Mauritania

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Coordinates: 20°N12°W / 20°N 12°W / 20; -12

Islamic Republic of Mauritania

الجمهورية الإسلامية الموريتانية (Arabic)
al-Jumhūrīyah al-Islāmīyah al-Mūrītānīyah
République Islamique de Mauritanie  (French)
Motto: شرف إخاء عدل (Arabic)
"Honor, Fraternity, Justice"
Anthem: نشيد وطني موريتاني
(English: "Country of the Proud, Guiding Noblemen")
Location Mauritania AU Africa.svg
Location of Mauritania (dark blue) in Africa
Mauritania - Location Map (2013) - MRT - UNOCHA.svg
Capital
and largest city
Nouakchott
18°09′N15°58′W / 18.150°N 15.967°W / 18.150; -15.967
Official languages Arabic
Recognised national languages
Other languages French [1]
Ethnic groups
Religion
Islam
Demonym(s) Mauritanian
Government Unitary semi-presidential Islamic republic
  President
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz b
Mohamed Salem Ould Béchir b
Cheikh Ahmed Baye [3]
Legislature Parliament
National Assembly
Independence
 from France
28 November 1960
12 July 1991
Area
 Total
1,030,000 km2 (400,000 sq mi) [4] (28th)
 Water (%)
0.03
Population
 2016 estimate
4,301,018 [5]
 2013 census
3,537,368 [4]
 Density
3.4/km2 (8.8/sq mi)
GDP  (PPP)2018 estimate
 Total
$18.117 billion [6] (134th)
 Per capita
$4,563 [6] (140th)
GDP  (nominal)2018 estimate
 Total
$5.200 billion [6] (154th)
 Per capita
$1,309 [6] (149th)
Gini  (2008)40.5 [7]
medium
HDI  (2017)Increase2.svg 0.520 [8]
low ·  159th
Currency Ouguiya (MRU)
Time zone UTC+0 (GMT)
Driving side right
Calling code +222
ISO 3166 code MR
Internet TLD .mr
  1. According to Article 6 of the Constitution: "The national languages are Arabic, Pulaar, Soninke, and Wolof; the official language is Arabic."
  2. Not recognized internationally (see main article).

Mauritania (officially: Islamic Republic of Mauritania) is a country in Northwest Africa. It is the eleventh largest sovereign state in Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara to the north and northwest, Algeria to the northeast, Mali to the east and southeast, and Senegal to the southwest.

Maghreb region of Northwest Africa

The Maghreb, also known as Northwest Africa or Northern Africa, Greater Arab Maghreb, Arab Maghreb or Greater Maghreb, or by some sources the Berber world, Barbary and Berbery, is a major region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. It additionally includes the disputed territories of Western Sahara and the cities of Melilla and Ceuta. As of 2018, the region has a population of over 100 million people.

Sovereign state political organization with a centralized independent government

In international law, a sovereign state, sovereign country, or simply state, is a nonphysical juridical entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permanent population, defined territory, one government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood that a sovereign state is neither dependent on nor subjected to any other power or state.

Africa The second largest and second most-populous continent, mostly in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres

Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

Contents

The country derives its name from the ancient Berber kingdom of Mauretania, which existed from the 3rd century BCE into the 7th century CE in the far north of modern-day Morocco and Algeria. Approximately 90% of Mauritania's land is within the Sahara; consequently, the population is concentrated in the south, where precipitation is slightly higher. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast, which is home to around one-third of the country's 4.3 million people. The government was overthrown on 6 August 2008, in a military coup d'état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. On 16 April 2009, Aziz resigned from the military to run for president in the 19 July elections, which he won. [9]

Berbers Ethnic group indigenous to North Africa

Berbers, or Amazighs are an ethnic group of several nations indigenous mostly to North Africa and in some northern parts of Western Africa.

Mauretania former independent tribal Berber kingdom

Mauretania is the Latin name for an area in the ancient Maghreb. It stretched from central present-day Algeria westwards to the Atlantic, covering northern Morocco, and southward to the Atlas Mountains. Its native inhabitants, seminomadic pastoralists of Berber ancestral stock, were known to the Romans as the Mauri and the Masaesyli.

Morocco Country in North Africa

Morocco, officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is a country located in the Maghreb region of North West Africa with an area of 710,850 km2 (274,460 sq mi). Its capital is Rabat, the largest city Casablanca. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Morocco claims the areas of Ceuta, Melilla and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, all of them under Spanish jurisdiction.

