Mauritania

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الجمهورية الإسلامية الموريتانية
Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Islāmiyyah al-Mūrītāniyyah
Mauritania rel95.jpg
Location of Mauritania.png
Flag of Mauritania.png
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FlagCoat of Arms
CapitalNouakchott
GovernmentParliamentary republic
LanguageArabic (official)
PresidentMohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Prime ministerMoulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf
Area397,954 sq mi
Population 20053,069,000
GDP 2005$7.159 billion
GDP per capita$2,402
CurrencyOuguiya

Mauritania is a nation of north-western Africa, bounded by Senegal, Mali, Algeria, Western Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean. Much of its territory is desert or semi-desert. The capital city is Nouakchott.

Contents

People

  • Population (2005): 2,906,000.
  • Annual growth rate: 2.7%.
  • Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber (White Moor), Arab-Berber-Negroid (Black Moor), Haalpulaar, Soninke, Wolof (Black African Mauritanians).
  • Religion: Islam.
  • Languages: Arabic (official), Hassaniya (Arabic dialect), French, Pulaar, Wolof, and Soninke.
  • Education: Years compulsory--six. Attendance (student population enrolled in primary school)--82%. Adult literacy (% of population age 15+)--59%.
  • Health: Infant mortality rate--77/1,000. Life expectancy--51 yrs.
  • Work force: Agriculture and fisheries--50%. Services and commerce--20%. Government--20%. Industry and transportation--10%.

Government and Political Conditions

Mauritania held series of elections that began in November 2006 with a parliamentary vote and culminated March 25, 2007 with the second round of the presidential election. Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdellahi was elected President.

The government bureaucracy is composed of ministries, special agencies, and parastatal companies. The Ministry of Interior controls a system of regional governors and prefects modeled on the French system of local administration. Under this system, Mauritania is divided into 13 regions (wilaya), including the capital district, Nouakchott. Control is tightly concentrated in the executive branch of the central government, but a series of national and municipal elections since 1992 have produced some decentralization

Politics in Mauritania have always been heavily influenced by personalities, with any leader's ability to exercise political power dependent upon control over resources; perceived ability or integrity; and tribal, ethnic, family, and personal considerations. Conflict among White Moor, Black Moor, and Black African Mauritanian groups, centering on language, land tenure, and other issues, continues to be a major challenge to national unity. Political parties, illegal during the military period, were legalized again in 1991.

Principal Government Officials

  • President--Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
  • Prime Minister--Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation--Mohamed Saleck Ould Mohamed Lemine
  • Minister of Economic Affairs and Development--Hammada Ould Abed
  • Minister of Commerce, Handicrafts, and Tourism--Ba Abderrahmane
  • Ambassador to the United Nations--Mohamed Ould Tolba

Human rights issues

Slavery is reported to still be widespread in Mauritania, despite a 1981 law outlawing it. [1]

Economy

  • GDP (2003): $1.1 billion.
  • Annual growth rate (2003): 2.7%.
  • Per capita income (2003): $430.
  • Natural resources: petroleum, fish, iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphates, salt.
  • Agriculture (19.3% of GDP 2003): Products--livestock, traditional fisheries, millet, maize, wheat, dates, rice.
  • Industry (30% of GDP 2003): Types--iron mining, fishing.
  • Services (50.8% of GDP 2003).
  • Trade: Exports (f.o.b.)--$388 million (2003). Export partners--Japan 13%, France 10.9%, Spain 9.6%, Italy 9.5%, Germany 8.7%, Belgium 7.4%, China 5.8%, Russia 4.8% (2004). Imports--$418 million (2002): foodstuffs, machinery, tools, petroleum products, and consumer goods. Import partners--France 14.5%, U.S. 7.7%, China 7.4%, Spain 5.9%, Belgium 4.3%, U.K. 4.3% (2004).
  • Currency: Ouguiya (UM).
  • USAID: Total FY 2005 USAID assistance to Mauritania--$14,160,300.

History

From the 3rd to 7th centuries, the migration of Berber tribes from North Africa displaced the Bafours, the original inhabitants of present-day Mauritania and the ancestors of the Soninke. Continued Arab-Berber migration drove indigenous black Africans south to the Senegal River or enslaved them. By 1076, Islamic warrior monks (Almoravid or Al Murabitun) completed the conquest of southern Mauritania, defeating the ancient Ghana empire. Over the next 500 years, Arabs overcame fierce Berber resistance to dominate Mauritania. The Mauritanian Thirty-Year War (1644-74) was the unsuccessful final Berber effort to repel the Maqil Arab invaders led by the Beni Hassan tribe. The descendants of 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. Hassaniya, a mainly oral, Berber-influenced Arabic dialect that derives its name from the Beni Hassan tribe, became the dominant language among the largely nomadic population. Within Moorish society, aristocratic and servant classes developed, yielding "white" (aristocracy) and "black" Moors (the enslaved indigenous class).

French colonization at the beginning of the 20th century brought legal prohibitions against slavery and an end to interclan warfare. During the colonial period, the population remained nomadic, but sedentary black Africans, whose ancestors had been expelled centuries earlier by the Moors, began to trickle back into southern Mauritania. As the country gained independence in 1960, the capital city of Nouakchott was founded at the site of a small colonial village. Ninety percent of the population was still nomadic. With independence, larger numbers of ethnic Sub-Saharan Africans (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) entered Mauritania, moving into the area north of the Senegal River. Educated in French, many of these recent arrivals became clerks, soldiers, and administrators in the new state.

Moors reacted to this change by trying to Arabicize much of Mauritanian life, such as law and language. A schism developed between those who considered Mauritania to be an Arab country (mainly Moors) and those who sought a dominant role for the Sub-Saharan peoples. The discord between these two conflicting visions of Mauritanian society was evident during intercommunal violence that broke out in April 1989 (the "1989 Events").

The country's first president, Moktar Ould Daddah, served from independence until ousted in a bloodless coup on July 10, 1978. Mauritania was under military rule from 1978 to 1992, when the country's first multi-party elections were held following the July 1991 approval by referendum of a constitution.

The Democratic and Social Republican Party (PRDS), led by President Maaouiya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, dominated Mauritanian politics from April 1992 until he was overthrown in August 2005. President Taya, who won elections in 1992 and 1997, first became chief of state through a December 12, 1984 bloodless coup which made him chairman of the committee of military officers that governed Mauritania from July 1978 to April 1992. A group of current and former Army officers launched a bloody but unsuccessful coup attempt on June 8, 2003.

On November 7, 2003, Mauritania's third presidential election since adopting the democratic process in 1992 took place. Incumbent President Taya was reelected. Several opposition groups alleged that the government had used fraudulent means to win the elections, but did not elect to pursue their grievances via available legal channels. The elections incorporated safeguards first adopted in 2001 municipal elections--published voter lists and hard-to-falsify voter identification cards.

On August 3, 2005, President Taya was deposed in a bloodless coup. Military commanders, led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Fal (alternative spelling: Vall) seized power while President Taya was attending the funeral of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd. Colonel Fal established the ruling Military Council for Justice and Democracy to run the country. The council dissolved the Parliament and appointed a transitional government.

Copyright Details
License: This work is in the Public Domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the U.S. Code
Source: File available from the United States Federal Government [2].
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