Independent fromFrance in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the formerSpanish Sahara (nowWestern Sahara) in 1976, but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution approved in 1991. Two multiparty presidential elections since then were widely seen as flawed, but October 2001 legislative and municipal elections were generally free and open. Mauritania remains, in reality, a one-party state. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions between its black minority population and the dominant Maur (Arab-Berber) populace.
Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara Geographic coordinates:
20 00 N, 12 00 WArea:
total: 1,030,700 sq Km; land: 1,030,400 sq km; water: 300 sq km Coastline:
desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty
2,828,858 (July 2002 est.) Population growth rate:
2.92% (2002 est.)Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
noun: Mauritanian(s); adjective: MauritanianEthnic groups:
mixed Maur/black 40%, Maur 30%, black 30%
Hassaniya Arabic (official), Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof (official), French
Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though most of the nomads and many subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for half of total exports. The decline in world demand for this ore, however, has led to cutbacks in production. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. In the past, drought and economic mismanagement resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In February, 2000,Mauritania qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and in December 2001 received strong support from donor and lending countries at a triennial Consultative Group review. Mauritania withdrew its membership in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2000 and subsequently increased commercial ties with Arab Maghreb Union members Morocco and Tunisia, most notably in telecommunications. In 2001, exploratory oil wells in tracts 80 km offshore indicated potential viable extraction at current world oil prices. However, the refinery in Nouadhibou historically has not exceeded 20% of its distillation capacity, and it handled no crude in the year 2000. A new Investment Code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment. Industries:
fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum
COMMUNICATIONS Telephones main lines in use:
26,500 (2001) Telephones - mobile cellular:
35,000 (2001)Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 14, shortwave 1 (2001)Radios:
410,000 (2001) Television broadcast stations:
1 (2002) Televisions:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
5 (2001)Internet users:
standard gauge: 704 km 1.435-m gaugeHighways:
total: 7,720 km ;paved: 830 km ;unpaved: 6,890 km (2000)Waterways:
note: ferry traffic on the Senegal River
Conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
conventional short form: Mauritania
local short form: Muritaniyah
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah Government type:
Nouakchott Administrative divisions:
12 regions (regions, singular - region) and 1 capital district*; Adrar, Assaba, Brakna, Dakhlet Nouadhibou, Gorgol, Guidimaka, Hodh Ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Inchiri, Nouakchott*, Tagant, Tiris Zemmour, Trarza Constitution:
12 July 1991Legal system:
a combination of Shari'a (Islamic law) and French civil lawExecutive branch:
chief of state: President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA (since 12 December 1984);head of government: Prime Minister Cheikh El Avia Ould Mohamed KHOUNA (since 17 November 1998);cabinet: Council of Ministers;elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; election last held 12 December 1997 (next to be held NA December 2003); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA reelected with 90.9% of the voteJudicial branch
: Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower courtsPolitical parties and leaders:
Alliance for Democracy or ADEMA [Diounconda Traore Action for Change or AC [Messoud Ould BOULKHEIR]; Alliance for Justice and Democracy or AJD [Kebe ABDOULAYE]; Democratic and Social Republican Party or PRDS (ruling party) [President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA]; Mauritanian Party for Renewal and Concorde or PMRC [Molaye El Hassen Ould JIYID]; National Union for Democracy and Development or UNDD [Tidjane KOITA]; Party for Liberty, Equality and Justice or PLEJ [Daouda M'BAGNIGA]; Popular Front or FP [Ch'bih Ould CHEIKH MALAININE]; Popular Progress Alliance or APP [Mohamed El Hafed Ould ISMAEL]; Popular Social and Democratic Union or UPSD [Mohamed Mahmoud Ould MAH]; Progress Force Union or UFP [Mohamed Ould MAOULOUD]; Rally of Democratic Forces or RFD [Ahmed Ould DADDAH]; Rally for Democracy and Unity or RDU [Ahmed Ould SIDI BABA]; Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]
note: the Action for Change party was banned in January 2002; parties legalized by constitution ratified 12 July 1991, however, politics continue to be tribally based
The early history of the west Saharan
region is largely unknown. There are some written accounts by medieval Arab traders and explorers who reached the important caravan trading centers and Sudanic kingdoms of eastern Mauritania, but the major sources of pre-European history are oral history, legends, and archaeological evidence. These sources indicate that during the millennia preceding the Christian era, theSahara was a more habitable region than it is today and supported a flourishing culture. In the area that is nowMauritania, the Bafour, a proto-Berber people, whose descendants may be the coastal Imraguen fishermen, were hunters, pastoralists, and fishermen. Valley cultivators, who may have been black ancestors of the riverine Toucouleur and Wolof peoples, lived alongside the Bafour. Climatic changes, and perhaps overgrazing and overcultivation as well, led to a gradual desiccation of the Sahara and the southward movement of these peoples.
Islam began spreading throughout the region at this time also. One group, the Almoravids, gained control over the Berbers and established a capital inMarrakesh from where they ruled all of north-west Africa as well as southern Spain. In 1076 they pushed southwards and, with the assistance of Mauritanian Berbers, destroyed the Empire of Ghana. Islam then spread more quickly and freely than before. So vast was the new empire that it effectively split in two with one centre in Morocco and the other ruled by the Berbers of Mauritania. This southern Empire was defeated by the Arabs in 1674; the mix of cultures gave rise to the Moors, and to their stratified caste system.
