traditionally dominant warrior tribes of the Saharan-Moorish areas of present-day Mauritania, southern Morocco and Western Sahara...

 tribes of the Moorish north, shifting old balances of power, and creating new cause for conflict between the southern populations and Moors. Between these groups stood the Haratin
Haratin
Haratin are oasis-dwellers in the Sahara, especially in southern Morocco and Mauritania, who make up a socially and ethnically distinct group of largely sedentary dark colored workers speaking either Berber or Arabic...

, a very large population of Arabized slaves of sub-Saharan African origins, who lived within Moorish society, integrated into a low-caste social position. Modern-day slavery
Slavery in Mauritania
Slavery in Mauritania is an entrenched phenomenon the national government has repeatedly tried to abolish, banning the practice in 1905, 1981, and August 2007...

 is still a common practice in this country. According to some estimates, up to 600,000 Mauritanians, or 20% of the population, are still enslaved. This social discrimination concerns mainly the "black Moors" (Haratin) in the northern part of the country, where tribal elites among “white Moors” (Beidane) hold sway, but low-caste groups within the sub-Saharan African ethnic groups of the south are also affected by similar practices.

Moors reacted to the change, and to Arab nationalist calls from abroad, by increasing pressure to Arabize
Arabization
Arabization or Arabisation describes a growing cultural influence on a non-Arab area that gradually changes into one that speaks Arabic and/or incorporates Arab culture...

 many aspects of Mauritanian life, such as law and language. A schism
Schism (religion)
A schism , from Greek σχίσμα, skhísma , is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization or movement religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a break of communion between two sections of Christianity that were previously a single body, or to a division within...

 developed between those Moors who consider Mauritania to be an Arab country and those who seek a dominant role for the non-Moorish peoples, with various models for containing the country's cultural diversity suggested, but none implemented successfully.

This ethnic discord was evident during intercommunal violence that broke out in April 1989 (the “1989 Events” and “Mauritania–Senegal Border War”), but has since subsided. Some 70,000 sub-Saharan African Mauritanians were expelled from Mauritania in the late 1980s. The ethnic tension and the sensitive issue of slavery – past and, in some areas, present – is still a powerful theme in the country's political debate. A significant number from all groups, however, seek a more diverse, pluralistic society.

The government bureaucracy is composed of traditional ministries, special agencies, and parastatal companies. The Ministry of Interior spearheads a system of regional governors and prefects modeled on the French system of local administration. Under this system, Mauritania is divided into thirteen regions (wilaya), including the capital district, Nouakchott. Control is tightly concentrated in the executive branch of the central government, but a series of national and municipal elections since 1992 have produced limited decentralization
Decentralization
__FORCETOC__Decentralization or decentralisation is the process of dispersing decision-making governance closer to the people and/or citizens. It includes the dispersal of administration or governance in sectors or areas like engineering, management science, political science, political economy,...

.

Mauritania, along with Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

, annexed the territory of Western Sahara
Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to . It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly...

 in 1976, with Mauritania taking the lower one-third at the request of former imperial power Spain. After several military losses to the Polisario – heavily armed and supported by Algeria, the local hegemon and rival to Morocco – Mauritania retreated in 1979, and its claims were taken over by Morocco. Due to economic weakness, Mauritania has been a negligible player in the territorial dispute, with its official position being that it wishes for an expedient solution that is mutually agreeable to all parties. While most of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco, the UN still considers the Western Sahara a territory that needs to express its wishes with respect to statehood: a referendum is still supposed to be held sometime in the future, under UN auspices, to determine whether or not the indigenous Sahrawis wish to be independent as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a partially recognised state that claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. SADR was proclaimed by the Polisario Front on February 27, 1976, in Bir Lehlu, Western Sahara. The SADR government controls about...

, or to be part of Morocco. The Moroccan government has thus far blocked such a referendum from taking place.

Ould Daddah era (1960–78)

After independence, President Moktar Ould Daddah
Moktar Ould Daddah
Moktar Ould Daddah was the President of Mauritania from 1960, when his country gained its independence from France, to 1978, when he was deposed in a military coup d'etat.- Background :...

, originally installed by the French, formalized Mauritania into a one-party state in 1964 with a new constitution
Constitution of Mauritania
The current Constitution of Mauritania was adopted on 12 July 1991. There have been several constitutions since Mauritania's independence in 1960.-Current constitution:...

, which set up an authoritarian
Authoritarianism
Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is usually opposed to individualism and democracy...

 presidential regime. Daddah's own Parti du Peuple Mauritanien
Parti du Peuple Mauritanien
Mauritanian People's Party was the sole legal party of Mauritania from 1961 to 1978. It was headed by President Moktar Ould Daddah....

 (PPM) became the ruling organization in a single-party system. The President justified this decision on the grounds that he considered Mauritania unready for western-style multi-party democracy
Multi-party system
A multi-party system is a system in which multiple political parties have the capacity to gain control of government separately or in coalition, e.g.The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the United Kingdom formed in 2010. The effective number of parties in a multi-party system is normally...

. Under this one-party constitution, Daddah was reelected in uncontested elections in 1966, 1971 and 1976. He was ousted in a bloodless coup
Military Committee for National Recovery
The Military Committee for National Recovery was a short-lived military government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania after the coup d'état that removed long-time President Mukthar Ould Daddah on July 10, 1978, until a second coup on April 6, 1979. It was headed by Col. Mustapha Ould Salek...

 on 10 July 1978, after bringing the country to near-collapse through a disastrous war
History of Western Sahara
The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups such as the Sanhaja group and the...

 to annex
Annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

 the southern part
Tiris al-Gharbiyya
Tiris al-Gharbiyya was the Mauritanian name for the area of Western Sahara under its control between 1975 and 1979.-Background:...

 of Western Sahara
Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to . It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly...

