The Islamic Republic of Mauritania, La
Posted May 11th, 2012 at 02:10am
Mauritania i/m r te ni / (Arabic: M r t ny ; Berber: Muritanya / Agawej; Wolof: Gànnaar; Soninke:
Murutaane; Pulaar: Moritani; French: Mauritanie), officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country inWest Africa and in the Maghreb.
It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara (controlled byMorocco) in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest. It is named after the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which later became a province of the Roman Empire, even though the modern Mauritania covers a territory far to the south of the old Berber kingdom that had no relation with it. HP Pavilion DV9750ED Battery
The capital and largest city is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast.
The government of Mauritania was overthrown on 6 August 2008, in a military coup d'état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. On 16 April 2009, General Aziz resigned from the military to run for president in the 19 July elections, which he won. HP Pavilion DV9750EF Battery
In Mauritania about 20% of the population live on less than US$1.25 per day.
Slavery in Mauritania has been called a major human rights issue  as well as female genital mutilation/cutting,child labour, and human trafficking.
The Bafours were primarily agriculturalist, and among the first Saharan people to abandon their historically nomadic lifestyle. HP Pavilion DV9750EG Battery
With the gradual desiccation of the Sahara, they headed south.
Successive waves of migration to West Africa included not only Central Saharans, but in 1076, Moorish Islamic warrior monks (Almoravid or Al Murabitun) who attacked and conquered the ancient Ghana Empire. HP Pavilion DV9750EJ Battery
Over the next 500 years, Arabs overcame fierce resistance from the local population (Berber and non-Berber alike) to dominate Mauritania. The Mauritanian Thirty-Year War (1644–74) was the unsuccessful final effort to repel the Yemeni MaqilArab invaders led by the Beni Hassan tribe. HP Pavilion DV9750EL Battery
The descendants of the Beni Hassan warriors became the upper stratum of Moorish society. Berbers retained influence by producing the majority of the region's Marabouts—those who preserve and teach Islamic tradition. Many of the Berber tribes claimed Yemeni (and sometimes other Arab) origin; HP Pavilion DV9750EO Battery
there is little evidence to support such claims, though some studies do make a connection between the two. Hassaniya, a Berber-influenced Arabic dialect that derives its name from the Beni Hassan, became the dominant language among the largely nomadic population. HP Pavilion DV9750EP Battery
Imperial France gradually absorbed the territories of present-day Mauritania from the Senegal river area and upwards, starting in the late 19th century. In 1901, Xavier Coppolani took charge of the imperial mission. HP Pavilion DV9750ER Battery
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), HP Pavilion DV9750EV Battery
but the northern emirate of Adrar held out longer, aided by the anticolonial rebellion (or jihad) of shaykh Maa al-Aynayn. It was finally defeated militarily in 1912, and incorporated into the territory of Mauritania, which had been drawn up in 1904. Mauritania would subsequently form part of French West Africa, from 1920. HP Pavilion DV9750US Battery
French rule brought legal prohibitions against slavery, and an end to interclan warfare. During the colonial period 90% of the population remained nomadic, but many sedentary peoples, whose ancestors had been expelled centuries earlier, began to trickle back into Mauritania. HP Pavilion DV9751EF Battery
As the country gained independence in 1960, the capital cityNouakchott was founded at the site of a small colonial village, the Ksar.
With independence, larger numbers of indigenous Sub-Saharan African peoples (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) entered Mauritania, moving into the area north of the Senegal River. HP Pavilion DV9751EO Battery
Educated in French language and customs, many of these recent arrivals became clerks, soldiers, and administrators in the new state. This occurred as France militarily suppressed the most intransigent Hassane tribes of the Moorish north, shifting old balances of power, and creating new cause for conflict between the southern populations and Moors. HP Pavilion DV9752EO Battery
Between these groups stood the Haratin, a very large population of Arabized slaves of sub-Saharan African origins, who lived within Moorish society, integrated into a low-caste social position. Modern-day slavery is still a common practice in Mauritania. According to some estimates, up to 600,000 Mauritanians, or 20% of the population, are still enslaved. HP Pavilion DV9753EO Battery
A 2012 CNN report, "Slavery's Last Stronghold," by John D. Sutter, describes and documents the ongoing slave-owning cultures, including a compelling story about a former slave owner who is now an active abolitionist. This social discrimination concerns mainly the "black Moors" (Haratin) in the northern part of the country, HP Pavilion DV9755ED Battery
where tribal elites among “white Moors” (Beidane) hold sway, but low-caste groups within the sub-Saharan African ethnic groups of the south are affected by similar practices.