Names and pronunciation

Mauritania ( /ˌmɒrɪˈtniə, ˌmɔːrɪ-/ ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); [10] (Arabic : موريتانيا, Mūrītānyā, French : Mauritanie) is officially known as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. In other languages, it is known variously as Agawej or Cengiṭ (Berber), Gànnaar (Wolof), Murutaane (Soninke), and Moritani (Pulaar). [11] [12] [13]

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Wolof language language of Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania

Wolof is a language of Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania, and the native language of the Wolof people. Like the neighbouring languages Serer and Fula, it belongs to the Senegambian branch of the Niger–Congo language family. Unlike most other languages of the Niger-Congo family, Wolof is not a tonal language.

The Soninke language is a Mande language spoken by the Soninke people of Africa. The language has an estimated 1,096,795 speakers, primarily located in Mali, and also in Senegal, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Ghana. It enjoys the status of a national language in Mali, Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania.

History and politics

Ancient history

The ancient tribes of Mauritania were Berber people. The Bafours were primarily agricultural, and among the first Saharan people to abandon their historically nomadic lifestyle. With the gradual desiccation of the Sahara, they headed south.[ citation needed ] Many of the Berber tribes claimed Yemeni (and sometimes other Arab) origins. There is little evidence to support such claims, but a 2000 DNA study of Yemeni people suggested there might be some ancient connection between the peoples. [14]

The Bafour or Bafur are a group of people inhabiting Mauritania and Western Sahara. Their origins lie in various African ethnic groups. Some sources say this is a loose term to encompass the pre-Sanhaja peoples, who were "part Berber, part Negro, and part Semite." Others say they occupied these territories in the 15th century and, before the end of the 17th century, were assimilated by various groups, including the Wolof, Berber and Fula.

DNA Molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known organisms and many viruses

Deoxyribonucleic acid is a molecule composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning, and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses. DNA and ribonucleic acid (RNA) are nucleic acids; alongside proteins, lipids and complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides), nucleic acids are one of the four major types of macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life.

Other peoples also migrated south past the Sahara to West Africa. In 1076, Moorish Islamic warrior monks (Almoravid or Al Murabitun) attacked and conquered the large area of the ancient Ghana Empire.

Ghana Empire former country

The Ghana Empire, properly known as Wagadou, was a West African empire located in the area of present-day southeastern Mauritania and western Mali. Complex societies based on trans-Saharan trade with salt and gold. had existed in the region since ancient times, but the introduction of the camel to the western Sahara in the 3rd century CE, opened the way to great changes in the area that became the Ghana Empire. By the time of the Muslim conquest of North Africa in the 7th century the camel had changed the ancient, more irregular trade routes into a trade network running from Morocco to the Niger river. The Ghana Empire grew rich from this increased trans-Saharan trade in gold and salt, allowing for larger urban centres to develop. The traffic furthermore encouraged territorial expansion to gain control over the different trade routes.

The Dutch trading post of Arguin in 1665 AMH-6743-NA View of Arguin castle.jpg
The Dutch trading post of Arguin in 1665

The Char Bouba war (1644–74) was the unsuccessful final effort of the peoples to repel the Yemeni Maqil Arab invaders. The invaders were led by the Beni Hassan tribe. The descendants of the Beni Hassan warriors became the upper stratum of Moorish society. Hassaniya, a bedouin Arabic dialect that derives its name from the Beni Hassan, became the dominant language among the largely nomadic population. [15]

The Char Bouba war, or the Mauritanian Thirty Years' War, took place between 1644-74 in the tribal areas of what is today Mauritania and Western Sahara. It was fought between the Sanhadja Berber tribes resident in the area, led by Lamtuna Imam Nasr ad-Din, and the Maqil Arab immigrant tribes, foremost of which was the Beni Hassan.

Yemen Republic in Western Asia

Yemen , officially known as the Republic of Yemen, is a country at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. Yemen is the second-largest Arab sovereign state in the peninsula, occupying 527,970 square kilometres. The coastline stretches for about 2,000 kilometres. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and Guardafui Channel to the south, and the Arabian Sea and Oman to the east. Yemen's territory includes more than 200 islands.

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. Despite their originally small number they later played a regionally significant role in fighting the Merinids, whereas they were forced to subjugate themselves to their authority at times when the central power of this dynasty was strong. They were also influential in altering the culture of these regions. This, today, mainly manifests in the Hassaniya language which was named after one of their sub-groups.