, in an attempt to create a “Greater Mauritania
Greater Mauritania
"Greater Mauritania" is a term for the Mauritanian irredentist claim to Western Sahara, and possibly other Moorish or Sahrawi-populated areas of the western Sahara desert.-Background:...

”.

CMRN and CMSN military governments (1978–84)

Col. Mustafa Ould Salek
Mustafa Ould Salek
Col. Mustafa Ould Salek was the President of Mauritania from 1978 through 1979.Mustafa Ould Salek was appointed army commander by longtime President Mokhtar Ould Daddah in February, 1978, as the country faced dire economic crisis and was failing to contain the Polisario Front's Sahrawi guerrillas...

's CMRN junta
Military junta
A junta or military junta is a government led by a committee of military leaders. The term derives from the Spanish language junta meaning committee, specifically a board of directors...

 proved incapable of either establishing a strong base of power or extracting the country from its destabilizing conflict with the Sahrawi
Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to . It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly...

 resistance movement, the Polisario Front
Polisario Front
The POLISARIO, Polisario Front, or Frente Polisario, from the Spanish abbreviation of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro is a Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement working for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco...

. It quickly fell to be replaced by another military government, the CMSN
Military Committee for National Salvation
The Military Committee for National Salvation was a military government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania that took power in 1979. It was installed by Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla, Ahmed Ould Bouceif and fellow officers, in an internal regime/military coup d'état on April 6, 1979, removing Col...

. The energetic Colonel Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah soon emerged as its main strongman, and by giving up all claims to Western Sahara, he found peace with the Polisario and improved relations with its main backer, Algeria – but relations with the other party to the conflict, Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

, and its European ally France, deteriorated. Instability continued, and Haidallah's ambitious reform attempts foundered. Not only was his regime plagued by attempted coups and intrigue within the military establishment, but it also became increasingly contested because of his harsh and uncompromising line against opponents and political and military dissidents, of whom many were jailed and some were executed.

Ould Taya’s rule (1984–2005)

In 1984 he was deposed by Colonel Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya , was Prime Minister of Mauritania from 1981 to 1984 and president from 1984 to 2005. He guided Mauritania from military rule to democracy, and took a pro-Western stance in foreign affairs...

, who relaxed the political climate somewhat, without relinquishing military control. Ould Taya moderated Mauritania's previous pro-Algerian stance, and reconnected with Morocco during the late 1980s. Relations with Morocco deepened during the late 1990s and early first decade of the 21st century, as part of Mauritania's drive to attract support from Western states and Western-aligned Arab states. However, Mauritania has not rescinded its recognition of Polisario's Western Saharan exile government, remaining on good terms with Algeria. Its position on the Western Sahara conflict is, since the 1980s, one of strict neutrality.

The Parti Républicain Démocratique et Social (PRDS), formerly led by President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya , was Prime Minister of Mauritania from 1981 to 1984 and president from 1984 to 2005. He guided Mauritania from military rule to democracy, and took a pro-Western stance in foreign affairs...

, dominated Mauritanian politics after the country's first multi-party elections in April 1992 following the approval by referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 of the current constitution in July 1991. President Taya won elections in 1992 and 1997.

Political parties, illegal during the military period, were legalized again in 1991. By April 1992, as civilian rule returned, 16 major political parties had been recognized; 12 major political parties were active in 2004. Most opposition parties boycotted the first legislative election in 1992, and for nearly a decade the parliament was dominated by the PRDS. The opposition participated in municipal elections in January–February 1994 and subsequent Senate
Senate
A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a legislature or parliament. There have been many such bodies in history, since senate means the assembly of the eldest and wiser members of the society and ruling class...

 elections, most recently in April 2004, and gained representation at the local level and three seats in the Senate.

Ethnic violences and human rigthts abuses :
Background
Mauritania’s people is composed of several ethnics groups : the Moors (White in Arab) or Beidane, the Haratines who are black-skinned descendant of freed slaves still attached to their former masters’ culture, the Wolof , the Soninke , and the Hal-pulaar or Peuls which includes settled farmers called Toucouleur and nomadic stock-breeders . Since its creation in 1960 by the colonial France, Mauritania’s society has been characterised by a constant discrimination towards black population, Peuls and Soninké which are seen as contesting the political, economic and social dominance of Moors.. Mauritanian blacks faced discrimination in employment in the civil service, the administration of justice before the regular and religious courts, access to loans and credits from banks and state owned enterprise, and opportunity for education and vocational training .
Between 1990 and 1991, a campaign of extreme violence particularly took place, across a process of arabisation, interference with blacks’ association rights, expropriation, expatriation and slavery, slaves being only black.
In April 1986, the Manifesto of the Oppressed Black Mauritanian
Manifesto of the Oppressed Black Mauritanian
The Manifesto of the Oppressed Black Mauritanian was published in April, 1986 by the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania, a paramilitary group which promoted the rights of the oppressed Black African majority by Arabo-Berber minority in Mauritania. The manifesto details the racial...

  (Manifeste du négro-mauritanien opprimé) was published by the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania
African Liberation Forces of Mauritania
The African Liberation Forces of Mauritania is an exiled paramilitary organization for the Black African majority in Arabo-Berber minority Mauritania.- Foundation :...

 FLAM (Force pour la Liberation Africaine de Mauritanie) which documented discriminations against Mauritania's black populations in every sector of public life. In response, in September 1986, thirty to forty black intellectuals were arrested, suspected to be involved in the publication of the Manifesto and were subjected to brutal interrogations. They were not allowed to have any visit until November 1987 . In the meantime, the authorities cracked down on black communities, using mass arrests as a form of intimidation.

