Coordinates : 20°N 12°W / 20°N 12°W / 20; -12
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
National anthem of Mauritania "_
Mauritania (green) in
and largest city
18°09′N 15°58′W / 18.150°N 15.967°W / 18.150;
RECOGNISED NATIONAL LANGUAGES
* Wolof a
Unitary semi-presidential republic b
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
• PRIME MINISTER
Yahya Ould Hademine
• LOWER HOUSE
• FROM FRANCE
28 November 1960
• CURRENT CONSTITUTION OF MAURITANIA
12 July 1991
1,030,000 km2 (400,000 sq mi) (28th )
• WATER (%)
• 2015 ESTIMATE
• 2013 CENSUS
3.4/km2 (8.8/sq mi)
GDP (PPP )
$17.421 billion (134th )
• PER CAPITA
$4,488 (140th )
$5.063 billion (154th )
• PER CAPITA
$1,304 (149th )
low · 157th
Ouguiya (MRO )
GMT (UTC +0)
DRIVES ON THE
ISO 3166 CODE
* According to Article 6 of the Constitution: "The national
languages are Arabic, Pulaar , Soninke , and Wolof ; the official
language is Arabic."
* Not recognized internationally (see main article).
MAURITANIA (/mɔːrɪˈteɪniə/ (_ listen ); Arabic :
موريتانيا Mūrītānyā_; Berber : Muritanya or Agawej;
Wolof : _Gànnaar_; Soninke : _Murutaane_; Pulaar : _Moritani_; French
: _Mauritanie_), officially the ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF MAURITANIA, is an
Arab country in the
Maghreb region of western Africa. It is the
eleventh largest country in
Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic
Ocean to the west,
Western Sahara in the north,
Algeria in the
Mali in the east and southeast, and
Senegal in the
The country derives its name from the ancient Berber kingdom of
Mauretania , which existed from the 3rd century BC to the 7th century
in the far north of modern-day
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 3.5 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.
About 20% of Mauritanians live on less than US$1.25 per day.
Mauritania suffers from several human rights issues, including
slavery , as at least 4% of the population (155,600 people) are
enslaved against their will.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Ancient history
* 1.2 Colonial history and present day
* 1.3 Issue of
* 1.4 Ould Daddah era (1960–1978)
CMRN and CMSN military governments (1978–1984)
* 2 Politics and recent history
* 2.1 Ould Taya\'s rule (1984–2005)
* 2.2 August 2005 military coup
* 2.3 2007 presidential elections
* 2.4 2008 military coup
* 2.5 After the coup
* 3 Society
* 3.1 Demographics
* 3.2 Religion
* 3.3 Languages
* 3.4 Health
* 3.5 Education
* 3.6 Urbanization
* 4 Administrative divisions
* 5 Geography
* 6 Economy
* 7 Human rights
* 7.1 Discrimination against black population
* 8 Culture
* 9 See also
* 10 Notes
* 11 References
* 12 Further reading
* 13 External links
History of Mauritania
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. 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
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 .
Over the next 500 years, Arabs overcame fierce resistance from the
local population (Berber and non-Berber alike) to dominate Mauritania.
The Dutch trading post of
Arguin in 1665
Char Bouba war (1644–74) was the unsuccessful final effort of
the peoples to repel the Yemeni
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
Arabic dialect that derives its name from the Beni
Hassan, became the dominant language among the largely nomadic
Berbers retained a niche influence by producing the majority of the
region's marabouts : those who preserve and teach Islamic tradition.
COLONIAL HISTORY AND PRESENT DAY
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France 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
Zawiya tribes, and military pressure on the
Hassane warrior nomads, he
managed to extend French rule over the Mauritanian emirates . Trarza ,
Brakna and Tagant quickly submitted to treaties with the colonial
power (1903–04), but the northern emirate of Adrar held out longer,
aided by the anti-colonial rebellion (or jihad ) of shaykh Maa
al-Aynayn . 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
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, 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.
