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History of Mauritania

History of Mauritania

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The history of Mauritania dates back to the 3rd century. Mauritania
Mauritania
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

 is named after the ancient Berber
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 kingdom of Mauretania
Mauretania
Mauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...

.

Pre-colonization


The Sahara
Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

 has linked rather than divided the peoples who inhabit it and has served as an avenue for migration and conquest. Mauritania, lying next to the Atlantic coast at the western edge of the desert, received and assimilated into its complex society many waves of these migrants and conquerors.

What is now Mauritania was a dry savanna area during classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

, where independent tribes like the Pharusii and the Perorsi (and the Nigritae near the Niger river) did a seminomadic life facing a growing desertification.

Romans
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 did explorations toward this area and probably reached, with Suetonius Paulinus, the area of Adrar
Adrar Plateau
The Adrar Plateau is a highland area of the Sahara Desert in northern Mauritania. It was heavily settled in the Neolithic era, and the more recent aridification has left much of the archaeology intact, most notable several stone circles and the later town of Azougui.The plateau is known for its...

. There are evidences (coins, fibulas) of Roman commerce in Akjoujt
Akjoujt
Akjoujt is a town in western Mauritania. It is located at around . It is the capital of Inchiri region. The town's main industry is gold and copper mining....

 and Tamkartkart near Tichit
Tichit
Tichit is a partly abandoned village at the foot of the Tagant Plateau in central southern Mauritania that is known for its vernacular architecture...



Berbers
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

 moved south to Mauritania beginning in the 3rd century, followed by Arabs in the 8th century, subjugating and assimilating Mauritania's original inhabitants. From the 8th through the 15th century, black kingdoms of the western Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

, such as Ghana, Mali, and Songhai, brought their political culture from the south.

The divisive tendencies of the various groups within Mauritanian society have always worked against the development of Mauritanian unity. Both the Sanhadja Confederation, at its height from the 8th to the 10th century, and the Almoravid Empire, from the 11th to the 12th century, were weakened by internecine warfare, and both succumbed to further invasions from the Ghana Empire
Ghana Empire
The Ghana Empire or Wagadou Empire was located in what is now southeastern Mauritania, and Western Mali. Complex societies had existed in the region since about 1500 BCE, and around Ghana's core region since about 300 CE...

 and the Almohad Empire, respectively.

The one external influence that tended to unify the country was Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

. The Islamization
Islamization
Islamization or Islamification has been used to describe the process of a society's conversion to the religion of Islam...

 of Mauritania was a gradual process that spanned more than 500 years. Beginning slowly through contacts with Berber and Arab merchants engaged in the important caravan trades and rapidly advancing through the Almoravid conquests, Islamization did not take firm hold until the arrival of Yemeni Arabs in the 12th and 13th centuries and was not complete until several centuries later. Gradual Islamization was accompanied by a process of Arabization
Arabization
Arabization or Arabisation describes a growing cultural influence on a non-Arab area that gradually changes into one that speaks Arabic and/or incorporates Arab culture...

 as well, during which the Berber masters of Mauritania lost power and became vassals of their Arab conquerors.

From the 15th to the 19th century, European contact with Mauritania was dominated by the trade for gum arabic
Gum arabic
220px|thumb|right|Acacia gumGum arabic, also known as acacia gum, chaar gund, char goond, or meska, is a natural gum made of hardened sap taken from two species of the acacia tree; Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal...

. Rivalries among European powers enabled the Arab-Berber population, the Maures (Moors), to maintain their independence and later to exact annual payments from France, whose sovereignty over the Senegal River and the Mauritanian coast was recognized by the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars,...

 in 1815. Although penetration beyond the coast and the Senegal River began in earnest under Louis Faidherbe, governor of Senegal in the mid-19th century, European conquest or "pacification" of the entire country did not begin until 1900. Because extensive European contact began so late in the country's history, the traditional social structure carried over into modern times with little change.

French colonization



The history of French colonial policy
French colonial empire
The French colonial empire was the set of territories outside Europe that were under French rule primarily from the 17th century to the late 1960s. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the colonial empire of France was the second-largest in the world behind the British Empire. The French colonial empire...

 in Mauritania is closely tied to that of the other French possessions in West Africa, particularly to that of Senegal
Senegal
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...

, on which Mauritania was economically, politically, and administratively dependent until independence. The French policy of assimilation and direct rule, however, was never applied with any vigor in Mauritania, where a system that corresponded more to Britain's colonial policies of association and indirect rule developed. Colonial administrators relied extensively on Islamic religious leaders and the traditional warrior groups to maintain their rule and carry out their policies. Moreover, little attempt was made to develop the country's economy.