In October 1987, the government allegedly discovered a tentative of coup d’Etat by a group of black army officers, backed by Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 according to the authorities. Fifty one officers were arrested, and subjected to interrogation and torture without access to their lawyer.. The torture consisted in “beatings, burns, electric shocks, applied to the genitals, stripping prisoners naked and pouring cold water over them, burying prisoners in sand to their necks, and subjected prisoners to jaguar, which consist in tying a victim’s hand and feet, suspending him upside down from a bar, and beating him particularly on the sole of the feet”.
They were accused of “endangering the security of the State by participating in a conspiracy to overthrow the government and to provoke killing and devastation among the inhabitants of the country” and tried following a special summary procedure.. Three of the officers arrested in October were sentenced to death; eighteen were sentenced to life imprisonment (including two who died in detention in 1988 due to prison conditions); nine were sentenced to twenty years; five were sentenced to ten years; three were given five years; six were given five-year suspended sentences with heavy fines; and seven were acquitted. None of those convicted were permitted to appeal.
These ethnic tensions were catalysis for the events of 1989
which started as a result of a conflict in Diawara between Mauritanian Herders and Senegalese farmers over grazing rights during which Mauritanian guards crossed the rivers, killed 2 Senegalese and took 13 other hostages into Selibaby
Sélibaby
Sélibaby is a capital town and department of the Guidimaka Region, Mauritania. It is located at around . It is divided into a number of "quartiers" which include "College", "Silo", 'Ferlo" and "Bambaradougou" amongst many others...

 , Mauritania on April 9, 1989 . This incident has resulted in several events which provoked series of ethnic violence, expulsions of blacks from Mauritania, expropriation extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests, torture, rape, and confiscation of property.
Following the incident several riots erupted in Bakel
Bakel
Bakel is a village east of Helmond and Eindhoven in southern part of the Netherlands. The total population is approximately 5,000. Until the late 1990s it formed together with Milheeze and Rips the municipality of Bakel and Milheeze but in 1997 it was forced to merge with the larger Gemert...

, Dakar
Dakar
Dakar is the capital city and largest city of Senegal. It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city on the African mainland...

 and other towns in Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

  directed against Mauritanians which dominated the retails. A feature of this conflict is the tendency of Beydanes to see black Mauritanians as Senegalese which lead the latter to response to the attacks by attacking black Mauritanians.
Therefore, anti-Mauritanese riots, added to the already existing tensions, lead to a campaign of terror against black Mauritanian.
The voluntary confusion between black Mauritanian and Senegalese culminated during the international airlift agreed by Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

 and Mauritania under international pressure to prevent further violence. The Mauritanian Government used it as a way to extradite black Mauritanian, pretending they were Senegalese. It included intellectuals, civil servants, professionals, businessmen, militant trade unionists, those suspected of opposition, as well as farmers and cattle-herders from the Sénégal River
Sénégal River
The Sénégal River is a long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania.The Sénégal's headwaters are the Semefé and Bafing rivers which both originate in Guinea; they form a small part of the Guinean-Malian border before coming together at Bafoulabé in Mali...

 Valley.
Expulsion :
The main reason for expulsions and expropriation was economic. Indeed, Moors, usually nomadic, had lost their main source of revenue with the drought of 1968-1985 which decimated their camel, goats and other cattle and had lost their retails during the anti-Mauritanian riots in Senegal. Moreover, the Mauritanian part of the Senegalese river valley is the most fertile part of the country and, finally, the creation of the Organisation for the Development of the Senegal river ( OMVS , on March 11, 1972 by Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

, Mauritania and Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

, enhanced the potential value of the valley, with the construction of dams which permitted to increase the territory irrigated.
In villages of the South, blacks were indiscriminately expelled by security forces which forced them to cross the Senegalese River to Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

, taking their identity card and their belongings. Those who resisted or who tried to flee with their belongings were arrested, imprisoned and sometimes executed.
In the larger towns and cities, the authorities targeted black civil servants, employees of private institutions, trade unionists, former political prisoners and, in some instances, the wives of political prisoners.

However Peuls were mainly among those targeted. According to a study conducted by Christian Santoir for a French research company (ORSTOM who became the Institute for research on Development in 1998) some 21,500 Peuls
Fula people
Fula people or Fulani or Fulbe are an ethnic group spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and Sudanese North Africa...

 were expelled, which accounts for at least 57 per cent of the Peuls
Fula people
Fula people or Fulani or Fulbe are an ethnic group spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and Sudanese North Africa...

.

Expulsions were accompanied by many violations, such as: arbitrary arrest , rape, confiscation of belongings and of all identity papers. Furthermore, Peuls'
Fula people
Fula people or Fulani or Fulbe are an ethnic group spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and Sudanese North Africa...

 liberty of movement was restricted, as they were subjected to harassment at checkpoints, being obliged to show their identity papers and sometimes detained.

The exact number of expulsions is not known but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR) estimates that, as of June 1991, there were 52,995 Mauritanian refugees in Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

; in June 1993, 52,945 were registered. A smaller number of refugees have also fled into Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

; the official figure for those who have been registered there is about 13,000, but again, the real number is undoubtedly much higher because of the ease of integration into the life of local communities in Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

.
Expropriation :
Starting from 1983, exportation started to be institutionalised through the Ordinance 83.127 of June 5, 1983 which nationalised the all land in the country, abolishing the traditional system of land tenure. The potential nationalisation of the land was based on the concept of dead land , being a land which has not being developed or which development cannot be seen. The Ordinance also made impossible any collective law suit regarding property rights which rendered impossible any law suit based on traditional rights of tenure. Indeed traditional systems of tenure were based on community rights that make them justiciable only collectively.
Several methods were used for expropriation . Confiscations are the most used methods. Moors exploited Article 9 of the Ordinance, which provides that registered property rights take precedence, by registering their rights using their relations, in order to prevent blacks from claiming it. Moors also established fake cooperative by which they could become members of previously black cooperative, which were the only registered black rights of property, getting ownership of the whole property of the cooperative.
Massacre of 1990-1991:
From November 1990 to February 1991, between 500 and 600 Peuls and Soninke political prisoners were executed or tortured to death by government forces. They were part of the between 3000 and 5000 blacks arrested between October 1990 and mid-January 1991 and rounded up, detained and tortured, allegedly because they were involved in an attempt to overthrow the government. There were first black officers of the military but then civil servants.

