Stone Age finds from both Paleolithic and Neolithic times
have been found in the area that makes up today's
Mauritania. Located in the Sahel, between North Africa and
sub - Saharan Africa, Mauritania has been inhabited by
people from both the south and the north from a historical
point of view. The ethnic and cultural mix has persisted,
contributing to social and political tensions in modern
times as well.
In the centuries leading up to the year 1000, the
indigenous locals were forced south by Arabs and Berbers. It
was within the present Mauritania that the Almoravids began
their expansion around the year 1000, which led to their
occupation during a period of parts of Ghana and Morocco.
Caravan routes link Mauritania to Morocco, which later
claimed the country as part of a Greater Morocco.
French sphere of interest
The first Europeans to arrive in the area were Portuguese
seafarers in the 1440s. They established a fort in Arguin
and were followed by Dutch, French and British. Increasing
Arab immigration led to the emergence of an Arab-Berber
culture, which eventually became the dominant Moorish
culture and contributed to Arab politics towards the black
peoples of the south. Several confederations were formed,
both in the south, east and north, dominated by Moorish
abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Mauritania.
One reason for increasing contact with Europe was the
slave trade, where local ruling groups conquered or bought
slaves inland farther south, for sale to European buyers.
France strengthened its interests along the coast beyond the
19th century, and in the early 1900s used both military
power and protection to secure a foothold in what is today
Senegal and Mauritania.
In 1909, a military campaign against colonization was
wiped out. Mauritania was subject to French control within
the Afrique Occidental Franšaise, ruled from St.
Louis in Senegal. In 1920 the area was given the status of a
separate colony, but France did not secure full control of
the interior until the mid-1930s. In 1944, the easternmost
region, Hodh, was incorporated into Mauritania from today's
Mali. Mauritania then became French overseas territory in
1946, and elected a deputy to the French National Assembly.
This led to the establishment of the first political
In 1957, a government was elected, won by Union
Progressist Mauritanian (UPM) and led by Moktar Ould
Daddah. It was deployed when the country, with Nouakchott as
its new capital, in 1958 became an autonomous republic
within the French community. Ould Daddah then established
the Parti du regroupement Mauritania (PRM), which
included UPM and other parties - and which was without
opposition to independence.
On November 28, 1960, Mauritania became independent as
the world's first Islamic republic under the 1959
Constitution and with Ould Daddah as the country's first
president. Mauritania's political development as an
independent state has been characterized in particular by
three dimensions: the regional context, especially in
relation to Morocco and Western Sahara; ethnic
contradictions, which also have a regional dimension with
widespread Arabization and discrimination of the African
minority, and in general the absence of democracy and
stability, with multiple military coups.
From 1960, Ould Daddah Mauritania moved in the direction
of a one-party state, with the PRM as the center of power.
He won the 1961 presidential election and rallied the
country's parties in the Parti du peuple Mauritian
(PPM), which became the only allowed party after the
constitutional amendment that introduced the one-party
state. A radicalization of the regime took place in the
1970s, with an increased approach to the Arab world. Thus,
the ethnic and cultural contradictions within Mauritania
were sharpened, and stood between the ruling Moorish elite,
the non-Arab population in the north and a black African
population in the south.
These contradictions increased with the growing
Arabization of the mid-1970s, where a key element was to
replace French with Arabic as the official language. This
led to riots that demanded more human lives and were further
reinforced through social differences. Slavery was
officially abolished only in 1980, but not abolished.
The war in Western Sahara
Another conflict that contributed to the political
instability of the second half of the 1970s was Mauritania's
participation in the war in Western Sahara. When Spain
planned to withdraw from its colony Rio Oro (Western Sahara)
in 1975, an agreement was signed between Spain, Morocco and
Mauritania for the two African states to share the colony.
The international court in The Hague and the UN supported
the local people's demand for independence, but when Spain
withdrew in 1976, Morocco and Mauritania occupied each part
of the country. The occupation was met by armed resistance
from the liberation movement Polisario, which also targeted
targets in Mauritania, including the capital. In 1977, the
government signed a joint defense agreement with Morocco,
which stationed troops in Mauritania. After a ceasefire with
Polisario until 1979, the war resumed until Mauritania
withdrew its territorial claims in Western Sahara.