Berbers retained a niche influence by producing the majority of the region's marabouts: those who preserve and teach Islamic tradition. [15]

Colonial history and present day

Imperial France [ vague ] gradually absorbed the territories of present-day Mauritania from the Senegal River area and northwards, starting in the late 19th century. In 1901, Xavier Coppolani took charge of the imperial mission. Through a combination of strategic alliances with Zawaya tribes, and military pressure on the Hassane warrior nomads, he managed to extend French rule over the Mauritanian emirates. Trarza, Brakna and Tagant were occupied by the French armies in 1903–04, but the northern emirate of Adrar held out longer, aided by the anti-colonial rebellion (or jihad) of shaykh Maa al-Aynayn, as well by insurgents from Tagant and the other regions. Adrar was finally defeated militarily in 1912, and incorporated into the territory of Mauritania, which had been drawn up and planned in 1904. Mauritania was part of French West Africa from 1920, as a protectorate and, then, a colony. [16]

French rule brought legal prohibitions against slavery and an end to inter-clan warfare. During the colonial period, 90% of the population remained nomadic. Many sedentary peoples, whose ancestors had been expelled centuries earlier, began to trickle back into Mauritania. The previous capital of the country under the French rule, Saint-Louis, was located in Senegal, so when the country gained independence in 1960, Nouakchott, at the time little more than a fortified village ("ksar"), was chosen as the site of the new capital of Mauritania. [17]

After gaining independence, larger numbers of indigenous Sub-Saharan African peoples (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) entered Mauritania, moving into the area north of the Senegal River. Educated in French language and customs, many of these recent arrivals became clerks, soldiers, and administrators in the new state. This occurred as the French militarily suppressed the most intransigent Hassane tribes in the north. This changed the former balance of power, and new conflicts arose between the southern populations and Moors. Between these groups stood African origins, who is part of the Arab society, integrated into a low-caste social position. [18] [ clarification needed ][ incomprehensible ]

Modern-day slavery still exists in different forms in Mauritania. [19] According to some estimates, thousands of Mauritanians are still enslaved. [20] [21] [22] A 2012 CNN report, "Slavery's Last Stronghold," by John D. Sutter, describes and documents the ongoing slave-owning cultures. [23] This social discrimination is applied chiefly against the "black Moors" (Haratin) in the northern part of the country, where tribal elites among "white Moors" (Bidh'an, Hassaniya-speaking Arabs and Arabized Berbers) hold sway. [24] Slavery practices exist also within the sub-Saharan African ethnic groups of the south.

Nouakchott is the capital and the largest city of Mauritania. It is one of the largest cities in the Sahara. Central mosque in Nouakchott.jpg
Nouakchott is the capital and the largest city of Mauritania. It is one of the largest cities in the Sahara.

The great Sahel droughts of the early 1970s caused massive devastation in Mauritania, exacerbating problems of poverty and conflict. The Arabized dominant elites reacted to changing circumstances, and to Arab nationalist calls from abroad, by increasing pressure to Arabize many aspects of Mauritanian life, such as law and the education system. This was also a reaction to the consequences of the French domination under the colonial rule. Various models for maintaining the country's cultural diversity have been suggested, but none were successfully implemented.

This ethnic discord was evident during inter-communal violence that broke out in April 1989 (the "Mauritania–Senegal Border War"), but has since subsided. Mauritania expelled some 70,000 sub-Saharan African Mauritanians in the late 1980s. [25] Ethnic tensions and the sensitive issue of slavery – past and, in some areas, present – are still powerful themes in the country's political debate. A significant number from all groups seek a more diverse, pluralistic society.

Issue of Western Sahara

The International Court of Justice has concluded that in spite of some evidence of both Morocco's and Mauritania's legal ties prior to Spanish colonization, neither set of ties were sufficient to affect the application of the UN General Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples to Western Sahara. [26]

Mauritania, along with Morocco, annexed the territory of Western Sahara in 1976, with Mauritania taking the lower one-third at the request of Spain, a former imperial power. After several military losses from the Polisario heavily armed and supported by Algeria, the regional power and rival to Morocco – Mauritania withdrew in 1979. 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, or to be part of Morocco.

Ould Daddah era (1960–1978)

Mauritania became an independent nation in November 1960. [27] In 1964 President Moktar Ould Daddah, originally installed by the French, formalized Mauritania as a one-party state with a new constitution, setting up an authoritarian presidential regime. Daddah's own Parti du Peuple Mauritanien (PPM) became the ruling organization in a one-party system. The President justified this on the grounds that Mauritania was not ready for western-style multi-party democracy. Under this one-party constitution, Daddah was reelected in uncontested elections in 1976 and 1978.

He was ousted in a bloodless coup on 10 July 1978. He had brought the country to near-collapse through a disastrous war to annex the southern part of Western Sahara, framed as an attempt to create a "Greater Mauritania".

CMRN and CMSN military governments (1978–1984)

Chinguetti was a center of Islamic scholarship in West Africa. Chinguetti-Guide.JPG
Chinguetti was a center of Islamic scholarship in West Africa.

Col. Mustafa Ould Salek's CMRN junta proved incapable of either establishing a strong base of power or extracting the country from its destabilizing conflict with the Sahrawi resistance movement, the Polisario Front. It quickly fell, to be replaced by another military government, the CMSN.