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
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 of the Arabized north. This changed the former balance of
power, and new conflicts arose between the southern populations and
Moors. Between these groups stood the
Haratin , a very large
population of Arabized slaves of sub-Saharan African origins, who
lived within the
Arab society, integrated into a low-caste social
Modern-day slavery is still a common practice in Mauritania.
According to some estimates, up to 600,000 Mauritanians, or 20% of the
population, are still enslaved. A 2012
CNN report, "Slavery's Last
Stronghold," by John D. Sutter, describes and documents the ongoing
slave-owning cultures. This social discrimination is applied chiefly
against the "black Moors" (Haratin) in the northern part of the
country, where tribal elites among "white Moors" (_Beydan_,
Hassaniya-speaking Arabs and Arabized
Berbers ) hold sway. Low-caste
groups within the sub-Saharan African ethnic groups of the south are
also sometimes enslaved.
Nouakchott is the capital and the
largest city of Mauritania. It is one of the largest cities in the
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 language. Various models for maintaining the country's
cultural diversity have been suggested, but none were successfully
This ethnic discord was evident during inter-communal violence that
broke out in April 1989 (the "1989 Events " and "Mauritania–Senegal
Border War "), but has since subsided.
Mauritania expelled some 70,000
sub-Saharan African Mauritanians in the late 1980s. 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,
ISSUE OF WESTERN SAHARA
International Court of Justice
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 effect
the application of the UN General Assembly Declaration on the Granting
Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples to
Western Sahara .
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 to the
Polisario – heavily armed and supported by Algeria,
the regional power and rival to
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
Republic , or to be part
OULD DADDAH ERA (1960–1978)
Mauritania became an independent nation in November 1960. In 1964
Moktar Ould Daddah , originally installed by the French,
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.
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 legally abolished,
Mauritania the last country in the world to do so.
POLITICS AND RECENT HISTORY
Politics of Mauritania
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
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",
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. :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
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, expatriation and
slavery. The slaves were mostly black.
In October 1987, the government allegedly uncovered a tentative coup
d\'état by a group of black army officers, backed, according to the
Senegal . Fifty-one officers were arrested and
subjected to interrogation and torture. 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. On 9
April 1989, Mauritanian guards killed two Senegalese.
Following the incident, several riots erupted in Bakel ,
other towns in Senegal, directed against the mainly Arabized
Mauritanians who dominated the local retail business. The rioting,
added to already existing tensions, led to a campaign within the
country of terror against black Mauritanians, who are often seen as
'Senegalese' by Beidanes, regardless of their nationality. As conflict
Senegal continued into 1990/91, the Mauritanian government
engaged in or encouraged acts of violence and seizures of property
directed against blacks. The war culminated in an international
airlift agreed to by
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 still reside
in refugee camps in
Mali and Senegal. 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. :27
From November 1990 to February 1991, between 500 and 600 Fula and
Soninke 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. 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.
The government initiated a military investigation but never released
the results. In order to guarantee immunity for those responsible and
to block any attempts at accountability for past abuses, the
Parliament declared an amnesty 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.
Despite this amnesty, some Mauritanians have denounced the involvement
of the government in the arrests and killings. :87
In the late 1980s, Ould Taya had established close co-operation with
Iraq , and pursued a strongly
Arab nationalist line.
increasingly isolated internationally, and tensions with Western
countries grew dramatically after it took a pro-Iraqi position during
1991 Gulf War . During the mid-to late 1990s,
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. (See also
Foreign relations of Mauritania .)
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 were never caught. 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 67.02% 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."
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
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
Parliamentary and municipal elections in
Mauritania took place on 19
November and 3 December 2006.
2007 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
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.
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
Main article: 2008 Mauritanian coup d\'état
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.
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. The President, Prime
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. 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." 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.
AFTER THE COUP
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in his hometown,
Akjoujt , on 15 March
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." 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."