The war in Western Sahara had little support in
Mauritania. It imposed heavy financial burdens on the
country and contributed to the military coup which in 1978
toppled President Ould Daddah. The coup was led by Colonel
Mustafa Ould Salek, who established a military council but
was himself overthrown in a new coup in 1979, led by Colonel
Lieutenant Ahmad Ould Louly. In 1980, Louly was dismissed by
the Military Council and replaced by Colonel Lieutenant
Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah, who briefly introduced
civilian rule 1980–81, before reintroducing military rule.
In 1984 he was overthrown in a new military coup, led by
Colonel Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya. The reason for the coup
was, among other things, opposition to Haidallah's support
for Polisario. Under the military rule, the constitution was
repealed, the national assembly dissolved and political
parties banned - this with growing dissatisfaction in the
population. A resistance group, the Forces de liberation
des africains en Mauritanie (FLAM), was established in
1983 with a base in Senegal to fight for the black
Mauritanian situation. Another militant movement that fought
Arabization and marginalization of blacks was the Front
uni pour la resistance army of Mauritania (FURAM).
Taya initiated a process of political and economic
change, with the gradual transition to civilian government
from 1987. This year, the first elections since independence
were held, where several parties were given the opportunity
to make lists. In 1991, a new constitution was passed and a
multi-party system was introduced. The first parliamentary
election since independence in 1960 was held in 1992, won by
the sitting regime with President Ould Tayas Party's
Republican Democrat and Social (PRDS). Ould Taya was
also re-elected in 1997 and 2003 before being deposed in a
new military coup in 2005, and a military council led by Aly
Ould Mohamed took power.
Especially four countries are central to Mauritania's
foreign policy: the former colonial power France,
neighboring Western Sahara and Senegal, and Morocco, which
long claimed both Western Sahara and Mauritania. It was not
least pressure from Morocco and other Arab countries that
caused Mauritania to turn to African states further south,
as well as to France, which was allowed to maintain a
military base in the country until 1966.
With increasing Arabization from the mid-1960s, contact
with the Arab world increased in the 1970s, with membership
in the Arab League in 1973. Relations with France were
similarly weakened. Mauritania introduced its own currency
in 1973, to replace CFA (which was linked to French francs),
and nationalized the French-controlled mining company
Miferma. Mauritania joined in 1989 with four other Arab
countries in the Maghreb Union, which eventually became
paralyzed due to disagreements between Morocco and Algeria
on the Western Sahara issue. In 2000 Mauritania resigned
from the West African cooperation organization ECOWAS.
Only in 1970 did Morocco give up its territorial claim to
Mauritania, as part of Morocco's plan to take over the
Spanish colony of the Spanish Sahara. Mauritania
participated in the plan to divide the colony between
Morocco and Mauritania, but after losing the war with the
liberation movement Polisario, Mauritania chose to give up
its demands, and in 1984 the country recognized the Sahrawi
Arab Democratic Republic(SADR). This led to a temporary
diplomatic break between Mauritania and Morocco. The
relationship with Senegal was put to the test in 1989–90,
when a conflict over grazing rights at the border led to
diplomatic riots and concentration of refugees in both
countries. Diplomatic relations were restored in 1992, but
there were new contradictions around the year 2000; this
time about exploiting the water reserves of the Senegal
The Tuareg conflict in Mali has to some extent affected
relations between neighboring countries; Mali has accused
Mauritania of giving orders to Tuaregs who have attacked
Mali. The conflict contributed to demarcating the border
between the two countries in 1993.
Mauritania supported Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, and
Iraqi civilian aircraft were parked in Mauritania during the
war. Mauritania, after pressure from aid providers France
and the United States, rejected Iraq's desire to use the
Mauritanian desert for rocket testing. In 1999, however,
Mauritania broke off diplomatic relations with Iraq, after
establishing full relations with Israel. The connection was
criticized in the Arab world and led to temporary diplomatic
rupture with Libya. Mauritania has accused both Burkina Faso
and Libya of supporting forces that have undermined the
After the terrorist attacks in September 2001 included
the United States Mauritania in a belt of states from the
Atlantic to the Red Sea that could be used by terrorists.
Cooperation in the fight against terrorism was initiated,
including with US training of the Mauritanian defense.