The severity of the torture, combined with the complete lack of medical care, ensured a high death toll, between 500-600 deaths from torture or summary execution is widely accepted. In addition, an unknown number of blacks found death by extrajudicial execution by security forces.

A military investigation was put in place by the government and the results were never made public. However several officials were reportedly involved: Colonel Sid'AhmedOuldBoilil, Colonel CheikhOuld Mohamed Salah, Major Mohamed CheikhOuld El Hadi, and Major Ely Fall .

In order to guarantee immunity for those responsible and to block any attempts at accountability for past abuses, an amnesty was declared by the Parliament in June 1993 covering all crimes committed by the armed forces, security forces as well as civilians, between April 1989 and April 1992. The Government offered compensations to the families of victims but a very few accepted in absence of settlement.

Despite of this amnesty, some have had the courage to denounce the involvement of the government in the arrests and killings. In 1991 an opened letter was sent to President Taya , by 50 prominent Mauritanians, including former ministers, lawyers, doctors, and professors denouncing "the magnitude of the repression that was brought down upon the blacks civilians and military in the last months of 1990” and listing several hundred extrajudicial executions, atrocities, and disappearances. The Mauritanian Workers Union also called for an independent inquiry into the detentions.
Women’s also played a role into denouncing the atrocities committed: in April 1991, more than seventy-five women - wives, sisters, nieces, and mothers of some of those presumed to have been killed in the detentions - signed a petition addressed to President Taya calling to the government to provide for the family left behind and break the silence.
Discrimination via arabisation :
Since many years and particularly since 1986, Arabisation has been a way to discriminate de facto black Mauritanians. Indeed, "[Arabisation] is the key to the dispossession of blacks in terms of political power, economic opportunities, and employment possibilities.”

Arabisation has been put in practice by a policy of interference with blacks’ rights of association, particularly by out righting private and public black gatherings. Although the law did not prohibit gathering and association to black people, the system of authorisation created by the Government and discriminately applied only to blacks, resulted in a prohibition.

Arabisation was also sought by the way of education. Since January 1966 study in Arabic were compulsory for student at secondary school. This provoked strike among students, which were supported by civil servants. These strikes lead to the issuing of the Manifesto of Nineteen which listed grievance against the Moors’ domination.

The process of making Arabic the primary language of the country culminated in a new constitution, passed by referendum in July 1991 which set Arabic as the official language of the Country, without any reference to French.
Mauritanian international relationship under Ould Taya’s rule :

During the late 1980s, Ould Taya had established a close co-operation with Iraq, and pursued a strongly Arab nationalist line. At the same time, bloody clashes erupted with Senegal in 1989, during which both countries expelled ethnic minorities to the other country. Mauritania grew increasingly isolated internationally, and tensions with Western countries grew dramatically after it took a pro-Iraqi position during the 1991 Gulf War. During the mid-to late 1990s, Mauritania shifted its foreign policy to one of increased co-operation with the US and Europe, and was rewarded with diplomatic relaxation and aid projects.

In 1999, Mauritanian Foreign Minister Ahmed Sid’Ahmed and his Israeli counterpart David Levy
David Levy (Israeli politician)
David Levy is an Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset between 1969 and 2006, as well as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Immigrant Absorption, Minister of Housing & Construction and as a Minister without Portfolio...

 signed an agreement in Washington DC, USA, on 28 October, establishing full diplomatic relations with Mauritania. The signing ceremony was held at the U.S. State Department in the presence of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Korbelová Albright is the first woman to become a United States Secretary of State. She was appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton on December 5, 1996, and was unanimously confirmed by a U.S. Senate vote of 99–0...

. Mauritania thereby joined Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan as the only members of the Arab League to officially recognize Israel. Ould Taya also started co-operating with the United States in antiterrorism activities, which was criticized by human rights NGOs, who talked of an exaggeration and instrumentation of alleged terrorist activities for geopolitical aims. (See also Foreign relations of Mauritania
Foreign relations of Mauritania
The foreign relations of The Islamic Republic of Mauritania have been dominated since independence by the issues of the Spanish Sahara as well as recognition of its independence by its neighbours, particularly Morocco...

.)

A group of current and former Army officers launched a bloody but unsuccessful coup attempt on 8 June 2003. The leaders of the attempted coup were never caught.
Mauritania's presidential election
Mauritanian presidential election, 2003
A presidential election was held in Mauritania on November 7, 2003. As expected, President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya was easily re-elected against weak opposition...

, its third since adopting the democratic process in 1992, took place on 7 November 2003. Six candidates, including Mauritania's first female and first Haratine (former slave
Slavery in Mauritania
Slavery in Mauritania is an entrenched phenomenon the national government has repeatedly tried to abolish, banning the practice in 1905, 1981, and August 2007...

 family) candidates, represented a wide variety of political goals and backgrounds. Incumbent President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya , was Prime Minister of Mauritania from 1981 to 1984 and president from 1984 to 2005. He guided Mauritania from military rule to democracy, and took a pro-Western stance in foreign affairs...

 won reelection with 67.02% of the popular vote, according to the official figures, with Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla
Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla
Ret. Col. Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah was the head of state of Mauritania from 4 January 1980 to 12 December 1984...

 finishing second.

August 2005 military coup

On 3 August 2005, a military coup led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall
Ely Ould Mohamed Vall
Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall is a political and military figure in Mauritania. He served as the transitional military leader of Mauritania following a coup d'état in August 2005 until 19 April 2007, when he relinquished power to an elected government....

 ended Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya's twenty-one years of rule.