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
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,
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
In February 2011, the waves of the
Arab Spring spread to
where thousands of people took to the streets of the capital.
In November 2014,
Mauritania was invited as a non-member guest nation
to the G20 summit in Brisbane.
Demographics of Mauritania A Moorish family in
Adrar Plateau .
As of 2013 ,
Mauritania has a population of approximately 3,537,368
inhabitants. The local population is divided into three main ethnic
tiers: Bidhan ,
Haratin , and West Africans . The Bidhan or Moors
represent around 30% of residents. They speak
Hassaniya Arabic and are
Arab-Berber origin. The
Haratin constitute roughly 40% of
the population. They are descendants of former slaves, and also speak
Arabic. The remaining 30% of the population largely consists of
various ethnic groups of West African descent. Among these are the
Niger-Congo -speaking Halpulaar (Fulbe), Soninke , Bamara and Wolof .
Religion in Mauritania Camel market in
Mauritania is nearly 100% Muslim, with most inhabitants adhering to
the Sunni denomination. The minority Sufi brotherhood, the Tijaniyah
, has had great influence not only in the country, but in
Morocco as well. The Roman Catholic Diocese of
Nouakchott , founded in
1965, serves the 4,500 Catholics in Mauritania. 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
The predominant spoken languages in
Mauritania are Pulaar , Soninke ,
Hassaniya Arabic , Wolof , Bambara and French (widely used in the
media and among educated classes, see
African French ). Modern
Standard Arabic is the official language.
Health in Mauritania
Life expectancy 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 considered sickly.
Education in Mauritania
Since 1999, all teaching in the first year of primary school is in
Literary Arabic ; French is introduced in the second year, and is used
to teach all scientific courses. The use of English is increasing.
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.
Largest cities or towns in Mauritania
Hodh Ech Chargui
Hodh El Gharbi
Regions of Mauritania and
Departments of Mauritania
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:
Hodh Ech Chargui
Hodh El Gharbi
Ayoun el Atrous
Geography of Mauritania Mountains in the
Adrar region. Desert scenes are characteristic of the Mauritanian
Bareina , a village in southwestern
At 1,030,000 square kilometres (397,685 sq mi), 90% of which is
Mauritania is the world's 29th-largest country (after Bolivia
). It is comparable in size to
Egypt . It lies mostly between
latitudes 14° and 26°N , and longitudes 5° and 17°W (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 , reaching an elevation of 500
meters (1,640 ft). Spring-fed oases lie at the foot of some of the
Isolated peaks, often rich in minerals, rise above the plateaus; the
smaller peaks are called guelbs and the larger ones kedias. The
Guelb er Richat (also known as the Richat Structure) is a
prominent feature of the north-central region.
Kediet ej Jill , near
the city of
Zouîrât , has an elevation of 915 meters (3,002 ft) and
is the highest peak.
Approximately three quarters of
Mauritania is desert or semi-desert.
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
Economy of Mauritania and
Transport in Mauritania
Graphical depiction of Mauritania's product exports in 28 color-coded
Despite being rich in natural resources,
Mauritania has a low GDP. 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
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). 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 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." There may be additional oil reserves inland in the
Taoudeni basin , although the harsh environment will make extraction
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.
Human rights in Mauritania
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. Homosexuality is illegal and is a capital
offense in Mauritania.
Following the 2008 coup, the military government of
severe international sanctions and internal unrest. Amnesty
International accused it of practicing coordinated torture against
criminal and political detainees. 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
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST BLACK POPULATION
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Since independence, critics have said that Mauritania's society has
been characterised by discrimination against black populations, mainly
Fula and Soninké. These ethnic groups have been seen to contest the
political, economic, and social dominance of
Moors . Mauritanian
blacks allegedly face discrimination in employment in the civil
service, the administration of justice before regular and religious
courts, access to loans and credits from banks and state-owned
enterprise, and opportunities for education and vocational training.
