Coordinates: 20°N 12°W / 20°N 12°W / 20; -12
Islamic Republic of Mauritania
al-Jumhūrīyah al-Islāmīyah al-Mūrītānīyah
République islamique de Mauritanie (French)
Motto: شرف إخاء عدل (Arabic)
"Honor, Fraternity, Justice"
Anthem: نشيد وطني موريتاني
(English: "National anthem of Mauritania")
Mauritania (dark blue) in Africa
and largest city
18°09′N 15°58′W / 18.150°N 15.967°W / 18.150; -15.967
Recognised national languages
Unitary semi-presidential Islamic republic
Mohamed Ould Abdel Azizb
• Prime Minister
Yahya Ould Hademineb
• Lower house
• from France
28 November 1960
• Current Constitution of Mauritania
12 July 1991
1,030,000 km2 (400,000 sq mi) (28th)
• Water (%)
• 2016 estimate
• 2013 census
3.4/km2 (8.8/sq mi)
$17.421 billion (134th)
• Per capita
$5.063 billion (154th)
• Per capita
low · 157th
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
Not recognized internationally (see main article).
Mauritania (/mɔːrɪˈteɪniə/ ( listen); Arabic:
موريتانيا Mūrītānyā; Berber languages: Muritanya or
Agawej; Wolof: Gànnaar; Soninke: Murutaane; Pulaar: Moritani; French:
Mauritanie), officially the
Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a
country in the
Maghreb region of Northwestern Africa. It is
the eleventh largest country in
Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic
Ocean to the west,
Morocco in the north,
Algeria in the northeast,
Mali in the east and southeast, and
Senegal in the southwest.
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
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.
About 20% of Mauritanians live on less than US$1.25 per day.
1.1 Ancient history
1.2 Colonial history and present day
1.3 Issue of Western Sahara
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
4 Administrative divisions
7 Human rights
7.1 Modern slavery
9 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Main article: History of Mauritania
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.
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
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
Colonial history and present day
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help
improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (September 2016)
(Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Imperial France[vague] gradually absorbed the territories of
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
Brakna and Tagant have been 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
Mauritania was part of French West
Africa from 1920, as a
protectorate and, then, a colony.
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.
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.
Modern-day slavery still exists in different forms in Mauritania.
According to some estimates, thousands of Mauritanians 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" (Bidh'an, Hassaniya-speaking Arabs
and Arabized Berbers) hold sway. 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.
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
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. 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 affect
the application of the UN General Assembly Declaration on the Granting
Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples to Western
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
Ould Daddah era (1960–1978)
Mauritania became an independent nation in November 1960. In 1964
President 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
CMRN and CMSN military governments (1978–1984)
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 legally
abolished by a specific law, making
Mauritania the last country in the
world to do so.
Politics and recent history
Main article: 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 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.
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. 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 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
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
2007. 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 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. 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
the 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
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 67.02% of the popular vote,
according to the official figures, with Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla
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
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
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
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
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.[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.
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. 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
After the coup
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in his hometown, Akjoujt, on 15 March 2009
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,
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 Mauritania,
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.
Main article: Demographics of Mauritania
A Moorish family in the Adrar Plateau.
As of 2016[update],
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. A CIA report indicates
30% Bidhan 40%
Haratin and 30% others although no serious studies in
this matter exists. Local statistics bureaus estimations indicates
that The Bidhan represent around 53% of citizens. They speak Hassaniya
Arabic and are primarily of
Arab-Berber origin. The
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
Further information: Religion in Mauritania
Camel market in Nouakchott
Mauritania is nearly 100% Muslim, with most inhabitants adhering to
the Sunni denomination. The Sufi orders, the
Tijaniyah and the
Qadiriyyah, have great influence not only in the country, but in
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.
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. French is widely used in the media and among
Main article: 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
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.
Main article: Education in Mauritania
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. The use of English is
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
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
Main article: Geography of Mauritania
Mountains in the Adrar region. Desert scenes are characteristic of the
Bareina, a village in southwestern Mauritania
Mauritania's land area is 1,030,000 square kilometres
(397,685 sq mi), 90% of which is desert. It 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
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. It reaches an elevation of 500
meters (1,640 ft). Spring-fed oases lie at the foot of some of
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
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
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
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.
Main article: 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
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
Main article: 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
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 if
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.
The numbers given here are merely estimations of NGOS like the one
called IRA .IRA has been criticised for using aids for personal
purposes and not for what it meant for .
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
Filming for several documentaries and films has taken place in
Fort Saganne (1984),
The Fifth Element
The Fifth Element (1997),
The Books Under the Sand (1997), Life without Death (1997), 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. Archived from the original
on 14 April 2013.
^ a b c "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. [permanent dead link]
^ "World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision". ESA.UN.org (custom
data acquired via website).
United Nations Department of Economic and
Social Affairs, Population Division. Retrieved 10 September
^ 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 Africa
^ 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
Africa (the Maghreb),
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 and Tunisia)...
^ "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.
^ 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.
doi:10.1016/S0003-3995(00)01023-6. PMID 11164198.
^ "Mauritania: History". www.infoplease.com. Retrieved
^ Pazzanita, Anthony G. (2008). Historical Dictionary of Mauritania.
Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6265-4. page
^ "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.