The great Sahel droughts of the early 1970s caused massive devastation in Mauritania. HP Pavilion DV9757EO Battery
Moors 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. A schism developed between those Moors who consider Mauritania to be an Arab country and those who seek a dominant role for the non-Moorish peoples, HP Pavilion DV9757EZ Battery
with various models for maintaining the country's cultural diversity being suggested, but none successfully implemented.
This ethnic discord was evident during intercommunal violence that broke out in April 1989 (the “1989 Events” and “Mauritania–Senegal Border War”), but which has since subsided. HP Pavilion DV9758CA Battery
Some 70,000 sub-Saharan African Mauritanians were expelled from Mauritania in the late 1980s. Ethnic tension 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, however, seek a more diverse, pluralistic society.
The government bureaucracy is composed of traditional ministries, special agencies, and parastatal companies. The Ministry of Interior spearheads a system of regional governors and prefects modeled on the French system of local administration. Under this system, Mauritania is divided into thirteen regions (wilaya), including the capital district, Nouakchott. HP Pavilion DV9760EF Battery
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.
Mauritania, along with Morocco, annexed the territory of Western Sahara in 1976, with Mauritania taking the lower one-third at the request of former imperial power Spain. HP Pavilion DV9760EI Battery
After several military losses to the Polisario – heavily armed and supported by Algeria, the local hegemon and rival to Morocco – Mauritania withdrew in 1979, and its claims were taken over by Morocco. Due to economic weakness, Mauritania has been a negligible player in the territorial dispute, with its official position being that it wishes for an expedient solution that is mutually agreeable to all parties. HP Pavilion DV9760EL Battery
While most of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco, the UN still considers the Western Sahara a territory that needs to express its wishes with respect to statehood. A referendum is still supposed to be held sometime in the future, under UN auspices, to determine whether or not the indigenous Sahrawis wish to be independent as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or to be part of Morocco. HP Pavilion DV9760EO Battery
The Moroccan government has thus far blocked such a referendum.
Ould Daddah era (1960–78)
Mauritania left the Franco-African Community to become an independent nation in November 1960. HP Pavilion DV9760EZ Battery
In 1964 President Moktar Ould Daddah, originally installed by the French, formalized Mauritania as a one-party state with a new constitution, setting up an authoritarian presidential regime. Daddah's own Parti du Peuple Mauritanien (PPM) became the ruling organization in a single-party system. HP Pavilion DV9762EO Battery
The President justified this decision on the grounds that he considered Mauritania unready for western-style multi-party democracy. Under this one-party constitution, Daddah was reelected in uncontested elections in 1966, 1971 and 1976. HP Pavilion DV9762EZ Battery
He was ousted in a bloodless coup on 10 July 1978, after bringing 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”. HP Pavilion DV9764EG Battery
CMRN and CMSN military governments (1978–84)
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. HP Pavilion DV9765EG Battery
The energetic Colonel Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah soon emerged as its strongman, and by giving up all claims to Western Sahara, he found peace with the Polisario and improved relations with its main backer, Algeria – but relations with the other party to the conflict, Morocco, and its European ally France, deteriorated. HP Pavilion DV9766EZ Battery
Instability continued, and Haidallah's ambitious reform attempts foundered. His regime was plagued by attempted coups and intrigue within the military establishment, and became increasingly contested due to his harsh and uncompromising measures against opponents; many dissidents were jailed, and some executed. HP Pavilion DV9767EG Battery
In 1981 slavery was legally abolished, making Mauritania the last country in the world to abolish slavery.
Ould Taya’s rule (1984–2005)
In 1980 Haidallah was deposed by Colonel Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, who, while retaining tight military control, relaxed the political climate somewhat. HP Pavilion DV9767EO Battery
Ould Taya moderated Mauritania's previous pro-Algerian stance, and re-established ties with Morocco during the late 1980s, ties which deepened during the late 1990s and early 2000s as part of Mauritania's drive to attract support from Western states and Western-aligned Arab states. HP Pavilion DV9769EG Battery
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.