THE FRENCH INFLUENCE STARTS
French, English and Dutch traders install themselves in Mauritania. They all fight for control over the gum trade, while the Portuguese were losing their influence. For France, soon the slave trade also became very important. For the Mauritanians the slave trade soon developed into a very important source of income, as they sold black slaves to the French in exchange for firearms, cloth and sugar.1727:
The Dutch traders pull out of Mauritania.18th century:
Mauritania gets divided into several emirates, Trarza, Brakna, Adrar and Tagant, which all were isolated from each other.19th century:
Civil war breaks out between the emirates, with France playing an important part in strengthening tensions.1814:
With the Treaty of Paris, France gets territorial rights over Mauritania – this was an agreement with other European states, nobody asked the Mauritanians.1820:
Official end of commercial slavery.1857:
In an agreement between France and Britain, British traders pull out, and install themselves in Gambia. This leaves Mauritania in the hands of the French.1860's:
The French governor Louis Faidherbe creates the first comprehensive map of northern Mauritania.1899:
A process of pacification over Mauritania starts, and is administered by Xavier Coppolani.
Coppolani is killed, and he is followed by Colonel Henri Gouraud, who continues his work further north and east.1908:
Adrar in the north is occupied by France.1911:
Hodh in southeast is also occupied by France.1912:
France forges an agreement with Spain over zones of influence, leaving Mauritania fully in the hands of France.1920:
Mauritania's status is changed into a more subordinate colony, and becomes part of French West Africa. Mauritania is governed from Saint-Louis of Senegal.
Mauritania becomes an overseas territory of the French Union. Horma Ould Babana of Berber origin becomes Mauritanian deputy to the French National Assembly.1947:
The Union progressiste mauritanienne is formed, the first political group of the country.1951:
Elections for a National Assembly in Mauritania.
Tribal chiefs of the Rigaibat region give in to the French authorities.1956:
New elections, this time with more nationalist representation in the National Assembly. Sidi l-Mokhtar stays on as deputy.1957:
Elections for a Territorial Assembly, gives the conservative Union Progressiste Mauritanienne 33 of the 34 seats.Mokhtar Ould Daddah is elected vice-president of the governing council.
1958 November 28:
The Republique Islamique de Mauritanie is proclaimed and becomes an autonomous part of the French community.1959:
National elections made Ould Daddah prime minister. His party, the Parti du Regroupement Mauritanie had won every seat in the National Assembly.
INDEPENDENCE AND DICTATORSHIP
:1960 November 28:
Mauritania becomes an independent nation state, and Ould Daddah president. But Mauritania is not allowed into the United Nations, as the establishment was against the interests of Morocco, which was close to Soviet Union at that time.1961 December:
Ould Daddah was also involved in weakening possible political opposition, and forced the 4 largest parties to become one, the Parti du Peuple Mauritanien (PPM). With this Mauritania was in reality a one-party country.
A new constitution, a presidential one, is formed.1966:
Arabic becomes the compulsory teaching language in Mauritanian schools.
Hassaniya Arabic and French become the official languages of Mauritania.1969:
Morocco formally recognizes Mauritania.Early 1970's:
Heavy drought drives many people from their villages, and into the larger cities (mainly Nouakchott).1973:
Mauritania is admitted into the Arab League.1975:
Mauritania enters into war with the Western Sahara armyPolisario
over the rights of the southern 1/3 of the land, called Tiris al-Gharbia.
Mauritania signs a peace treaty with Polisario.Mauritania withdraws from the southern one third of Western Sahara they had occupied. This is, however, now occupied by Morocco.1980 January:
Lt-Col Muhammad Khuna Haidalla performs a new coup, and takes control over the government by becoming president.Slavery is officially abolished, but in many villages all over southern Mauritania the custom persists.1981:
After a coup attempt from the Parti Islamique fails, Haidalla stops the political liberalization process.1983:
Severe drought over Mauritania, which forces many people to move into the larger cities.1984 December 12:
One more coup, this time it is the Prime Minister Ould Taya who deposes president Haidalla. Ould Taya has himself appointed president.1986 April:
Forces de Libération Africaine de Mauritanie (FLAM) publishes The Manifesto of the Oppressed Black Mauritanian, where they accuses the white Mauritanians of systematically suppressing the blacks of the country. The government's response was to arrest 30 FLAM members.1987-88:
Racial tensions in Nouakchott followed by dismissals of about 500 black officers from the army, as well as killings of both blacks and Arabs.1989 April:
Tensions between Mauritania and Senegal grows into near-war situation.1991 July 20:
Mauritania becomes a multi-party country following a referendum over a new constitution. The constitution process had been strongly opposed by many groups, as they felt that their interests were not well protected. Among these groups were the black peoples andIslamists
Free president elections with Ould Taya as the victor. There were numerous accusations of fraud, and another candidate, Ahmad Ould Daddah (half brother of the former president) tried to have the results annulled by the Supreme Court. Taya tried to ease tensions in the country by appointing several blacks members of the government.1994 October:
Actions against Islamic groups, who were accused of cooperating with foreign organizations. About 60 people were arrested.Mid 1990's:
Discoveries of new iron ores bring some optimism to Mauritania's limping economy.1995 January 21:
Bread riots starts in Nouakchott and last for 3 days.— Mauritania establishes diplomatic ties with Israel.1996 January:
Shaykh Afia Ould Muhammad Khouna is appointed prime minister.1997 December:
PRDS wins 97% of the votes in elections.
— Muhammad Lamin Ould Guig is appointed new prime minister.1998
Khouna returns to the position as prime minister.2002:
Mauritania is struck by devastating drought, resulting in reduced winter crops and the slaughtering of livestock.2003:
A new winter of drought results in increased problems from the previous year.Taken from: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/africa/mali/history.htm