Mauritania made slavery illegal last month". South African
Institute of International Affairs. 6 September 2007. Archived from
the original on 21 November 2010.
^ "BBC World Service - The Abolition season on BBC World Service".
Mauritania (Tier 3)" (PDF). Report. US Dept. of State.
^ "Slavery's last stronghold", CNN.com (16 March 2012). Retrieved 20
^ "Freedom Fighter: A slaving society and an abolitionist’s
crusade", New Yorker, 8 September 2014
^ MAURITANIA: Fair elections haunted by racial imbalance, IRIN News. 5
^ "Cour internationale de Justice - International Court of Justice".
^ Meredith, Martin (2005), The Fate of Africa: A History of Fifty
Years of Independence, New York: Public Affairs Publishing,
^ Ordonnance 9
^ a b c "Mauritania's campaign of terror, State-Sponsored Repression
of Black Africans" (PDF). Human Rights Watch/
Africa (formerly Africa
Amnesty International Report 1990, London, Amnesty International
^ Baduel, Pierre Robert (1989). "Mauritanie 1945–1990 ou l'État
face à la Nation". Revue du monde musulman et de la Méditerranée
(in French). 54: 11–52.
^ a b Sy, Mahamadou (2000). L'Harmattan, ed. "L'enfer de Inal".
Mauritanie, l'horreur des camps. Paris.
^ "Inventory of Conflict and Environment (ICE), Template". American
University. Archived from the original on 17 February 2012. Retrieved
20 March 2012.
^ Diallo, Garba (1993). "Mauritania, a new Apartheid?" (PDF).
bankie.info. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 December
^ Duteil, Mireille (1989). "Chronique mauritanienne". Annuaire de
l'Afrique du Nord (in French). XXVIII (du CNRS ed.).
^ Press release, Amnesty International, 5 April 1991, 3,000 were
^ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 1991, US Department of
State, 1992, possibly as many as 3,000 [arrests]
^ 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.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 July 2012.
^ "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 2008.
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
^ 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 Guardian.
The World Factbook
The World Factbook –
Africa – Mauritania"]
Check url= value (help). CIA. Retrieved 21 March 2018. line
feed character in url= at position 52 (help) bureau national des
The World Factbook
The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency".
^ a b c "CIA –
The World Factbook
The World Factbook – Mauritania". Retrieved 7
^ Evans, Robert (9 December 2012). "Atheists around world suffer
persecution, discrimination: report". Reuters. Retrieved 7 January
^ "Mauritania: Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved 27 February
^ a b c d e "Human Development Report 2009 – Mauritania".
Hdrstats.undp.org. Archived from the original on 8 July 2010.
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 July
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 2008.
^ 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 Archived 12 July 2014
at the Wayback Machine.. Amnesty International. 3 December 2008. Index
Number: AFR 38/009/2008.
^ "Slavery in Mauritania: an overview and action plan" Archived 5
November 2013 at the Wayback Machine., 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 –
US State Department
Mauritania – Country Page
Foster, Noel (2010). Mauritania: The Struggle for Democracy. Lynne
Rienner Publishers. ISBN 978-1935049302.
Hudson, Peter (1991). Travels in Mauritania. Flamingo.
Murphy, Joseph E (1998).
Mauritania in Photographs. Crossgar Press.
"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.
Find more aboutMauritaniaat's sister projects
Definitions from Wiktionary
Media from Wikimedia Commons
News from Wikinews
Quotations from Wikiquote
Texts from Wikisource
Textbooks from Wikibooks
Travel guide from Wikivoyage
Learning resources from Wikiversity
(in Arabic) République Islamique de Mauritanie (official government
(in French) République Islamique de Mauritanie (official government
"Mauritania". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.
Mauritania web resources provided by GovPubs at the University of
Mauritania at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Mauritania profile from the BBC News.
Wikimedia Atlas of Mauritania
Countries and territories of Africa
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo
Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire)
São Tomé and Príncipe
Plazas de soberanía
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Southern Provinces (Western Sahara)1
States with limited
Arab Democratic Republic
1 Unclear sovereignty.
Joint Defence Council
Yemen (until 2017)
Arab Peace Initiative
Arab League monitors in Syria
Arab League–European Union relations
Economic and Social Council
Arab National Olympic Committees
African Union (AU)
Organisation of African Unity
Permanent Representatives' Committee
Specialized Technical Committees
African Court of Justice
African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights
Peace and Security
Infrastructure and Energy
Social Affairs and Health
HR, Sciences and Technology
Trade and Industry
Rural Economy and Agriculture
Women and Gender
African Central Bank
African Monetary Fund
African Investment Bank
Peace and Security Council
African Standby Force
Panel of the Wise
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
African Economic Community
African Free Trade Zone
Tripartite Free Trade Area
United States of Africa
United States of Latin Africa
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central African Republic
Moro National Liberation Front
Economic Cooperation Organization
1 As the "Turkish Cypriot State".
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Republic of the Congo
St. Pierre and Miquelon
São Tomé and Príncipe
Bosnia and Herzegovina
1 Associate member.
2 Provisionally referred to by the Francophonie as the "former
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"; see Macedonia naming dispute.
Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique
Agence universitaire de la Francophonie
UN French Language Day
International Francophonie Day
Jeux de la Francophonie
Prix des cinq continents de la francophonie