The Parti Républicain Démocratique et Social (PRDS), formerly led by President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, HP Pavilion DV9770EA Battery
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.
Political parties, illegal during the military period, were legalized again in 1991. HP Pavilion DV9770ED Battery
By April 1992, as civilian rule returned, 16 major political parties had been recognized; 12 major political parties were active in 2004. Most opposition parties boycotted the first legislative election in 1992, and for nearly a decade the parliament was dominated by the PRDS. HP Pavilion DV9770EF Battery
The opposition participated in municipal elections in January–February 1994, and in subsequent Senateelections – most recently in April 2004 – and gained representation at the local level, as well as three seats in the Senate.
Mauritania’s population is composed of several ethnics groups: HP Pavilion DV9770EG Battery
the Moors (thought to be from Ancient Greek mauros, "dark") or Beidane, the Haratines, who are black-skinned descendants of freed slaves still attached to their former masters’ culture, and the Wolof, the Soninke, and the Halpulaar or Fulas (French:Peuls; Fula: Ful e), including settled farmers called Toucouleur and nomadic stock-breeders. HP Pavilion DV9770EL Battery
Mauritanian society has been characterized by consistent discrimination against its black population, which is seen as contesting the political, economic and social dominance of the Moors. Mauritanian blacks face discrimination in employment in the civil service, the administration of justice before the regular and religious courts, HP Pavilion DV9770EO Battery
access to loans and credits from banks and state owned enterprise, and opportunity for education and vocational training .
Between 1990 and 1991 a campaign of particularly extreme violence took place, against a background of Arabisation, HP Pavilion DV9770ES Battery
interference with blacks’ association rights, expropriation, expatriation, and slavery, slaves being mostly black. In April 1986, the Manifesto of the Oppressed Black Mauritanian (Manifeste du négro-mauritanien opprimé), which documented discrimination against Mauritania's black populations in every sector of public life, HP Pavilion DV9770EV Battery
was published by the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM; Force pour la Liberation Africaine de Mauritanie). In response, in September 1986, 30 to 40 black intellectuals suspected of involvement in the publication of the Manifesto were arrested and subjected to brutal interrogations. HP Pavilion DV9770EW Battery
They were not allowed visitors until November 1987. In the meantime, the authorities cracked down on black communities, often using mass arrests as a form of intimidation.
In October 1987, the government allegedly uncovered a tentative coup d’Etat by a group of black army officers, backed, according to the authorities, by Senegal. HP Pavilion DV9770LA Battery
Fifty one officers were arrested and subjected to interrogation and torture.The torture consisted of “beatings, burns, electric shocks applied to the genitals, stripping prisoners naked and pouring cold water over them, burying prisoners in sand to their necks, and subjecting prisoners to jaguar, HP Pavilion DV9772EG Battery
which consists of tying a victim’s hands and feet, suspending him upside down from a bar, and beating him particularly on the soles of the feet”.They were accused of “endangering the security of the State by participating in a conspiracy to overthrow the government and to provoke killing and devastation among the inhabitants of the country” and tried following a special summary procedure. HP Pavilion DV9773EG Battery
Three of the officers arrested in October were sentenced to death; eighteen were sentenced to life imprisonment (including two who died in detention in 1988); nine were sentenced to 20 years; five were sentenced to 10 years; three were given 5 years; six were given 5-year suspended sentences with heavy fines; and seven were acquitted. None of those convicted were permitted to appeal. HP Pavilion DV9774CA Battery
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, Dakar and other towns in Senegal, directed against the mainly Moorish Mauritanians who dominated the local retail business. The rioting, added to already existing tensions, led to a campaign of terror against black Mauritanians, HP Pavilion DV9775EG Battery
who are often seen as 'Senegalese' by Beidanes, regardless of their actual nationality. As conflict with Senegal continued into 1990/91, the Mauritanian government engaged in or encouraged acts of violence and seizures of property directed against blacks.HP Pavilion DV9775LA Battery
The war culminated in an international airlift agreed to by Senegal and Mauritania under international pressure to prevent further violence. The Mauritanian Government expelled tens of thousands of black Mauritanians, including intellectuals, civil servants, professionals, HP Pavilion DV9778EG Battery
businessmen, militant trade unionists, those suspected of opposition, and farmers and cattle-herders from the Sénégal River Valley. Most of these so-called 'Senegalese' had no ties to Senegal, and many still reside in refugee camps in Mali and Senegal.