The energetic Colonel Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah soon emerged as its strongman. 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 Morocco, the other party to the conflict, and its European ally France deteriorated. Instability continued, and Haidallah's ambitious reform attempts foundered. His regime was plagued by attempted coups and intrigue within the military establishment. It became increasingly contested due to his harsh and uncompromising measures against opponents; many dissidents were jailed, and some executed. In 1981 slavery was formally abolished by law, making Mauritania the last country in the world to do so.

Ould Taya's rule (1984–2005)

In December 1984, Haidallah was deposed by Colonel Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, who, while retaining tight military control, relaxed the political climate. Ould Taya moderated Mauritania's previous pro-Algerian stance, and re-established ties with Morocco during the late 1980s. He deepened these ties during the late 1990s and early 2000s as part of Mauritania's drive to attract support from Western states and Western-aligned Arab states. Mauritania has not rescinded its recognition of Polisario's Western Saharan exile government, and remains on good terms with Algeria. Its position on the Western Sahara conflict is, since the 1980s, one of strict neutrality.

Ordinance 83.127, enacted 5 June 1983, started the process of nationalization of all land not clearly the property of a documented owner, thus abolishing the traditional system of land tenure. Potential nationalization was based on the concept of "dead land", [28] i.e., property which has not been developed or on which obvious development cannot be seen. A practical effect was government seizure of traditional communal grazing lands. [29] :42, 60

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. The Parti Républicain Démocratique et Social (PRDS), formerly led by President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, dominated Mauritanian politics after the country's first multi-party elections in April 1992, following the approval by referendum of the current constitution in July 1991. President Taya won elections in 1992 and 1997. Most opposition parties boycotted the first legislative election in 1992. For nearly a decade the parliament was dominated by the PRDS. The opposition participated in municipal elections in January–February 1994, and in subsequent Senate elections – most recently in April 2004 – and gained representation at the local level, as well as three seats in the Senate.

This period was marked by extensive ethnic violence and human rights abuses. Between 1990 and 1991, a campaign of particularly extreme violence took place against a background of Arabization, interference with blacks' association rights, expropriation and expatriation. [30]

Aerial view of Nouakchott. The population of Nouakchott has increased from 20,000 in 1969 to almost 1 million in 2013. Nouakchott 0518.JPG
Aerial view of Nouakchott. The population of Nouakchott has increased from 20,000 in 1969 to almost 1 million in 2013.

In October 1987, the government allegedly uncovered a tentative coup d'état by a group of black army officers, backed, according to the authorities, by Senegal. [31] Fifty-one officers were arrested and subjected to interrogation and torture. [32] Heightened ethnic tensions were the catalyst for the Mauritania–Senegal Border War, which started as a result of a conflict in Diawara between Moorish Mauritanian herders and Senegalese farmers over grazing rights. [33] On 9 April 1989, Mauritanian guards killed two Senegalese. [34]

Following the incident, several riots erupted in Bakel, Dakar and other towns in Senegal, directed against the mainly Arabized Mauritanians who dominated the local retail business. The rioting, adding to already existing tensions, led to a campaign of terror against black Mauritanians, [35] who are often seen as 'Senegalese' by Bidha'an, regardless of their nationality. As low scale conflict with Senegal continued into 1990/91, the Mauritanian government engaged in or encouraged acts of violence and seizures of property directed against the Halpularen ethnic group. The tension culminated in an international airlift agreed to by Senegal and Mauritania under international pressure to prevent further violence. The Mauritanian Government expelled tens of thousands of black Mauritanians. Most of these so-called 'Senegalese' had no ties to Senegal, and many have been repatriated from Senegal and Mali after 2007. [32] The exact number of expulsions is not known but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that, as of June 1991, 52,995 Mauritanian refugees were living in Senegal and at least 13,000 in Mali. [29] :27

From November 1990 to February 1991, between 200 and 600 (depending on the sources) Fula and Soninke soldiers and/or political prisoners were executed or tortured to death by Mauritanian government forces. They were among 3,000 to 5,000 blacks predominantly soldiers and civil servants arrested between October 1990 and mid-January 1991. [36] [37] Some Mauritanian exiles believe that the number was as high as 5,000 on the basis of alleged involvement in an attempt to overthrow the government. [38]

The government initiated a military investigation but never released the results. [38] In order to guarantee immunity for those responsible and to block any attempts at accountability for past abuses, the Parliament declared an amnesty [39] 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 compensation to families of victims, which a few accepted in lieu of settlement. [38] Despite this amnesty, some Mauritanians have denounced the involvement of the government in the arrests and killings. [29] :87

In the late 1980s, Ould Taya had established close co-operation with Iraq, and pursued a strongly Arab nationalist line. 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. It was rewarded with diplomatic normalization and aid projects. On 28 October 1999, Mauritania 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 anti-terrorism activities, a policy which was criticized by some human rights organizations. [40] [41] (See also Foreign relations of Mauritania.)