On 3 August, the Mauritanian military, including members of the presidential guard, seized control of key points in the capital of Nouakchott
Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

. They took advantage of President Taya's attendance at the funeral of Saudi
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 King Fahd to organize the coup, which took place without loss of life. The officers, calling themselves the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, released the following statement:
"The national armed forces and security forces have unanimously decided to put a definitive end to the oppressive activities of the defunct authority, which our people have suffered from during the past years."


The Military Council later issued another statement naming Colonel Vall as president and director of the national police force, the Sûreté Nationale. Sixteen other officers were listed as members. Colonel Vall was once regarded as a firm ally of the now-ousted president, even aiding him in the original coup that brought him to power, and later serving as his security chief.

Applauded by the Mauritanian people, but cautiously watched by the international community, the coup has since been generally accepted, while the military junta has organized elections within the promised two-year timeline. In a referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 on 26 June 2006, Mauritanians overwhelmingly (97%) approved a new constitution which limited the duration of a president's stay in office. The leader of the junta, Col. Vall, promised to abide by the referendum and relinquish power peacefully. Mauritania's establishment of relations with Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 – it was one of only three Arab states to recognize Israel – was maintained by the new regime, despite widespread criticism from the opposition, who viewed it as a legacy of the Taya regime's attempts to curry favor with the West.

Parliamentary and municipal elections in Mauritania took place on 19 November and 3 December 2006.

2007 presidential election

The first fully democratic presidential election since 1960 was on 11 March 2007. The election effected the final transfer from military to civilian rule following the military coup in 2005. This was the first time that the president had been selected in a multi-candidate election in the country's post-independence history.

The election was won in a second round of voting by Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi
Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi
Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is a Mauritanian politician. He served in the government during the 1970s, and after a long period of absence from politics he won the March 2007 presidential election, taking office on 19 April 2007...

, with Ahmed Ould Daddah
Ahmed Ould Daddah
Ahmed Ould Daddah is a Mauritanian economist, politician and civil servant. He is a half-brother of Moktar Ould Daddah, the first President of Mauritania, and belongs to the Marabout Ouled Birri tribe...

 a close second.

2008 military coup

The head of the Presidential Guards took over the president's palace and units of the army surrounded a key state building in the capital Nouakchott on 6 August 2008, a day after 48 lawmakers from the ruling party resigned. The army surrounded the state television building after the president fired two senior officers, including the head of the presidential guards. The president, the prime minister and the minister of internal affairs were arrested.

The coup was organized by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is a Mauritanian politician, currently serving as President of Mauritania...

, former chief of staff of the Mauritanian army and head of the Presidential Guard, whom the president had just dismissed. Mauritania's presidential spokesman, Abdoulaye Mamadouba, said President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi
Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi
Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is a Mauritanian politician. He served in the government during the 1970s, and after a long period of absence from politics he won the March 2007 presidential election, taking office on 19 April 2007...

, Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf and the interior minister, were arrested by renegade Senior Mauritanian army officers, unknown troops and a group of generals, and were held under house arrest at the presidential palace in Nouakchott
Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

. In the apparently successful and bloodless coup d'état, Abdallahi's daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi, said: "The security agents of the BASEP (Presidential Security Battalion) came to our home and took away my father." The coup plotters, all dismissed in a presidential decree shortly beforehand, included General Muhammad Ould ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is a Mauritanian politician, currently serving as President of Mauritania...

, General Muhammad Ould Al-Ghazwani, General Philippe Swikri, and Brigadier General (Aqid) Ahmad Ould Bakri.

After the coup

A Mauritanian lawmaker, Mohammed Al Mukhtar, announced that "many of the country's people were supporting the takeover attempt and the government was "an authoritarian regime" and that the president had "marginalized the majority in parliament." The coup was also backed by Abdellahi's rival in the 2007 election, Ahmed Ould Daddah. However, Ould `Abd Al-`Aziz's regime was isolated internationally and punished by diplomatic sanctions and the cancellation of some aid projects. It found few supporters, among them Morocco, Libya and Iran, while Algeria, the United States, France and other European countries criticized the coup, and continued to refer to Abdellahi as the legitimate president of Mauritania. A group of parties also coalesced around Abdellahi to continue to protest the coup, causing the junta to ban demonstration and crack down on opposition activists. International and internal pressure eventually forced the release of Abdellahi, who was instead placed in house arrest in his home village. The new government broke off relations with Israel.
In March 2010 Mauritania's female foreign minister Mint Hamdi Ould Mouknass announced that Mauritania had cut ties with Israel in a "complete and definitive way."

`Abd Al-`Aziz had since the coup insisted on organizing new presidential elections to replace Abdellahi, but was forced to reschedule them due to internal and international opposition. However, during the spring of 2009, the junta negotiated an understanding with some opposition figures and international parties, which dramatically changed the situation. Abdellahi formally resigned, under protest, as it became clear that some opposition forces had defected from him and most international players, notably including France and Algeria, now lined up behind `Abd Al-`Aziz. The United States continued to criticize the coup, but did not actively oppose the elections. Abdellahi's resignation paved the way for the election
Mauritanian presidential election, 2009
A presidential election was held in Mauritania on 18 July 2009. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who led the 2008 coup d'état, won a narrow first-round majority in the election, according to official results...

 of military strongman Muhammad Ould `Abd Al-`Aziz as civilian president, on 18 July, by a 52% majority. Many of Abdellahi's former supporters criticized this as a political ploy and refused to recognize the results. They argued that the election had been falsified due to junta control, and complained that the international community had let down the opposition. Despite marginal complaints, the elections were almost unanimously accepted by Western, Arab and African countries, which lifted sanctions and resumed cooperation with Mauritania. By late summer, `Abd Al-`Aziz appeared to have secured his position and to have garnered widespread international and internal support, although several influential parties and political personalities, notably Senate chairman Messaoud Ould Boulkheir
Messaoud Ould Boulkheir
Messaoud Ould Boulkheir is among the first Haratine to become a political leader in Mauritania. Messaoud also contributed significantly to the end of the 1989 events in Mauritania, protecting the right of the victims and the emancipation of the Haratine in Mauritania with his party.Presently,...