After World War II, Mauritania, along with the rest of French West Africa
French West Africa
French West Africa was a federation of eight French colonial territories in Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan , French Guinea , Côte d'Ivoire , Upper Volta , Dahomey and Niger...

, was involved in a series of reforms of the French colonial system, culminating in independence in 1960. These reforms were part of a trend away from the official policies of assimilation and direct rule in favor of administrative decentralization
Decentralization
__FORCETOC__Decentralization or decentralisation is the process of dispersing decision-making governance closer to the people and/or citizens. It includes the dispersal of administration or governance in sectors or areas like engineering, management science, political science, political economy,...

 and internal autonomy. Although the nationalistic fervor sweeping French West Africa at this time was largely absent in Mauritania, continuous politicking (averaging one election every eighteen months between 1946 and 1958) provided training for political leaders and awakened a political consciousness among the populace. Nevertheless, when Mauritania declared its independence in 1960, its level of political as well as economic development was, at best, embryonic.

Independence, Ould Daddah era, and the Saharan War



As the country gained independence on November 28, 1960, the capital city Nouakchott
Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

 was founded at the site of a small colonial village, the Ksar, while 90% of the population was still nomad
Nomad
Nomadic people , commonly known as itinerants in modern-day contexts, are communities of people who move from one place to another, rather than settling permanently in one location. There are an estimated 30-40 million nomads in the world. Many cultures have traditionally been nomadic, but...

ic. With independence, larger numbers of ethnic Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa as a geographical term refers to the area of the African continent which lies south of the Sahara. A political definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, instead, covers all African countries which are fully or partially located south of the Sahara...

ns (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof
Wolof people
The Wolof are an ethnic group found in Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania.In Senegal, the Wolof form an ethnic plurality with about 43.3% of the population are Wolofs...

) entered Mauritania, moving into the area north of the Senegal River
Sénégal River
The Sénégal River is a long river in West Africa that forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania.The Sénégal's headwaters are the Semefé and Bafing rivers which both originate in Guinea; they form a small part of the Guinean-Malian border before coming together at Bafoulabé in Mali...

. As before independence, the sedentary lifestyle of these groups made them more receptive to and useful in state formation, and they quickly came to dominate state administration, even if the Moorish groups built up by the French remained in charge of the political process. Moors reacted to this change by increasing pressures for Arabization
Arabization
Arabization or Arabisation describes a growing cultural influence on a non-Arab area that gradually changes into one that speaks Arabic and/or incorporates Arab culture...

, to Arabicize many aspects of Mauritanian life, such as law and language, and ethnic tension built up - helped by a common memory of warfare and slave raids.

President Moktar Ould Daddah
Moktar Ould Daddah
Moktar Ould Daddah was the President of Mauritania from 1960, when his country gained its independence from France, to 1978, when he was deposed in a military coup d'etat.- Background :...

, originally helped to the post by the French, rapidly reformed Mauritania into an authoritarian one-party state in 1964, with his new constitution
Constitution of Mauritania
The current Constitution of Mauritania was adopted on 12 July 1991. There have been several constitutions since Mauritania's independence in 1960.-Current constitution:...

. Daddah's own Parti du Peuple Mauritanien
Parti du Peuple Mauritanien
Mauritanian People's Party was the sole legal party of Mauritania from 1961 to 1978. It was headed by President Moktar Ould Daddah....

 (PPM) became the ruling organization. The President justified this decision on the grounds that he considered Mauritania unready for western-style multi-party democracy
Multi-party system
A multi-party system is a system in which multiple political parties have the capacity to gain control of government separately or in coalition, e.g.The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the United Kingdom formed in 2010. The effective number of parties in a multi-party system is normally...

. Under this one-party constitution, Daddah was reelected in uncontested elections in 1966, 1971 and 1976.

To take advantage of the country's sizable iron ore deposits in Zouerate, the new government built a 675-km railway and a mining
Mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

 port. Production began in 1963. The mines were operated by a foreign owned consortium that paid its approximately 3,000 expatriate workers handsomely - their salaries accounted for two-thirds of the country's entire wages bill. When the Mauritanian miners went on a two-month strike
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

 in the late 1960s the army
Military of Mauritania
The military forces of Mauritania are listed by the IISS Military Balance 2007 as comprising 15,870 personnel with an additional 5,000 paramilitaries....

 intervened and eight miners were killed. Left-wing opposition to the government mounted and some miners formed a clandestine Marxist union in 1973. President Ould Daddah survived the challenge from left-wing opponents by nationalising the company in 1974 and withdrawing from the franc
Franc
The franc is the name of several currency units, most notably the Swiss franc, still a major world currency today due to the prominence of Swiss financial institutions and the former currency of France, the French franc until the Euro was adopted in 1999...

 zone, substituting the ouguiya for the CFA.