Road from Nouakchott to the Mauritanian-Senegalese border Road from Nouakchott to Mauritanian.jpg
Road from Nouakchott to the Mauritanian–Senegalese border

A group of current and former Army officers launched a violent and unsuccessful coup attempt on 8 June 2003. The leaders of the attempted coup escaped from the country, but some of them were caught, later on. Mauritania's presidential election, 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 (descended from former slaves) candidates, represented a wide variety of political goals and backgrounds. Incumbent President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya won reelection with 67.0% of the popular vote, according to the official figures, with Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla finishing second.

August 2005 military coup

On 3 August 2005, a military coup led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall ended Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya's twenty-one years of rule. Taking advantage of Taya's attendance at the funeral of Saudi King Fahd, the military, including members of the presidential guard, seized control of key points in the capital Nouakchott. The coup proceeded without loss of life. Calling themselves the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, the officers 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." [42]

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

Though cautiously watched by the international community, the coup came to be generally accepted, with the military junta organizing elections within a promised two-year timeline. In a referendum 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  it is one of only three Arab states to recognize Israel was maintained by the new regime, despite widespread criticism from the opposition. They considered that position 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 elections

Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.jpg
Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi

Mauritania's first fully democratic presidential elections took place on 11 March 2007. The elections effected the final transfer from military to civilian rule following the military coup in 2005. This was the first time since Mauritania gained independence in 1960 that it elected a president in a multi-candidate election. [43]

The elections were won in a second round of voting by Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, with Ahmed Ould Daddah a close second.

2008 military coup

On 6 August 2008, the head of the presidential guards took over the president's palace in Nouakchott, a day after 48 lawmakers from the ruling party resigned in protest of President Abdallahi's policies.[ which? ] The army surrounded key government facilities, including the state television building, after the president fired senior officers, one of them the head of the presidential guards. [44] The President, Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghef, and Mohamed Ould R'zeizim, Minister of Internal Affairs, were arrested.

The coup was co-ordinated by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, former chief of staff of the Mauritanian Army and head of the presidential guard, who had recently been fired. Mauritania's presidential spokesman, Abdoulaye Mamadouba, said the President, Prime Minister, and Interior Minister had been arrested by renegade Senior Mauritanian army officers and were being held under house arrest at the presidential palace in the capital. [45] [46] [47] In the apparently successful and bloodless coup, 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." [48] The coup plotters, all dismissed in a presidential decree shortly beforehand, included Abdel Aziz, General Muhammad Ould Al-Ghazwani, General Philippe Swikri, and Brigadier General (Aqid) Ahmad Ould Bakri. [49]

After the coup

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in his hometown, Akjoujt, on 15 March 2009 Mauritania-aziz-in-his-home-city-Akjoujt-15mar09 1.jpg
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in his hometown, Akjoujt, on 15 March 2009
2011-12 Mauritanian protests Nouakchott-Dispersion des manifestants-2011.jpg
2011–12 Mauritanian protests

A Mauritanian lawmaker, Mohammed Al Mukhtar, claimed that many of the country's people supported the takeover of a government that had become "an authoritarian regime" under a president who had "marginalized the majority in parliament." [50] The coup was also backed by Abdallahi's rival in the 2007 election, Ahmed Ould Daddah. However, Abdel Aziz's regime was isolated internationally, and became subject to 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 Abdallahi as the legitimate president of Mauritania. Domestically, a group of parties coalesced around Abdallahi to continue protesting the coup, which caused the junta to ban demonstrations and crack down on opposition activists. International and internal pressure eventually forced the release of Abdallahi, who was instead placed under 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." [51]

After the coup, Abdel Aziz insisted on holding new presidential elections to replace Abdallahi, but was forced to reschedule them due to internal and international opposition. During the spring of 2009, the junta negotiated an understanding with some opposition figures and international parties. As a result, Abdallahi 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 aligned with Abdel Aziz. The United States continued to criticize the coup, but did not actively oppose the elections.

Abdallahi's resignation allowed the election of Abdel Aziz as civilian president, on 18 July, by a 52% majority. Many of Abdallahi'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 complaints, the elections were almost unanimously accepted by Western, Arab and African countries, which lifted sanctions and resumed relations with Mauritania. By late summer, Abdel Aziz appeared to have secured his position and to have gained widespread international and internal support. Some figures, such as Senate chairman Messaoud Ould Boulkheir, continued to refuse the new order and call for Abdel Aziz's resignation.

In February 2011, the waves of the Arab Spring spread to Mauritania, where thousands of people took to the streets of the capital. [52]

In November 2014, Mauritania was invited as a non-member guest nation to the G20 summit in Brisbane.