, continued to refuse the new order and call for `Abd Al-`Aziz's resignation.

In February 2011, the waves of 2010–2011 Middle East and North Africa protests
2010–2011 Middle East and North Africa protests
The Arab Spring , otherwise known as the Arab Awakening, is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests occurring in the Arab world that began on Saturday, 18 December 2010...

 spread to Mauritania, where hundreds of people took to the streets of Nouakchott.

Regions and departments

Mauritania is divided into 12 regions (régions) called wilaya and one capital district
Capital district
A capital territory or capital district is normally a specially designated administrative division where a country's seat of government is located. As such, in a federal model of government, no state or territory has any political or economic advantage relative to the others because of the...

 in Nouakchott, which in turn are subdivided into 44 departments
Departments of Mauritania
The Regions of Mauritania are subdivided into 44 departments. The departments are listed below, by region:-Adrar Region:*Atar Department*Chinguetti Department*Oujeft Department-Assaba Region:*Aftout Department*Boumdeid Department*Guerou Department...

 (moughataa). The regions and capital district (in alphabetical order) and their capitals are:
| Adrar || Atar
Atar, Mauritania
Atar is a town in northwestern Mauritania, the capital of the Adrar Region and the main settlement on the Adrar Plateau. It is home to an airport, a museum and a historic mosque, constructed in 1674...


| Assaba || Kiffa
Kiffa
Kiffa is a city and department in south-central Mauritania. Kiffa is capital of Assaba Region. It is located at around .It is famous for its antique Kiffa beads....


| Brakna || Aleg
Aleg
Aleg is the capital of the Brakna Region, Mauritania. It is located at .The town is known as the birthplace of former President of Mauritania, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi....


| Dakhlet Nouadhibou || Nouadhibou
Nouadhibou
Nouadhibou is the second largest city in Mauritania and serves as a major commercial centre. The city itself has about 75,000 inhabitants expanding to over 90,000 in the larger metropolitan area. It is situated on a 40-mile peninsula or headland called Ras Nouadhibou, Cap Blanc, or Cabo Blanco, of...


| Gorgol || Kaédi
Kaédi
Kaédi is a city of over 60,000 people and is the largest city and administrative center of the Gorgol region of Southern Mauritania. The city is located 16.150 degrees latitude and -13.500 degrees longitude, and is approximately 435 km from Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott.- Overview :The...


| Guidimaka || Sélibaby
Sélibaby
Sélibaby is a capital town and department of the Guidimaka Region, Mauritania. It is located at around . It is divided into a number of "quartiers" which include "College", "Silo", 'Ferlo" and "Bambaradougou" amongst many others...


| Hodh Ech Chargui || Néma
Néma
Néma is a town in southeastern Mauritania, close to the border with Mali. It is located at around . It is the capital of Hodh Ech Chargui Region and of the Néma Department....


| Hodh El Gharbi || Ayoun el Atrous
Ayoun el Atrous
Ayoun al Atrous is a town in southern Mauritania. It is located at around . It is the capital of Hodh El Gharbi region.It's one of the stops in the 2007 Dakar Rally....


| Inchiri || Akjoujt
Akjoujt
Akjoujt is a town in western Mauritania. It is located at around . It is the capital of Inchiri region. The town's main industry is gold and copper mining....


|colspan="2"| Nouakchott
Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

 
| Tagant || Tidjikdja
| Tiris Zemmour || F'dérik
| Trarza || Rosso
Rosso
Rosso is the major city of south-western Mauritania and capital of Trarza region. It is situated on the Senegal River at the head of year-round navigation. The town is 204 km south of the capital Nouakchott...


|}

Geography

At 397929 square miles (1,030,631 km²), Mauritania is the world's 29th-largest country (after Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia officially known as Plurinational State of Bolivia , is a landlocked country in central South America. It is the poorest country in South America...

). It is comparable in size to Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. It lies mostly between latitudes 14°
14th parallel north
The 14th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 14 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, Central America, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean....

 and 26°N
26th parallel north
The 26th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 26 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

, and longitudes
5th meridian west
The meridian 5° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Africa, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and 17°W
17th meridian west
The meridian 17° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, Iceland, the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 (small areas are east of 5° and west of 17°).

Mauritania is generally flat, with vast arid plains broken by occasional ridges and cliff-like outcroppings. A series of scarps face south-west, longitudinally bisecting these plains in the center of the country. The scarps also separate a series of sandstone plateaus, the highest of which is the Adrar Plateau
Adrar Plateau
The Adrar Plateau is a highland area of the Sahara Desert in northern Mauritania. It was heavily settled in the Neolithic era, and the more recent aridification has left much of the archaeology intact, most notable several stone circles and the later town of Azougui.The plateau is known for its...

, reaching an elevation of 500 metres (1,640 ft). Spring-fed oases lie at the foot of some of the scarps. Isolated peaks, often rich in minerals, rise above the plateaus; the smaller peaks are called guelbs and the larger ones kedias. The concentric Guelb er Richat (also known as the Richat Structure) is a prominent feature of the north-central region. Kediet ej Jill
Kediet ej Jill
Kediet ej Jill is a mountain in Tiris Zemmour, Mauritania, with the city of Zouérat on its east and Fderick at west. At tall, Kediet ej Jill is the highest peak in Mauritania.The entire mountain is made of magnetite which gives its blue colour....

, near the city of Zouîrât, has an elevation of 1000 metres (3,281 ft) and is the highest peak.

Approximately three quarters of Mauritania is desert or semidesert. As a result of extended, severe drought, the desert has been expanding since the mid-1960s. To the west, between the ocean and the plateaus, are alternating areas of clayey plains (regs) and sand dunes (ergs), some of which shift from place to place, gradually moved by high winds. The dunes generally increase in size and mobility toward the north.