In 1975, partly for nationalist reasons and partly for fear of Moroccan
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 expansionism
Greater Morocco
Greater Morocco is a label historically used by some Moroccan anti-colonial political leaders protesting against Spanish and French rule, to refer to wider territories historically associated with the Moroccan Sultan...

,http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+mr0123) Mauritania invaded and annexed
Annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

 the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara
Spanish Sahara
Spanish Sahara was the name used for the modern territory of Western Sahara when it was ruled as a territory by Spain between 1884 and 1975...

 (now Western Sahara
Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to . It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly...

) in 1975, renaming it Tiris al-Gharbiyya
Tiris al-Gharbiyya
Tiris al-Gharbiyya was the Mauritanian name for the area of Western Sahara under its control between 1975 and 1979.-Background:...

. However, after nearly three years of raids by the Sahrawi guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

s of the Polisario Front
Polisario Front
The POLISARIO, Polisario Front, or Frente Polisario, from the Spanish abbreviation of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro is a Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement working for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco...

, Mauritania's economic and political stability began to crumble. Despite French and Moroccan military aid
Opération Lamantin
Opération Lamatin was a December 1977 – July 1978 military intervention by France on the behalf of the Mauritanian government, in its war against Sahrawi guerrilla fighters of the Polisario Front, seeking independence for Western Sahara.-Background:...

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+mr0135), Polisario raids against the Zouerate railway and mines
Mining
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, from an ore body, vein or seam. The term also includes the removal of soil. Materials recovered by mining include base metals, precious metals, iron, uranium, coal, diamonds, limestone, oil shale, rock...

 threatened to bring about economic collapse, and there were deep misgivings in the military about the Saharan adventure. Ethnic unrest contributed to the disarray. Black Africans from the south were conscripted
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 as front-line soldiers, after the northern Sahrawi minorities and their Moorish kin had proven unreliable in the fight against Polisario, but many of the southerners rebelled against having to fight what they considered an inter-Arab war. After the government quarters in Nouakchott had twice been shelled by Polisario forces, unrest simmered, but Daddah's only response was to further tighten his hold on power.

On July 10, 1978, Col. Mustafa Ould Salek
Mustafa Ould Salek
Col. Mustafa Ould Salek was the President of Mauritania from 1978 through 1979.Mustafa Ould Salek was appointed army commander by longtime President Mokhtar Ould Daddah in February, 1978, as the country faced dire economic crisis and was failing to contain the Polisario Front's Sahrawi guerrillas...

 led a bloodless coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 that ousted the President, who would later go into exile in France. Power passed to the military strongmen of the Military Committee for National Recovery
Military Committee for National Recovery
The Military Committee for National Recovery was a short-lived military government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania after the coup d'état that removed long-time President Mukthar Ould Daddah on July 10, 1978, until a second coup on April 6, 1979. It was headed by Col. Mustapha Ould Salek...

 (CMRN). Polisario immediately declared a cease-fire, and peace negotiations began under the sponsorship of Polisario's main backer, Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

. With the CMSN's leader reluctant to break with France and Mauritania, the country refused to give in to Polisario demands for a troop retreat, and Ould Salek's careless handling of the ethnic issue (massively discriminating against Black Africans in nominating for government posts http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+mr0036)) contributed to further unrest. In early 1979, he was pushed aside by another group of officers, who renamed the junta the Military Committee for National Salvation
Military Committee for National Salvation
The Military Committee for National Salvation was a military government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania that took power in 1979. It was installed by Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla, Ahmed Ould Bouceif and fellow officers, in an internal regime/military coup d'état on April 6, 1979, removing Col...

 (CMSN). Col. Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah soon emerged as its main strongman.