Armed groups such as the now-exiled
FLAM have carried out low-level
rebellions in the southern part of
Mauritania because of these
continuing discriminatory practices.
Slavery in Mauritania
Still today, masters lend their slaves' labor to other individuals,
female slaves are sexually exploited and children are made to work and
rarely receive an education. Slavery particularly affects women and
children, who are the most vulnerable among the vulnerable. Women of
child-bearing age have a harder time emancipating because they are
producers of slave labor and perceived as extremely valuable. ”
— From U.S. Dept. of State report on _Slavery in Mauritania,_
Slavery persists in Mauritania. In 1905, the French colonial
administration declared an end of slavery in Mauritania, with very
little success. Although nominally abolished in 1981, it was not
illegal to own slaves until 2007. According to the US State Department
_2010 Human Rights Report_, abuses in
...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.
The report continues: "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."
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. In 2012, it was estimated that 10% to 20% of the
Mauritania (between 340,000 and 680,000 people) live in
According to the Global Slavery Index 2014 compiled by Walk Free
Foundation , there are an estimated 155,600 enslaved people in
Mauritania, ranking it 31st of 167 countries by absolute number of
slaves, and 1st by prevalence, with 4% of the population. The
Government ranks 121 of 167 on its response to combating all forms of
modern slavery .
The government of
Mauritania denies that slavery continues in the
country. In an interview, the Mauritanian Minister of rural
development, Brahim Ould M\'Bareck Ould Med El Moctar , responded to
accusations of human rights abuse by stating:
I must tell you that in Mauritania, freedom is total: freedom of
thought, equality – of all men and women of Mauritania... in all
cases, especially with this government, this is in the past. There are
probably former relationships – slavery relationships and familial
relationships from old days and of the older generations, maybe, or
descendants who wish to continue to be in relationships with
descendants of their old masters, for familial reasons, or out of
affinity, and maybe also for economic interests. But (slavery) is
something that is totally finished. All people are free in Mauritania
and this phenomenon no longer exists. And I believe that I can tell
you that no one profits from this commerce.
Obstacles to ending slavery in
* The difficulty of enforcing any laws in the country's vast desert
* Poverty that limits opportunities for slaves to support themselves
* Belief that slavery is part of the natural order of this society.
In November 2016, an appeals court in
Mauritania overturned the jail
convictions of three anti-slavery activists and reduced the sentences
of 10 others for their alleged role in a riot in June, Amnesty
International said. Another court had originally sentenced the 15
human rights activists and members of the Resurgence of the
Abolitionist Movement (IRA) to 15 years in prison.
Qur\'an collection in a library in
Chinguetti See also:
Mauritanian cuisine ,
Music of Mauritania ,
Sport in Mauritania ,
Islam in Mauritania , and
Status of religious freedom in Mauritania
Filming for several documentaries and films has taken place in
Mauritania, including _
Fort Saganne _ (1984), _
The Fifth Element
The Fifth Element _
(1997), _The Books Under the Sand _ (1997), _Life without Death _
Winged Migration _ (2001), _Heremakono _ (2002), and
_Timbuktu _ (2014).
Index of Mauritania-related articles
Outline of Mauritania
* ^ "États généraux de l\'Éducation nationale en Mauritanie".
_Le Quotidien de Nouakchott_. 13 November 2011.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ "1: Répartition spatiale de la population"
(PDF). Recensement Général de la Population et de l’Habitat (RGPH)
2013 (Report) (in French). National Statistical Office of Mauritania.
July 2015. p. v. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
File POP/1-1: Total population (both sexes combined) by major
area, region and country, annually for 1950–2100 (thousands). _World
Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision_ (Report). United Nations,
Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. July
2015. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ "Mauritania". International Monetary Fund.