The main reason for expulsions and expropriation was economic. HP Pavilion DV9778EO Battery
The traditionally nomadic Moors had lost their main source of revenue with the drought of 1968–1985, which devastated their camel, goat, and cattle herds, and had lost their retail businesses during the anti-Mauritanian riots in Senegal. Moreover, the Mauritanian part of the Senegalese river valley is the most fertile part of the country, HP Pavilion DV9779EO Battery
and the creation of the Organization for the Development of the Senegal river ( OMVS, on 11 March 1972 by Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, enhanced the potential value of the valley, with the construction of dams which greatly increased the amount of irrigable land. HP Pavilion DV9780EA Battery
In villages of the South, blacks were indiscriminately expelled by security forces, who forced them to cross the Senegalese River to Senegal, taking their identity card and their belongings. Those who resisted or who tried to flee with their belongings were arrested, imprisoned and sometimes executed. HP Pavilion DV9780EB Battery
In the larger towns and cities, the authorities targeted black civil servants, employees of private institutions, trade unionists, former political prisoners and, in some instances, the wives of political prisoners. HP Pavilion DV9780ED Battery
Fulas were the main group targeted. According to a study  conducted by Christian Santoir for a French research company (ORSTOM, which became the Institute for research on Development in 1998) some 21,500 Fulas were expelled, which accounted for at least 57% of the Fulas in Mauritania. HP Pavilion DV9780EG Battery
Expulsions were accompanied by arbitrary arrest, rape, confiscation of belongings, and seizure of identity papers. Fulas'liberty of movement was restricted, as they were subjected to harassment at checkpoints, being obliged to show their identity papers, and sometimes detained. HP Pavilion DV9780EO Battery
The exact number of expulsions is not known but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that, as of June 1991, there were 52,995 Mauritanian refugees in Senegal; in June 1993, 52,945 were registered. A smaller number of refugees have also fled into Mali; HP Pavilion DV9780EP Battery
the official figure for those who have been registered there is about 13,000, but again, the real number is undoubtedly much higher because of the ease of integration into the life of local communities in Mali.
Ordinance 83.127, enacted June 5, 1983, HP Pavilion DV9780ES Battery
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. HP Pavilion DV9780ET Battery
A practical effect was government seizure of traditional grazing lands. The ordinance forbade any collective lawsuit regarding property rights, which rendered impossible any legal action based on traditional rights of tenure, as the traditional system of tenure was based on community rights, and could therefore only be adjudicated collectively. HP Pavilion DV9780EW Battery
Several methods were used for expropriation, the most common being simple confiscation. Moors exploited Article 9 of the Ordinance, which provides that registered property rights take precedence, by registering their rights using their relations, in order to prevent blacks from claiming it. HP Pavilion DV9780EZ Battery
Moors also established fake cooperatives by which they could become members of formerly-owned black cooperatives (which was the only means for blacks to register property), in effect gaining ownership of the whole property of the cooperative.
Massacre of 1990–1991
From November 1990 to February 1991, HP Pavilion DV9780LA Battery
between 500 and 600 Fulas and Soninke political prisoners were executed or tortured to death by government forces. They were among 3,000 to 5,000 blacks – predominantly soldiers and civil servants – arrested between October 1990 and mid-January 1991, on the basis of alleged involvement in an attempt to overthrow the government. HP Pavilion DV9784EG Battery
The severity of the torture, combined with the complete lack of medical care, caused a high death toll; the estimate of 500–600 deaths from torture or summary execution is widely accepted. In addition, an unknown number of blacks found death by extrajudicial execution by security forces. HP Pavilion DV9785EG Battery
A military investigation was put in place by the government and the results were never made public; however, several officials were reportedly involved, including Colonel Sid'Ahmed Ould Boilil, Colonel Cheikh Ould Mohamed Salah, Major Mohamed Cheikh Ould El Hadi, and Major Ely Fall . HP Pavilion DV9785LA Battery
In order to guarantee immunity for those responsible and to block any attempts at accountability for past abuses, an amnesty was declared by the Parliament in June 1993 covering all crimes committed by the armed forces, security forces as well as civilians, between April 1989 and April 1992. HP Pavilion DV9787EG Battery
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. HP Pavilion DV9788EG Battery
In 1991 an open letter was sent toPresident Taya by 50 prominent Mauritanians, including former ministers, lawyers, doctors, and professors, denouncing "the magnitude of the repression that was brought down upon the blacks, civilian and military, in the last months of 1990”. HP Pavilion DV9790EA Battery
It listed several hundred extrajudicial executions, atrocities, and disappearances. The Mauritanian Workers Union also called for an independent inquiry into the detentions.
