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About Mauritania


Historic Background

female beads sellers

Before the drying up of the Sahara, today Mauritania was habited by human groupings of Hamito-Mediterranean stock that had a common linguistic and, socio-cultural background. The Greco-Roman contemporaries, with whom they used to have endless clashes, called them: Berbers which meant the aliens. There were also other habitants belonging to the black race: among these there were the Bafours whom were the first habitants of the oases in the Northern part of the country, the peuhls, cow-breeding nomads whom came from the upper-Nile sometimes during the 3rd millennium and finally the Soninke, the founders in a later period of the mighty Ghana Empire which stretched over the entire south-eastern part of the present Mauritania.

The introduction into North Africa of the camel as far back as the 2nd millennium had led to the development of trade and socio-cultural exchanges between the Northern and the Sahelian parts of Africa.

imageOwing to this animal which constituted a mean of transportation particularly suitable to the hard condition of the desert, the Sanhaja tribes of Berber origin had managed to progressively spread out southward as far as the borders of the Ghana Empire where, they had founded the town of Aoudaghost which had been described by the Arab explorers Ibn Haoukal and El Bekri in their writings "El Memalik Wal Massalik".

The political and religious movement al Moravid which developed in the XIth century on the Mauritanian shores under the leadership of the Berber preacher Abdullah Ibn Yacine, had tremendous impact on the empire of Ghana in the South as well as on the kingdom of Morocco and on Moslem Spain in the North.

Around the XVth century, the Arab tribes (Beni Hilal, Beni Souleim, Beni Hassan and others) coming from the Arabic peninsula via Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, had in successive waves, and penetrated into Mauritania.

From the out-set they clashed with the oases inhabitants and collided with the indigenous Berber tribes: the Sanhaja.

After a series of ruthless wars, the longest of which known as “Shar Bebbe” (1644-1674).

From the XVIIth century through the XVIIIth century the Arab established the Emirate of Adrar in the North, Trarza in the South, Brakna in the South-east, then a Sanhaja Emirate was established in the eastern region of Tagant.

The Arab and Sanhaja tribes intermingled and through inter-marriages became integrated and ended up forming the socially and culturally homogeneous community that had ever since existed in Mauritania.

Other Historical dates

The history of the country had been strongly marked by the Almoravides “epopee” (Xth century) which has brought tremendous changes to the society and the culture of the future Mauritania. The country had been competed by Portugues (XVth century), Germans, Dutch, British and French (XVII and XVIIIth centuries).

  • In 1855: start of the colonization which has lead to cultural rejection and to an armed resistance.
  • In 1903: Mauritania has been called « protoctorat des pays maure »
  • In 1904: Mauritania became civil territory
  • In 1905: the administrator Xavier Coppolani was assassinated in Tidjikja
  • In 1920: Mauritania declared French colony.
  • The resistance had lead to numerous battles:
  • “ Oumtounsi” which lead Lt. Mc Mahon to death.
  • Other resistant took weapons against the French colonization in the north and center of the country and Along Valley of Senegal River.
  • In 1934: End of the armed resistance.
  • In 1945: Mauritania declared « Territoire d’Outre-Mer » of the France.
  • In 1957: Mauritania adopted the « loi Deferre ».
  • In 1958: The Islamic Republic of Mauritania gained the intern autonomy.
  • In 1960: on 28th November, Mauritania obtains full National Independence from France.

Administratively, Mauritania is organized into 13 regions (swilayas) and 53 departments (moughataas).

Other important dates

  • July 20th, 1991, adoption of the referendum, to institute a democratic and liberal constitution in the country
  • July 25th, 1991, Proclamation of pluralism regulations and freedom of press,
  • In 1992 - Election of the parliament (Assembly and Senate)

All these institutions work today properly to guarantee stability and sustainable freedom necessary for development and civil peace.


Mauritania has adopted its current constitution by referendum on July 20th, 1991.
This constitution guarantees:

  • The installation of a pluralist and democratic regime.
  • Public and individual liberties
  • Fundamental rights of citizens
  • Freedom of organization and association
  • Freedom of press
  • Modality of elections organisations
  • Operating modality of constitutional council
  • Property rights
  • Political and syndical rights
  • Economic and social rights
  • Family associated rights
  • Etc.

The executive power

The adoption of July 1991 of new constitution had brought to an end to the situation of exception and has boosted the democratic process that has lead to the creation of political party and the organization of several presidential and parliamentary polls.

But, in spite of the immense hope that emerged from this political situation, the process suffered from several distortions linked to the hegemonic position of the PRDS party then in power, which by its policies made any alternation of power impossible and worked forcibly to edge all the other national political forces.  This deadlock political situation coupled with the economic and social crises have lead the soft change of power in August 3, 2005 initiated by the Military Council for Justice and Democracy headed by the colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall.

This Military Council for Justice and Democracy had to lead the country during a transitional period of 19 months to arrange for favorable conditions to establish a real pluralist and transparent democracy.

Under the leadership of the Military Council for Justice and Democracy, constitutional amendments have been adopted by referendum on June 26th, 2006. These amendments worked out an automatic alternation in power, the length of each term to 5 years instead of 6 and a maximum of to two terms only.

In October, same year, legislative and municipal elections have been organized, followed later by the senatorial election hold on January 2007 and presidential election on March the same year.

All these ballots were totally marked by transparency and good organization and have been described as fair and credible by national and international observers who witnessed on the ground the whole process.

H.E. Mr. Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdellahi had been elected on March 25, 2007, and has taken office officially as President of the Republic since April 19th, 2007, during an investiture ceremony that witnessed a great participation of several heads of states and governments but also of many special envoys from friend countries.

Today, Mauritania has re-tied up again with the constitutional order: a new government had been appointed, the democratic institutions resulting from the latest ballots (assembly and senate) have resumed their activities. This enviable situation has created a clean environment favorable to economic growth and foreign direct investments.

Others institutions

  • Constitutional Council
  • Islamic High Council 
  • Economic and Social Council
  • High Court of Justice
  • Supreme Court
  • Account Court
  • Mediator of the Republic

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