Mauritania-Senegal Border War

Mauritania-Senegal Border War

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The Mauritania–Senegal Border War was a conflict fought between the West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

n countries of 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...

 and 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...

 during 1989–1991. The conflict began around the two countries' River Senegal border, over grazing rights
Grazing rights
Grazing rights is a legal term referring to the right of a user to allow their livestock to feed in a given area.- United States :...



Mauritania's south is mostly populated by the Fula
Fula people
Fula people or Fulani or Fulbe are an ethnic group spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa, but found also in Central Africa and Sudanese North Africa...

The Toucouleurs are a Fula agricultural people who live primarily in West Africa: the north of Senegal in the Senegal River valley, Mauritania, and Mali.-History:...

, 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...

 and Soninké.

Senegal, meanwhile, is dominated by the Wolof.


In April 1989, the dispute over grazing rights led Mauritanian Moorish border guards to fire at and kill two Senegalese peasants. As a result, people on the Senegalese southern bank riot
A riot is a form of civil disorder characterized often by what is thought of as disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people. While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots are thought to be typically chaotic and...

ed. In Senegal, where many shopkeepers were Mauritanian, shops were looted
Looting —also referred to as sacking, plundering, despoiling, despoliation, and pillaging—is the indiscriminate taking of goods by force as part of a military or political victory, or during a catastrophe, such as during war, natural disaster, or rioting...

 and most Mauritanians were expelled to Mauritania. In Mauritania, lynch mobs and police brutality
Police brutality
Police brutality is the intentional use of excessive force, usually physical, but potentially also in the form of verbal attacks and psychological intimidation, by a police officer....

 ended in the forced exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

 of about 70,000 southerners to Senegal, despite most of them having no links to the country. About 250,000 people fled their homes as both sides engaged in cross-border raids. Hundreds of people died in both countries.
The Organisation of African Unity tried to negotiate a settlement to reopen the border, but it was ultimately an initiative of Senegalese President Abdou Diouf
Abdou Diouf
Abdou Diouf was the second President of Senegal, serving from 1981 to 2000. Diouf is notable both for coming to power by peaceful succession, and leaving willingly after losing the 2000 presidential election to Abdoulaye Wade...

 which led to a treaty
A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

 being signed on July 18, 1991.

Mauritanian refugees would slowly trickle back into the country during the following years, but some 20,000–30,000 remain in Senegalese refugee camps today, and this is were the armed black nationalist 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.

Refugee repatriation

In June 2007, the Mauritanian government under 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...

 asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees , also known as The UN Refugee Agency is a United Nations agency mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to...

 (UNHCR) to help it repatriate black Mauritanians who had been forced out in the war and were living in refugee camps in Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

and Senegal. According to UNHRC estimates, there were 20,000 refugees in Senegal and 6,000 in Mali as of July 2007.