Mauritania Recent History

Mauritania Recent History

From independence to the 1980s

According to localcollegeexplorer, the territory of Mauritania became a protectorate of France in 1904 and from 1920 it was one of the 8 territories of French West Africa. In 1958 Mauritania opted for autonomy within the French Community and in 1960 proclaimed itself independent, with the name of République Islamique de Mauritanie. Claimed (until 1969) by Morocco, it was admitted to the UN in 1961 and participated in the formation of the Organization de l’Unité africaine (OUA) in 1963. In May 1961 a presidential constitution entered into force; MO Daddah, prime minister since 1959, was elected president in August, while the Parti du peuple mauritanien (PPM) was formed in December, declared a single party in 1964. One of the biggest problems, in the aftermath of independence, was the tension between the Mauritian majority (Arab-Berber) and the black minority of the population, which resulted in open conflict in 1966. A severe drought hit the country in the early 1970s, while in 1974 important nationalizations were carried out, especially in the mining sectors.

Mauritania, which entered the Arab League in 1973, entered into an agreement (1975) with Morocco and Spain for the partition of the Spanish Sahara, renamed Western Sahara. The military invasion was opposed by the Western Sahara liberation movement (Frente Polisario); the defeats suffered during the war and the consequent worsening of the economic situation were at the origin of a coup d’état which in July 1978 led to the dismissal of Daddah. Power was assumed by a Comité militaire de redressement national (CMRN) replaced in April 1979 by a Comité militaire de salut national (CMSN); in May 1979 the office of prime minister (separate from that of head of state) was assumed by Colonel MKO Heydalla. In August a peace treaty was signed with the Frente Polisario, while relations with Morocco underwent a progressive deterioration and diplomatic relations with Algeria were re-established, interrupted in 1976.

In 1980 Heydalla assumed the office of president of the CMSN, leaving that of prime minister, while with the abolition of slavery he tried to consolidate the internal structure. The instability of the country did not diminish while in the years 1982-84 a new drought hit the country; in December 1984, Heydalla was deposed and replaced by Colonel MSA Taya, who in 1985 re-established diplomatic relations with Morocco. In 1985, a structural adjustment program was initiated. The problem of the distribution of reclaimed land in the Senegal river valley was at the origin of a resurgence of tension between the Mauritian majority and the black minority, which also involved neighboring Senegal, leading to the breakdown of diplomatic relations (1989-92) and armed clashes. in 1991, while Mauritania

From the 1990s to the 2000s

A multi-party Constitution was approved in July 1991 and the 1992 elections for the office of President of the Republic were won by Taya, while the Republican Democratic and Social Party (PRDS) established itself in the policies of 1993 and in the administrative offices of 1994. In 1995 it re-exploded nevertheless the social protest for the authoritarian policy of the government which from the end of 1993 had also been directed against Islamic fundamentalist groups. In a climate of serious irregularities in 1996 the political consultations confirmed the clear victory of the PRDS and in 1997 Taya was re-elected, a victory that marked the success of his authoritarian policy aimed at maintaining, also thanks to complex electoral strategies, the traditional network of tribal obedience., regional and ethnic and, therefore, a social hierarchy that saw the Moorish-Berber majority dominate the political and economic scene of the country at the expense of the black ethnic groups. The substantial immobility of the political framework was manifested in the return of CAOM Khouna as head of the government (1998), in the victory of the PRDS in the administrative elections of 1999 and in those for the Senate (April 2000), as well as in the results of the 2001 policies that saw a new PRDS victory.

In foreign policy, Mauritania re-established relations with Kuwait (1993), established diplomatic relations with Israel (1995), strengthened ties with France, while from the end of 1994, together with Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, participated in the birth of the NATO Mediterranean Cooperation Group (1997). Mauritania joined following the American campaign to fight Islamic terrorism launched after the attacks of 11 September 2001. In November 2003 Taya was re-elected president by a large majority but his power was however increasingly vacillating, due to the severe social unrest, ethnic tensions and the growing activity of radical Islamic groups. Between 2003 and 2004 there were coup attempts, thwarted by the army remained loyal to the president, until in August 2005 yet another military pronouncement was successful: Taya was ousted from power and installed a junta of military leaders, with the aim of implementing democratic reforms. The Constitution was changed to limit presidential powers (not allowing, for example, to carry out more than 2 terms): these changes were approved through a referendum in 2006. In March 2007 the elections saw the victory of SOC Abdallahi, who announced a extensive democratic and economic development program. In August 2008, however, a group of military men led by former presidential guard chief MOA Aziz seized power without bloodshed, establishing a government headed by MOM Laghdaf by decree. In 2009, an agreement between the military junta in power and its opponents allowed the holding of elections, following which Aziz became president of the Republic, reconfirmed for a second term in June 2014. In the legislative consultations held in December 2013, the presidential party Unione per la Repubblica (UPR) obtained an absolute majority of seats in the Parliament, winning 74 seats out of a total of 147 in the National Assembly. The international community and the composite internal opposition have looked with suspicion at the apparent democratization program pursued by Aziz, which – formally justified by the need to attribute wider powers to local authorities – led to the abolition of the Senate in August 2017, decided through a referendum that obtained over 85% of favorable opinions, giving the president much wider powers and the possibility of obtaining a third term. In September 2018 the UPR won in the second round of the administrative elections.


Banco di Arguin National Park (1989); ancient Ksours of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata (1996).

Mauritania Recent History