* ^ "Gini Index". World Bank. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
* ^ "2016 Human Development Report" (PDF). United Nations
Development Programme. 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
* ^ _Encyclopedia of the Peoples of
Africa and the Middle East_.
Facts On File, Inc. 2009. p. 448. ISBN 143812676X . The Islamic
Republic of Mauritania, situated in western North
* ^ Seddon, David (2004). _A Political and Economic Dictionary of
the Middle East_. We have, by contrast, chosen to include the
predominantly Arabic-speaking countries of western North
Mauritania (which is a member of the
* ^ Branine, Mohamed (2011). _Managing Across Cultures: Concepts,
Policies and Practices_. p. 437. The Magrebian countries or the Arab
countries of western North
Africa (Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco
* ^ "Coup Leader Wins Election Amid Outcry in Mauritania". _The New
York Times _. Nouakchott, Mauritania.
Associated Press (AP). 19 July
2009. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
* ^ "UNDP: Human development indices – Table 3: Human and income
poverty (Population living below national poverty line (2000–07))"
(PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 January 2012. Retrieved
4 July 2010.
* ^ Gould, Wendy Rose (18 January 2011). "Female Genital Mutilation
Banned By Islamic Leaders in Mauritania". news.yahoo.com. Archived
from the original on 22 January 2011.
* ^ Muzaffar Husain Syed; Syed Saud Akhtar; B D Usmani (2011).
_Concise History of Islam_. Vij Books India.
* ^ Chaabani, H.; Sanchez-Mazas, A.; Sallami SF (2000). "Genetic
differentiation of Yemeni people according to rhesus and Gm
polymorphisms". _Annales de Génétique_. 43 (3–4): 155–62. PMID
11164198 . doi :10.1016/S0003-3995(00)01023-6 .
* ^ "Mauritania: History". _www.infoplease.com_. Retrieved
* ^ Pazzanita, Anthony G. (2008). _Historical Dictionary of
Mauritania_. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6265-4 .
* ^ "Mauritanian MPs pass slavery law", BBC News. 9 August 2007.
* ^ Yasser, Abdel Nasser Ould (2008). Sage, Jesse; Kasten, Liora,
eds. _Enslaved: True Stories of Modern Day Slavery_. Macmillan. ISBN
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ "Mauritania", _Country Report on Human Rights
Practices, 1993_, Department of State, 30 January 1994
* ^ Lindstrom, Channe (October–November 2002). "Report on the
Situation of Refugees in Mauritania: Findings of a three week
exploratory study" (PDF). American University of Cairo. p. 21.
* ^ "Crackdown courts U.S. approval". CNN. 24 November 2003.
Archived from the original on 7 April 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2008.
* ^ "MAURITANIA: New wave of arrests presented as crackdown on
Islamic extremists". IRIN Africa. 12 May 2005. Retrieved 6 August
* ^ "
Mauritania officers \'seize power\'". BBC News. 4 August 2005.
Retrieved 6 August 2008.
* ^ "
Mauritania vote \'free and fair\'". BBC News. 12 March 2007.
Retrieved 6 August 2008.
* ^ "48 lawmakers resign from ruling party in Mauritania". _Tehran
Times _. 6 August 2008. Archived from the original on 6 December 2008.
* ^ "Coup in
Mauritania as president, PM arrested". Google. AFP. 6
August 2008. Archived from the original on 9 August 2008. Retrieved 4
* ^ "Troops stage \'coup\' in Mauritania". BBC News. 6 August 2008.
Retrieved 4 July 2010.
* ^ "Coup under way in Mauritania: president\'s office". Archived
from the original on 12 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-06. .
* ^ McElroy, Damien (6 August 2008). "
Mauritania president under
house arrest as army stages coup". _The Daily Telegraph_. UK.
Retrieved 4 July 2010.