Society

Demographics

A Moorish family in the Adrar Plateau. Adrar-Mother&daughter.JPG
A Moorish family in the Adrar Plateau.
Population [5]
YearMillion
19500.7
20002.7
20164.3

As of 2016, Mauritania had a population of approximately 4.3 million. The local population is divided into three main ethnic tiers: Bidhan or Moors, Haratin, and West Africans. The CIA World Factbook estimates 30% Bidhan, 40% Haratin, and 30% others. Local statistics bureau estimations indicates that the Bidhan represent around 53% of citizens. They speak Hassaniya Arabic and are primarily of Arab-Berber origin. The Haratin constitute roughly 34% of the population. They are descendants of former slaves and also speak Arabic. The remaining 13% of the population largely consists of various ethnic groups of West African descent. Among these are the Niger-Congo-speaking Halpulaar (Fulbe), Soninke, Bambara and Wolof. [2]

Religion

Mauritania Religions [2]
Islam
99.9%
Christianity
0.1%
Camel market in Nouakchott Nouakchott camel market2.jpg
Camel market in Nouakchott

Mauritania is nearly 100% Muslim, with most inhabitants adhering to the Sunni denomination. [2] The Sufi orders, the Tijaniyah and the Qadiriyyah, have great influence not only in the country, but in Morocco, Algeria, Senegal and other neighborhood countries as well. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nouakchott, founded in 1965, serves the 4,500 Catholics in Mauritania (mostly foreign residents from West Africa and Europe). There are extreme restrictions on freedom of religion and belief in Mauritania; it is one of thirteen countries in the world which punishes atheism by death. [53] On 27 April 2018, The National Assembly passed a law that makes the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of "blasphemous speech" and acts deemed "sacrilegious". The new law eliminates the possibility under article 306 of substituting prison terms for the death penalty for certain apostasy-related crimes if the offender promptly repents. The law also provides for a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 600,000 Ouguiyas (approximately EUR 13,804) for "offending public indecency and Islamic values" and for "breaching Allah’s prohibitions" or assisting in their breach. [54]

Languages

Arabic is the official and national language of Mauritania. The local spoken variety, known as Hassaniya, contains many Berber words and significantly differs from the Modern Standard Arabic that is used for official communication. Pulaar, Soninke and Wolof also serve as national languages. [2] French is widely used in the media and among educated classes. [55]

Health

Life expectancy at birth was 61.14 years (2011 estimate). [2] Per capita expenditure on health was 43 US$ (PPP) in 2004. [56] Public expenditure was 2% of the GDP in 2004 and private 0.9% of the GDP in 2004. [56] In the early 21st century, there were 11 physicians per 100,000 people. [56] Infant mortality is 60.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 estimate). [56]

The obesity rate among Mauritanian women is high, perhaps in part due to the traditional standards of beauty (in some regions in the country), in which obese women are considered beautiful while thin women are considered sickly. [57]

Education

Since 1999, all teaching in the first year of primary school is in Modern Standard Arabic; French is introduced in the second year, and is used to teach all scientific courses. [58] The use of English is increasing. [59]

Mauritania has the University of Nouakchott and other institutions of higher education, but the majority of highly educated Mauritanians have studied outside the country. Public expenditure on education was at 10.1% of 2000–2007 government expenditure. [56]

Urbanization

Administrative divisions

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 15 regions ( wilaya or régions).

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. These regions are subdivided into 44 departments (moughataa). The regions and capital district (in alphabetical order) and their capitals are:

Adrar RegionAssaba RegionBrakna RegionDakhlet Nouadhibou RegionGorgol RegionGuidimaka RegionHodh Ech Chargui RegionHodh El Gharbi RegionInchiri RegionNouakchottTagant RegionTiris Zemmour RegionTrarza RegionMauritania
Mauritania
RegionCapital#
Adrar Atar 1
Assaba Kiffa 2
Brakna Aleg 3
Dakhlet Nouadhibou Nouadhibou 4
Gorgol Kaédi 5
Guidimaka Sélibaby 6
Hodh Ech Chargui Néma 7
Hodh El Gharbi Ayoun el Atrous 8
Inchiri Akjoujt 9
Nouakchott-Nord Dar-Naim 10
Nouakchott-Ouest Tevragh-Zeina 10
Nouakchott-Sud Arafat 10
Tagant Tidjikdja 11
Tiris Zemmour Zouérat 12
Trarza Rosso 13

Geography

Topography of Mauritania Mauritania Topography.png
Topography of Mauritania

Mauritania is in the western region of the continent of Africa, is generally flat, its 1,030,700 square kilometres forming vast, arid plains broken by occasional ridges and clifflike outcroppings. [60] It borders the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara, Mali and Algeria. [60] It is considered part of both the Sahel and the Maghreb. A series of scarps face southwest, 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, reaching an elevation of 500 metres. [61] 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 is a prominent feature of the north-central region. Kediet ej Jill, near the city of Zouîrât, has an elevation of 1,000 metres and is the highest peak.