Economy

Mauritania has one of the lowest GDP rates in Africa, despite being rich in natural resources. However, a majority of the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though most of the nomads and many subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for almost 50% of total exports. With the current rises in metal prices, gold and copper mining companies are opening mines in the interior. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott
Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

 in 1986. In recent years, drought and economic mismanagement have resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In March 1999, the government signed an agreement with a joint World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

-International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

 mission on a $54 million enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF). The economic objectives have been set for 1999–2002. Privatization remains one of the key issues. Mauritania is unlikely to meet ESAF's annual GDP growth objectives of 4%–5%.

Oil
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

 was discovered in Mauritania in 2001 in the offshore Chinguetti field. Although potentially significant for the Mauritanian economy, it remains to be seen how much it will help the country. Mauritania has been described as a "desperately poor desert nation, which straddles the Arab and African worlds and is Africa's newest, if small-scale, oil producer." There may be additional oil reserves inland in the Taoudeni basin
Taoudeni basin
The Taoudeni Basin is a major geological formation in West Africa named after the Taoudenni village in northern Mali. It covers large parts of the West African craton in Mauritania and Mali. It is of considerable interest due to its possible reserves of oil....

, although the harsh environment will make extraction expensive.

The Government's current main problem is privatizing the economy.

Human rights

Under the Abdallahi government there was a widespread public perception of governmental corruption and a lack of access to government information. Sexism, female genital mutilation
Female genital cutting
Female genital mutilation , also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is defined by the World Health Organization as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."FGM...

, child labour, human trafficking
Human trafficking in Mauritania
Mauritania is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation...

, and the political marginalization of largely southern-based ethnic groups continued to be problems.

Following the 2008 coup, the military government of Mauritania faced severe international sanctions, internal unrest, and was accused by Amnesty International
Amnesty International
Amnesty International is an international non-governmental organisation whose stated mission is "to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated."Following a publication of Peter Benenson's...

 of practicing coordinated torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 against criminal and political detainees. Amnesty has accused the Mauritania legal system, both before and after the 2008 coup, of functioning with a complete disregard of legal procedure, fair trial, or humane imprisonment. Further, Amnesty has accused the Mauritanian government of an institutionalized and continuous use of torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 throughout its post independence history.
Discrimination against black population:

Since its creation in 1960 by the colonial France, Mauritania’s society has been characterised by a constant discrimination towards black population, Peuls and Soninké which are seen as contesting the political, economic and social dominance of Moors. Mauritanian blacks faced discrimination in employment in the civil service, the administration of justice before the regular and religious courts, access to loans and credits from banks and state owned enterprise, and opportunity for education and vocational training .
This constant discrimination has been put in practice by a campaign of extreme violence particularly between 1990 and 1991, a process of arabisation, interference with blacks’ association rights, expropriation, expatriation and slavery, slaves being only black. ( see Part on Mauritania history under Ould Taya Rule)
Slavery :

Article 1 of the 1926 Slavery Convention defines slavery as “the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised”. Slavery is still practiced today in remote part of Mauritania , although it has been forbidden since 1980 by President Mohamed KhounaOuldHaidallah. However, the abolition was only meant to show a nice face to the world in order to obtain scarcely needed funds.

Slavery is prohibited by many international law instrument ratified by Mauritania, such as Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, ratified on June 6, 1986; the 1957 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery , also ratified on June 6, 1986; the 1930 Forced Labor Convention of the International Labor Organization(ILO); the 1957 Abolition of Forced Labor Convention of the ILO; the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

However Slavery is enrooted in Mauritania’s society for several reasons. First of all, because of the high rate of illiteracy, slaves are not aware of their rights and are forbidden to enter into contact with freed black which could inform them on the abolition. Moreover, Islam is manipulated by masters to make their slaves believing that serving them is the straight way to heaven. Slaves therefore regard serving their masters as a religious duty. Another reason is economic. Indeed, slaves are often unskilled and face troubles finding employment after escaping from their master or having been freed. Moreover, former master tend to play their relation in order to impede their former slave to find employment.

Demographics

Population

3,281,634 (July 2011 estimated)

Mauritania’s people is composed of several ethnics groups : the Moors
Moors
The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of the Maghreb region who are predominately of Berber and Arab descent. They came to conquer and rule the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. At that time they were Muslim, although earlier the people had followed...

 (White in Arab) or Beidane (30%[34]), the Haratin
Haratin
Haratin are oasis-dwellers in the Sahara, especially in southern Morocco and Mauritania, who make up a socially and ethnically distinct group of largely sedentary dark colored workers speaking either Berber or Arabic...

s who are black-skinned descendant of freed slaves still attached to their former masters’ culture, the Soninke and the Hal-pulaar or Peuls
Fula people
Fula people or Fulani or Fulbe are an ethnic group spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and Sudanese North Africa...

 which includes settled farmers called Toucouleur  and nomadic stock-breeders. The black population forms 40% of the population.

Religion

The country is nearly 100% Muslim, most of whom are Sunnis. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nouakchott, founded in 1965, serves the 4,500 Catholics in Mauritania.

Languages

Hassaniya
Hassaniya
Hassānīya is the variety of Arabic originally spoken by the Beni Hassān Bedouin tribes, who extended their authority over most of Mauritania and the Western Sahara between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. It has almost completely replaced the Berber languages spoken in this region...

 dialect of Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 (official and national);
Other languages spoken include: Pulaar
Fula language
The Fula or Fulani language is a language of West Africa. It is spoken as a first language by the and related groups from Senegambia and Guinea to Cameroon and Sudan...

, Soninke
Soninke language
The Soninke language is a Mande language spoken by the Soninke people of West Africa. The language has an estimated 1,096,795 speakers, primarily located in Mali, and also in Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Ghana...

, Imraguen language
Imraguen language
The Imraguen or Imeraguen language is spoken by approximately one thousand members of an Imraguen fishing tribe in the Banc d'Arguin National Park on the Atlantic coast of Mauritania. According to Gerteiny , it is "a strange version of Hassaniyya restructured on an Azêr base"; Hassaniyya is an...