1978 to 1991



In 1979, Polisario broke off the cease-fire and unleashed a string of new attacks on military and government targets. Mauritania, under its new government, immediately returned to the table to meet Polisario's goals, declaring full peace, a troop retreat, relinquishing their portion of Western Sahara and recognizing the Front as the Sahrawi people's sole representative.http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+mr0037) Morocco, occupying the northern half of Western Sahara and also involved in combat against Polisario, reacted with outrage, and launched a failed 1981 coup against the CMSN. Mauritania broke off relations with Rabat
Rabat
Rabat , is the capital and third largest city of the Kingdom of Morocco with a population of approximately 650,000...

 in protest, although ties were later restored.http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/country_profiles/2483315.stmhttp://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+mr0038)

In interior policy, Haidallah sought to improve relations between Moors and Black Africans, among other things officially decreeing the ban of slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 for the first time in the country's history, but he neither tried nor achieved a radical break with the sectarian and discriminating policies of previous regimes. An attempt to reinstate civilian rule was abandoned after the above-mentioned Moroccan-sponsored coup attempt nearly brought down the regime; foreign-backed plots also involved Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 countries and Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

, and the country several times appeared to be under military threat from Morocco.http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+mr0038)

With Haidallah's ambitious political and social reform program undone by continuing instability, regime inefficiency and a plethora of coup attempts and intrigues from within the military establishment, the CMSN chairman turned increasingly autocratic, excluding other junta officers from power, and provoking discontent by frequently reshuffling the power hierarchy to prevent threats to his position.

On December 12, 1984, Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya , was Prime Minister of Mauritania from 1981 to 1984 and president from 1984 to 2005. He guided Mauritania from military rule to democracy, and took a pro-Western stance in foreign affairs...

 deposed Haidallah and declared himself Chairman of the CMSN. Like other rulers before him, he promised a swift transfer to democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

, but then made little of these promises.

The discord between conflicting visions of Mauritanian society as either black or Arab, again rose to the surface during the intercommunal violence that broke out in April 1989 (the "1989 Events"), when a Mauritania-Senegal border dispute
Mauritania-Senegal Border War
The Mauritania–Senegal Border War was a conflict fought between the West African countries of Mauritania and Senegal during 1989–1991. The conflict began around the two countries' River Senegal border, over grazing rights.-Background:...

 escalated into violence between the two communities. Tens of thousands of black Mauritanians fled or were expelled from the country,http://www.hrw.org/reports/1989/WR89/Mauritan.htm and many remain in Senegal
Mauritanians in Senegal
There is a large community of Mauritanians in Senegal, including tens of thousands of black Mauritanians expelled by their own government during a 1989 border incident.-Migration history:...

 as refugee
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

s. This is also where the black Mauritanian movement FLAM
African Liberation Forces of Mauritania
The African Liberation Forces of Mauritania is an exiled paramilitary organization for the Black African majority in Arabo-Berber minority Mauritania.- Foundation :...

 is based. Although tension has since subsided, the Arab-African racial tension remains an important feature of the political dialog today. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions between its black minority population and the dominant Mauri
Mauri
Mauri may refer to:*Mauri meaning the life force which all objects contain, in the Māori language of New Zealand and the Rotuman language of Rotuma*Mauri, or Maurya Empire, an ancient caste in India which built its greatest empire...

 (Arab-Berber) populace. A significant number from both groups, however, seek a more diverse, pluralistic society.

1991 to present



Opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution approved in 1991 which put an end to formal military rule. However, Ould Taya's election wins were dismissed as fraudulent by both opposition groups and external observers. In 1998, Mauritania became the third Arab country to recognize Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, despite strong internal opposition.

In 2001, elections incorporated more safeguards against voter fraud but opposition candidate (and former leader) Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah was nevertheless arrested prior to election day on charges of planning a coup, released the same day, and rearrested after the election. Attempted military coups and unrest instigated by Islamist opponents of the regime marred the early years of the 21st century, and the Taya regime's heavy-handed crackdowns were criticized by human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 groups.

On June 8, 2003 a failed coup attempt was made against President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya , was Prime Minister of Mauritania from 1981 to 1984 and president from 1984 to 2005. He guided Mauritania from military rule to democracy, and took a pro-Western stance in foreign affairs...

 by forces unhappy with his imprisonment of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic leaders in the wake of the US-led invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

 and his establishment of full diplomatic relations with Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. The coup was suppressed after one day of fighting in the capital when pro-Taya military forces arrived from the countryside. A number of government officials were detained after the coup including the head of the Supreme Court, Mahfoud Ould Lemrabott
Mahfoud Ould Lemrabott
-External links:*...

, and the Secretary of State for Women's Affairs, Mintata Mint Hedeid
Mintata Mint Hedeid
Mintata Mint Hedeid is a Mauritanian politician. She was the Secretary of State for Women's Affairs of Mauritania from 2000 until 2003. She was detained during the failed military coup attempt in July 2003, along with other Mauritanian politicians like head of the Supreme Court, Mahfoud Ould...