Approximately three-quarters of Mauritania is desert or semidesert. [62] As a result of extended, severe drought, the desert has been expanding since the mid-1960s. The plateaus gradually descend toward the northeast to the barren El Djouf, or "Empty Quarter," a vast region of large sand dunes that merges into the Sahara Desert. 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.

Belts of natural vegetation, corresponding to the rainfall pattern, extend from east to west and range from traces of tropical forest along the Sénégal River to brush and savanna in the southeast. Only sandy desert is found in the centre and north of the country.

Economy

Graphical depiction of Mauritania's product exports in 28 color-coded categories Mauritania treemap.png
Graphical depiction of Mauritania's product exports in 28 color-coded categories

Despite being rich in natural resources, Mauritania has a low GDP. [63] 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. [63] Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for almost 50% of total exports. Gold and copper mining companies are opening mines in the interior.

The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott 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-International Monetary Fund mission on a $54 million enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF). Privatization remains one of the key issues. Mauritania is unlikely to meet ESAF's annual GDP growth objectives of 4–5%.

Oil was discovered in Mauritania in 2001 in the offshore Chinguetti field. Although potentially significant for the Mauritanian economy, its overall influence is difficult to predict. 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." [64] There may be additional oil reserves inland in the Taoudeni basin, although the harsh environment will make extraction expensive. [65]

United Arab Emirates government, via its pilot green city Masdar, announced it will install new solar plants in the city of Atar which will supply an additional 16.6 megawatts of electricity. The plants will power about 39,000 homes and save 27,850 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. [66]

Human rights

Mauritanian blogger and political prisoner Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir.png
Mauritanian blogger and political prisoner Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir

The Abdallahi government was widely perceived as corrupt and restricted access to government information. Sexism, racism, female genital mutilation, child labour, human trafficking, and the political marginalization of largely southern-based ethnic groups continued to be problems. [67] Homosexuality is illegal and is a capital offense in Mauritania. [68]

Following the 2008 coup, the military government of Mauritania faced severe international sanctions and internal unrest. Amnesty International accused it of practicing coordinated torture against criminal and political detainees. [69] Amnesty has accused the Mauritanian legal system, both before and after the 2008 coup, of functioning with complete disregard for legal procedure, fair trial, or humane imprisonment. The organization has said that the Mauritanian government has practiced institutionalized and continuous use of torture throughout its post-independence history, under all its leaders. [70] [71] [72]

According to the US State Department 2010 Human Rights Report, [73] abuses in Mauritania include:

...mistreatment of detainees and prisoners; security force impunity; lengthy pretrial detention; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; limits on freedom of the press and assembly; corruption; discrimination against women; female genital mutilation (FGM); child marriage; political marginalization of southern-based ethnic groups; racial and ethnic discrimination; slavery and slavery-related practices; and child labor.

Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir was sentenced to death after he wrote an article critical of religion and the caste system in Mauritania. He is a designated prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. [74]

Modern slavery

Slavery persists in Mauritania. [75] In 1905, the French colonial administration declared an end of slavery in Mauritania, with very little success. [76] Although nominally abolished in 1981, it was not illegal to own slaves until 2007.

The US State Department 2010 Human Rights Report states, "Government efforts were not sufficient to enforce the antislavery law. No cases have been successfully prosecuted under the antislavery law despite the fact that de facto slavery exists in Mauritania." [73]

Only one person, Oumoulmoumnine Mint Bakar Vall, has been prosecuted for owning slaves and she was sentenced to six months in jail in January 2011. [77] In 2012, it was estimated that 10% to 20% of the population of Mauritania (between 340,000 and 680,000 people) live in slavery. [78]

In 2012, a government minister stated that slavery "no longer exists" in Mauritania. [79] According to the Walk Free Foundation's Global Slavery Index, there were an estimated 90,000 enslaved people in Mauritania in 2018 or around 2% of the population. [80]

Obstacles to ending slavery in Mauritania include:

Culture

Qur'an collection in a library in Chinguetti Chinguetti-biblio.jpg
Qur'an collection in a library in Chinguetti

Filming for several documentaries and films has taken place in Mauritania, including Fort Saganne (1984), The Fifth Element (1997), Winged Migration (2001), and Timbuktu (2014).

See also

Related Research Articles

The original inhabitants of Mauritania were the Bafour, presumably a Mande ethnic group, connected to the contemporary Arabized minor social group of Imraguen ("fishermen") on the Atlantic coast.

Politics of Mauritania

The first fully democratic Presidential election since 1960 occurred on 11 March 2007. The election was the final transfer from military to civilian rule following the military coup in 2005. This was the first time the president was selected by ballot in the country's history. The election was won by Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who was ousted by a military coup in 2008 and replaced by general Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Armed Forces of Mauritania

The Armed Forces of Mauritania is the defence force of Mauritania, having an army, navy, air force, gendarmerie, and presidential guard. Other services include the national guard and national police, though they both are subordinated to the Ministry of the Interior. As of 2010, the Mauritanian armed forces budget was 5.5% of the country's GDP.