, Wolof
Wolof language
Wolof is a language spoken in Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania, and is the native language of the Wolof people. Like the neighbouring languages Serer and Fula, it belongs to the Atlantic branch of the Niger–Congo language family...

 and French (widely used in media and among educated classes, see African French
African French
African French is the generic name of the varieties of French spoken by an estimated 115 million African people spread across 31 francophone African countries...

).

Health

Life expectancy
Life expectancy
Life expectancy is the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age. It is denoted by ex, which means the average number of subsequent years of life for someone now aged x, according to a particular mortality experience...

 at birth was 61.14 years (2011 estimate). Per capita expenditure on health was 43 US$ (PPP) in 2004. Public expenditure was 2% of the GDP in 2004 and private 0.9% of the GDP in 2004. In the early 21st century there were 11 physicians per 100,000 people. Infant mortality is 60.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 estimate).

The obesity rate among Mauritanian women is high, perhaps in part due to the local standards of beauty, in which obese women are considered beautiful while thin women are sometimes regarded as "sickly".

On 18 January 2011, the Islamic leaders of Mauritania issued a fatwa
Fatwa
A fatwā in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā...

, a religious opinion concerning Islamic law, outlawing female genital mutilation.

Culture

The name of the country is derived from the Latin Mauretania
Mauretania
Mauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...

, meaning the land of the Mauri
Mauri (people)
The Mauri were an ancient Berber people inhabiting the territory of modern Algeria and Morocco. Much of that territory was annexed to the Roman empire in 44 AD, as the province of Mauretania...

.

The French occupied the country in 1860 in close cooperation with Moorish religious leaders. Mauritania became a nation after the destruction of the kingdoms of Fouta Toro and Walo Walo and the Arab-Berber emirates of Trarza, Brakna, Taganet, and Adrar. As a result, the country has two main populations: sub-Saharan Africans and Moors. The sub-Saharan African population includes the Fulani, Soninke, and Bambara ethnic groups. The Moors include the "whites", known as Beydan, and the "blacks", known as Haratin. Both "white" and "black" Moors are Arabic and Berber-speaking peoples. The most important common denomination, if not the only one, is Sunni Islam.
  • Music of Mauritania
    Music of Mauritania
    The music of Mauritania comes predominantly from the country's largest ethnic group: the Moors. In Moorish society musicians occupy the lowest caste, iggawin. Musicians from this caste used song to praise successful warriors as well as their patrons. Iggawin also had the traditional role of...

  • Islam in Mauritania
    Islam in Mauritania
    Virtually all Mauritanians are Sunni Muslims. They adhere to the Maliki madhab, one of the four Sunni schools of law. Since independence in 1960, Mauritania has been an Islamic republic...

  • Status of religious freedom in Mauritania
  • Mauritania and Madagascar
    Madagascar
    The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

     are the only two countries in the world not to use decimal-based currency. The basic unit of currency, the ouguiya
    Mauritanian ouguiya
    The ouguiya , also spelt "ougiya," is the currency of Mauritania. It is the only circulating currency other than the Malagasy ariary whose division units are not based on a power of ten, each ouguiya comprising five khoums .The ouguiya was introduced in 1973, replacing the CFA franc at a rate of 1...

    , comprises five khoums
    Khoums
    The khoums is the subdivisory unit of the Mauritanian monetary system, the Ouguiya. Five khoums make an ouguiya, hence one khoums can be expressed as MRO/0.2...

    . In practice, no khoum coins have been minted since 1973, and they are rarely used due to their extremely low value.
  • Filming for several documentaries and films has taken place in Mauritania, including Fort Saganne
    Fort Saganne
    Fort Saganne is a 1984 French war film directed by Alain Corneau, based on the 1980 novel of the same name by Louis Gardel. It was screened out of competition at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival...

    (1984), The Fifth Element
    The Fifth Element
    The Fifth Element is a 1997 French science fiction film directed, co-written, and based on a story by Luc Besson, starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, and Milla Jovovich...

    (1997), The Books Under the Sand (1997), Life without Death (1997), Winged Migration (2001), and Heremakono (2002).

Education

Since 1999, all teaching in the first year of primary school is in Arabic, French is however introduced in the second year and all scientific courses are taught in French for everyone. The use of English and the Weldiya dialect is also on the increase. The country has the University of Nouakchott
University of Nouakchott
The University of Nouakchott is a university in the city of Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania. It was established in 1981 and has more than 8,000 students.-External links: *...

 and other institutions of higher education, but the most highly-educated Mauritanians have studied outside the country. Public expenditure on education was at 10.1% of 2000–2007 government expenditure.

See also

  • Human rights in Mauritania
    Human rights in Mauritania
    Human Rights in Mauritania is generally seen as poor, according to International observers.With an estimated population of three million, Mauritania is a highly centralized Islamic republic governed by a military dictatorship which in 2008 overthrew President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi,...

  • Slavery in Mauritania
    Slavery in Mauritania
    Slavery in Mauritania is an entrenched phenomenon the national government has repeatedly tried to abolish, banning the practice in 1905, 1981, and August 2007...



Further Reading

  • Foster, Noel, Mauritania: The Struggle for Democracy, (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2010)
  • Hudson, Peter, Travels in Mauritania, (Flamingo, 1991)
  • Murphy, Joseph E, Mauritania in Photographs, (Crossgar Press, 1998)
  • Pazzanita, Anthony G, Historical Dictionary of Mauritania, (Scarecrow Press, 2008)
  • Ruf, Urs, Ending Slavery: Hierarchy, Dependency and Gender in Central Mauritania, (Transcript Verlag, 2001)
  • Sene, Sidi, The Ignored Cries of Pain and Injustice from Mauritania, (Trafford Publishing, 2011)

External links

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