* ^ Vinsinfo. "themedialine.org, Generals Seize Power in
Mauritanian Coup". Themedialine.org. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
* ^ Mohamed, Ahmed. "Renegade army officers stage coup in
Mauritania". Archived from the original on 19 August 2008. Retrieved
2008-08-06. . ap.google.com (6 August 2008)
* ^ "
Mauritania Affirms Break with Israel". Voice of America News.
21 March 2010. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
* ^ Adams, Richard (25 February 2011). "Libya\'s turmoil". _The
* ^ "
The World Factbook –
Africa – Mauritania". CIA. Retrieved
21 October 2016.
* ^ _A_ _B_ "CIA –
The World Factbook – Mauritania". Retrieved
7 November 2010.
* ^ Evans, Robert (9 December 2012). "Atheists around world suffer
persecution, discrimination: report". _Reuters_. Retrieved 7 January
* ^ "People-in-Country Profile, _"Serer of Mauritania"_ – Joshua
project". Retrieved 25 March 2012.
* ^ "Mauritania: Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved 27 February
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ "Human Development Report 2009 –
Mauritania". Hdrstats.undp.org. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
* ^ "
Mauritania struggles with love of fat women". MSNBC. 16 April
2007. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
* ^ "Education system in Mauritania". Bibl.u-szeged.hu. Retrieved 4
Mauritania junta promises free elections. thestar.com (7 August
* ^ "Taoudeni Basin Overview". Baraka Petroleum. Archived from the
original on 24 February 2009. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
* ^ "UAE installs eight solar energy plants in Mauritania".
* ^ Mauritania. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007,
US State Department, 11 March 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
* ^ "LGBT relationships are illegal in 74 countries, research
finds". _The Independent_. 17 May 2016.
* ^ \'Prisoner torture rising\' in Mauritania, SAPA/AP, 3 December
* ^ Mauritania: Prisoner Confessions Extracted Through Torture Says
Amnesty International, IRIN: 3 December 2008
* ^ Sillah, Ebrimah. Mauritania: \'Chains Are Jewellery for Men\',
Inter Press Service, 3 December 2008.
* ^ Mauritania: Torture at the heart of the state. Amnesty
International. 3 December 2008. Index Number: AFR 38/009/2008.
* ^ "Slavery in Mauritania: an overview and action plan", United
States Embassy in Nouakchott, 3 November 2009.
* ^ John D. Sutter (March 2012). "Slavery\'s Last Stronghold". CNN.
Retrieved 25 June 2017.
* ^ 2010 Human Rights Report: Mauritania. State.gov (8 April 2011).
Retrieved 20 March 2012.
* ^ "
Mauritania woman gets six months in jail for slavery".
bbc.co.uk. 17 January 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Slavery\'s last stronghold. CNN.com (16 March
2012). Retrieved 20 March 2012.
* ^ Global Slavery Index 2014 http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/.
Walk Free Foundation , p 3 Retrieved 5 November 2014.
* ^ "Mauritanian minister responds to accusations that slavery is
rampant". _CNN_. 17 March 2012.
* ^ "
Mauritania court frees 10 anti-slavery activists – Amnesty".
* US State Department
* Encyclopædia Britannica,
Mauritania – Country Page
* Foster, Noel (2010). _Mauritania: The Struggle for Democracy_.
Lynne Rienner Publishers. ISBN 978-1935049302 .
* Hudson, Peter (1991). _Travels in Mauritania_. Flamingo. ISBN
* Murphy, Joseph E (1998). _
Mauritania in Photographs_. Crossgar
Press. ISBN 978-1892277046 .
* "Slavery’s last stronghold". CNN. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
* Pazzanita, Anthony G (2008). _Historical Dictionary of
Mauritania_. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810855960 .
* Ruf, Urs (2001). _Ending Slavery: Hierarchy, Dependency and Gender
in Central Mauritania_. Transcript Verlag. ISBN 978-3933127495 .
* Sene, Sidi (2011). _The Ignored Cries of Pain and Injustice from
Mauritania_. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 978-1426971617 .
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