. The coup leader, Saleh Ould Hanenna
Saleh Ould Hanenna
Saleh Ould Hanenna is a former Mauritanian soldier and political figure.Hanenna served in the Mauritanian Army and rose to the rank of Major before being forced out in 2000. In June 2003, he led an attempted coup, aiming to overthrow President Maaouya Ould Taya. He commanded a rebel section of...

, a former army colonel sacked for opposing Taya's pro-Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 policies, was not captured or killed during the coup. (See this BBC article on theories behind the coup.)

On August 3, 2005 the Mauritanian military, including members of the presidential guard, seized control of key points in the capital of Nouakchott
Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

, performing a coup against the government of President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya , was Prime Minister of Mauritania from 1981 to 1984 and president from 1984 to 2005. He guided Mauritania from military rule to democracy, and took a pro-Western stance in foreign affairs...

 who was out of the country, attending the funeral of Saudi
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 King Fahd. The officers released the following statement:

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. (BBC)

Taya was never able to return to the country, and remains in exile. The new junta
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

 called itself the Military Council for Justice and Democracy
Military Council for Justice and Democracy
The Military Council for Justice and Democracy was the supreme political body of Mauritania. It served as the country's interim government following the coup d'etat which ousted the President, Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya on 3 August 2005. It was led by the former director of the national police...

, and democracy and rule of law
Rule of law
The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

. Col.. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall
Ely Ould Mohamed Vall
Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall is a political and military figure in Mauritania. He served as the transitional military leader of Mauritania following a coup d'état in August 2005 until 19 April 2007, when he relinquished power to an elected government....

 emerged as leader at an early stage. Dissident
Dissident
A dissident, broadly defined, is a person who actively challenges an established doctrine, policy, or institution. When dissidents unite for a common cause they often effect a dissident movement....

s were released, and the political climate relaxed. A new constitution was approved in June 2006. Elections
Mauritanian presidential election, 2007
A Mauritanian presidential election occurred on 11 March 2007. Since no candidate received a majority of the votes, a second round was held on 25 March between the top two candidates, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and Ahmed Ould Daddah...

 were held in March 2007, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi
Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi
Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is a Mauritanian politician. He served in the government during the 1970s, and after a long period of absence from politics he won the March 2007 presidential election, taking office on 19 April 2007...

 was elected president and Vall stood down.

On August 6, 2008, Mauritania's presidential spokesman Abdoulaye Mamadouba said President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi
Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi
Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is a Mauritanian politician. He served in the government during the 1970s, and after a long period of absence from politics he won the March 2007 presidential election, taking office on 19 April 2007...

, Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf and the interior minister, were arrested by renegade Senior Mauritanian army officers, unknown troops and a group of generals, and were held under house arrest at the presidential palace in Nouakchott
Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

. In the apparently successful and bloodless coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

, Abdallahi daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi said: "The security agents of the BASEP (Presidential Security Battalion) came to our home and took away my father." The coup plotters are top fired Mauritania's security forces, which include General Muhammad Ould 'Abd Al-'Aziz, General Muhammad Ould Al-Ghazwani, General Philippe Swikri, and Brigadier General (Aqid) Ahmad Ould Bakri. Mauritanian lawmaker, Mohammed Al Mukhtar, announced that "many of the country's people were supporting the takeover attempt and the government is "an authoritarian regime" and that the president had "marginalized the majority in parliament."

See also

  • History of Africa
    History of Africa
    The history of Africa begins with the prehistory of Africa and the emergence of Homo sapiens in East Africa, continuing into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states. Agriculture began about 10,000 BCE and metallurgy in about 4000 BCE. The history of early...

  • History of North Africa
    History of North Africa
    North Africa is a relatively thin strip of land between the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean, stretching from Moroccan Atlantic coast to Egypt. The region comprises the modern countries, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Libya and Egypt. The history of the region is a mix of influences...

  • History of West Africa
    History of West Africa
    The partial history of West Africa can be divided into five major periods:#Its prehistory, in which the first human settlers arrived, agriculture developed, and contact made with the Mediterranean civilizations to the north....

  • List of Presidents of Mauritania
  • Politics of Mauritania
    Politics of Mauritania
    The first fully democratic Presidential election since 1960 occurred on 11 March 2007. The election was the final transfer from military to civilian rule following the military coup in 2005. This was the first time the president was selected by ballot in the country's history...


External links