Women played a role in denouncing the atrocities: in April 1991, more than 75 women – wives, HP Pavilion DV9790EB Battery
sisters, nieces, and mothers of some of those presumed to have been killed in the detentions – signed a petition addressed to President Taya, calling on the government to break its silence on the issue and provide for families devastated by the killings.HP Pavilion DV9790ED Battery
Discrimination via Arabization
For many years, and particularly since 1986, Arabization has been used as a way to discriminate against Black Mauritanians. Indeed, "[Arabization] is the key to the dispossession of blacks in terms of political power, economic opportunities, and employment possibilities.” HP Pavilion DV9790EF Battery
Arabization has been put into practice via a policy of interference with blacks’ right of association, particularly by outlawing private and public gatherings. Although the law does not explicitly prohibit assembly of black people, the system of authorization created by the Government applies only to blacks, resulting in de facto prohibition. HP Pavilion DV9790EG Battery
Since January 1966, it has been compulsory for students in secondary school to study entirely in Arabic. This provoked strikes among students, who were supported by civil servants and others. These strikes lead to the issuance of the Manifesto of Nineteen, which listed grievances against the Moors’ domination. HP Pavilion DV9790EL Battery
The process of making Arabic the primary language of the country was formalized in a new constitution. Passed by referendum in July 1991, it declared Arabic the country's official language, with no reference to French. HP Pavilion DV9790EO Battery
Mauritanian international relations under Ould Taya's rule
In the late 1980s, Ould Taya had established close co-operation with Iraq, and pursued a strongly Arab Nationalist line. In 1989, bloody clashes erupted with Senegal, during which both countries expelled ethnic minorities to the other country. HP Pavilion DV9790EP Battery
Mauritania grew increasingly isolated internationally, and tensions with Western countries grew dramatically after it took a pro-Iraqi position during the 1991 Gulf War. During the mid-to late 1990s, Mauritania shifted its foreign policy to one of increased co-operation with the US and Europe, and was rewarded with diplomatic normalization and aid projects. HP Pavilion DV9790ER Battery
On 28 October 1999, Mauritanian Foreign Minister Ahmed Sid’Ahmed and his Israeli counterpart David Levy signed an agreement in Washington DC, USA, establishing full diplomatic relations between the two countries. The signing ceremony was held at the U.S. State Department in the presence of US Secretary of StateMadeleine Albright. HP Pavilion DV9790ES Battery
Mauritania thereby joined Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan as the only members of the Arab League to officially recognize Israel. Ould Taya also started co-operating with the United States in anti-terrorism activities, a policy which was criticized by some human rights organizations, HP Pavilion DV9790ET Battery
which claimed that Mauritania's problem with terrorism was being misrepresented for geopolitical purposes. (See also Foreign relations of Mauritania.)
A group of current and former Army officers launched a bloody, unsuccessful coup attempt on 8 June 2003. HP Pavilion DV9790EW Battery
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 (former slavefamily) candidates, represented a wide variety of political goals and backgrounds. HP Pavilion DV9791EO Battery
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 Haidallafinishing 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. HP Pavilion DV9800 Battery
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 of Nouakchott. The coup proceeded without loss of life, and the officers, calling themselves the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, released the following statement: HP Pavilion DV9800EB Battery
"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." HP Pavilion DV9800ES Battery
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 which had originally brought him to power, and had later served as his security chief. HP Pavilion DV9801TX Battery
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, HP Pavilion DV9802TX Battery
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. HP Pavilion DV9803TX Battery
Mauritania's establishment of relations with Israel – it is one of only three Arab states to recognize Israel – was maintained by the new regime, despite widespread criticism from the opposition, who viewed it as a legacy of the Taya regime's attempts to curry favor with the West. HP Pavilion DV9804CA Battery
Parliamentary and municipal elections in Mauritania took place on 19 November and 3 December 2006.