Maaouya Ould SidAhmed Taya Prime Minister and President of Mauritania

Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya is a Mauritanian military officer who served as the president of Mauritania from 1984 to 2005. Having come to power through a military coup, he was ousted by a military coup himself in 2005. Prior to his presidency, he was the 5th Prime Minister of Mauritania.

Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla Mauritanian military person

Ret. Col. Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah was the head of state of Mauritania from 4 January 1980 to 12 December 1984. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2003 presidential election and the 2007 presidential election.

Ely Ould Mohamed Vall Mauritanian President

Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall was a Mauritanian political and military figure. Following a coup d'état in August 2005, he served as the transitional military leader of Mauritania until 19 April 2007, when he relinquished power to an elected government.

Military Council for Justice and Democracy

The Military Council for Justice and Democracy was the supreme political body of Mauritania. It served as the country's interim government following the coup d'état which ousted the President, Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya on 3 August 2005. It was led by the former director of the national police force, Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall. After seizing power it quickly pledged to hold elections within two years, and promised that none of its own members would run. A few days after seizing power, Vall named Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar as Prime Minister following the resignation of Taya's last Prime Minister, Sghair Ould M'Bareck.

2007 Mauritanian presidential election

A Mauritanian presidential election occurred on 11 March 2007. Since no candidate received a majority of the votes, a second round was held on 25 March between the top two candidates, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and Ahmed Ould Daddah. Abdallahi won the second round with about 53% of the vote and took office in April.

2005 Mauritanian coup détat

The 2005 Mauritanian coup d'état took place on 3 August 2005. The long-serving dictator Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya was ousted by the Armed Forces of Mauritania and replaced by the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, headed by Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, while Taya was in Saudi Arabia attending the funeral of King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. A constitutional referendum, parliamentary and presidential elections were scheduled and the coup leaders vowed not to contest any of the elections. The military government ended with the presidential election on 11 March 2007.

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. He is currently the President of the Rally of Democratic Forces (RFD) and was designated as the official leader of the opposition following the 2007 presidential election, in which he placed second.

Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi President of Mauritania

Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is a Mauritanian politician who was President of Mauritania from 2007 to 2008. 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. He was deposed in a military coup d'état on August 6, 2008.

Zeine Ould Zeidane is a Mauritanian economist and politician. He placed third as a candidate in the March 2007 presidential election, and he subsequently served as Prime Minister from April 2007 to May 2008.

Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef Prime Minister of Mauritania

Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef is a Mauritanian politician. He was appointed as Prime Minister of Mauritania on 6 May 2008, serving until the August 2008 coup d'état. Waghef is also President of the National Pact for Democracy and Development (ADIL), and he was Secretary-General of the Presidency from 2007 to 2008.

Mohamed Lemine Ould Guig is a Mauritanian academic and political figure. He was the 8th Prime Minister of Mauritania from December 18, 1997 to November 16, 1998. Guig was never a member of any political party. Guig was the Prime Minister between stints by Cheikh El Avia Ould Mohamed Khouna.

2008 Mauritanian coup détat

A coup d'état took place in Mauritania on August 6, 2008, when Mauritanian President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was ousted from power by a group of high-ranking generals he had dismissed from office earlier that day.

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz Mauritanian leader

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz is a Mauritanian politician who is currently the President of Mauritania, in office since 2009. A career soldier and high-ranking officer, he was a leading figure in the August 2005 coup that deposed President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, and in August 2008 he led another coup, which toppled President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. Following the 2008 coup, Abdel Aziz became President of the High Council of State as part of what was described as a political transition leading to a new election. He resigned from that post in April 2009 in order to stand as a candidate in the July 2009 presidential election, which he won. He was sworn in on 5 August 2009.

2009 Mauritanian presidential election

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. A second round, if necessary, would have been held on 1 August 2009.

Ba Mamadou Mbaré Mauritanian politician

Ba Mamadou dit Mbaré was a Mauritanian politician who served as President of the Senate of Mauritania from 2006 until his death. As President of the Senate, he succeeded Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz as Head of State on 15 April 2009, when Abdel Aziz resigned to take part in the June 2009 presidential election. Abdel Aziz was then elected President and in turn succeeded Mbaré on 5 August 2009.

2014 Mauritanian presidential election

Presidential elections were held in Mauritania on 21 June 2014, with a second round planned for 5 July if no candidate received more than 50% of the vote. The result was a first round victory for incumbent President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of the Union for the Republic, who received 82% of the vote. Most of the opposition parties boycotted the election.

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Further reading