Prehistory

Findings from the Middle Palaeolithic have been made in central Mauritania. Late Paleolithic object groups with similarities in the Nile Valley are also covered. At Dhar Tichitt lived from about 2500 BC a hunter, fisherman and collector population, and from about 1800 BC livestock management took place. Around 1200 BC a kind of millet was grown, and large fortified villages were erected. Traces of copper smelting at Akjoujt from the 400s BC (the oldest known in West Africa) has also been used as an argument for an independent African ironworking tradition. Later large-scale salt mining at Teghaza probably contributed to the emergence of the Ghanaian kingdom.

  • Countryaah: Check to see the location of Mauritania on the world map. Also covers major mountains, rivers and lakes in Mauritania.

History

History Timeline of Mauritania

During the centuries after the 300s AD immigrated berber tribes from the north. This eventually led to the former population being pushed south to the Senegal River and the country being Islamized. The Berber dynasty of the Almoravids ruled about 1050-150 Northwest Africa and large parts of the Pyrenees peninsula. To see more information other than history, please visit Abbreviationfinder to learn more about climate, population, government, and economy for the country of Mauritania. From the east came during the period 1200–1600 warlike Arab tribes, which mingled with the Berbers. So emerged the Arabic-speaking Moors and Mauritania’s still-existing social hierarchy, with a military and religious overlay (“white Moors”) and a lower tier of, among others, freed and slaves (“black moors”), both predominantly nomadic herdsmen (compare Population and Ethnography)).

From the 15th century, the region came into contact with Europe, when Portuguese, later also French and English merchants established themselves on the coast. The area became one of the uplands of the slave trade. When France began its colonial expansion from Senegal around 1850, the Moors were also subdued north of the river. In 1903, all of Mauritania was incorporated with French West Africa.

In 1960, Mauritania became independent as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. The first president became the leader of the dominant Party du peuple Mauritania (PPM) Mokhtar Ould Daddah (1924–2003), whose regime relied on the traditional elite. His policies became radicalized gradually. Arabic became a compulsory language in schools, leading to unrest among non-Moorish people. The country’s main export industry, mining, was socialized, and Mauritania joined the Arab League in 1973.

In 1975 Mauritania and Morocco divided the former Spanish Sahara (Western Sahara). This led to the Western Sahara freedom movement Polisario invading the country. Mauritania was at the same time depleted by several years of drought decimating the country’s nomadic population, which instead gathered in the cities, including in the rapidly growing, newly founded capital Nouakchott.

In 1978, Ould Daddah was overthrown by a military coup under Mustapha Ould Mohamed Salek. After a brief interlude, Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla took over the presidential power in 1980, renounced Mauritania’s part of Western Sahara and recognized its independence in 1984. In the same year he was overthrown by army chief Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya. Under the pressure of the country’s great poverty and growing protest movements from Mauritania’s black population, Taya ended the 13-year military rule in 1991 and a new constitution was adopted by referendum in July. The Constitution allows multi-party systems and Arabic is the official language. Shortly after the Constitution came into force, the first political parties were registered. The ruling party became the republican democratique et social(Prds). In January 1992, presidential elections were held and Taya was elected with 62 percent of the vote. Ahead of the parliamentary elections that year, half a dozen opposition parties withdrew their candidates after accusing the electoral authorities of favoring the PRDS.

While in practice Mauritania remained almost a one-party state, despite the formal democracy, pressure against the opposition increased. In 1994, Cheikh Saidibou Camara, chairman of an unauthorized human rights organization, was jailed after claiming that children of the harratin had been sold as slaves. Slavery has been prohibited since 1981, and any reference to slavery is considered hostile. In 2015, the definition of slavery was expanded and the scale of punishment was sharpened. However, according to reports by the UN Commission on Human Rights, however, slavery is still very common.

In the fall of 1994, mass arrests of suspected Islamists took place. Several radical Islamic organizations were declared illegal, and political speeches in prayer rooms were banned. Later, radical secular parties have also been dissolved by government orders, in part in connection with violent protests against Mauritania’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999. The US invasion of Iraq in March 2003 triggered new unrest, culminating in a coup attempt in June, likely led by Islamist officers. At least 15 people were killed in street fighting in Nouakchott, including the country’s army chief. Dozens of people were arrested and many senior officers were displaced.

Before the November 2003 presidential election, former President Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla was believed to be able to gather enough support from both Islamists and secular Arab nationalists and liberal reform advocates to seriously challenge Taya. However, Ould Haidalla was arrested by police just before the election and accused of planning a coup. He was immediately set free, so that the election could be conducted, but was arrested again immediately after the election and later sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. In the election, at which foreign observers were not welcome, Taya won by two-thirds of the votes. Following information on yet another coup attempt in August 2004, four officers were sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2005. Others were jailed for up to 15 years.

In August 2005, a bloody military coup was completed under the leadership of security forces chief Ely Ould Mohamed Vall. Taya was abroad at the time. Vall himself took over the presidential post, with support from the army and security forces. Initiatives were taken to reintroduce democracy in the country. In the 2007 presidential election, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdellahi won. However, dissatisfaction with the new president escalated rapidly, including after a number of people with ties to the Taya regime took office in the new government. Abdallahi was deposed in 2008 in a new military coup led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Abdel Aziz strengthened his mandate as president after winning the presidential election in 2009. Oppositions between the regime and the opposition persisted and the parliamentary elections held in 2013 were boycotted by large parts of the opposition, as was the 2014 presidential election in which Abdel Aziz was re-elected.

In 2010, Mauritania began closer cooperation with Mali, Niger and Algeria to fight terrorists, including the Islamist terrorist organization al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is believed to be behind several attacks and kidnappings in the area. In April 2014, G5 Sahel, an organization for enhanced development and security cooperation between the member states of Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad was formed.

Military coups and political repression

In 1978, Ould Daddah was overthrown by a military coup under Mustapha Ould Mohamed Salek (1936–2012). After a brief interlude, Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla (born 1940) took over the presidential power in 1980, renounced Mauritania’s part of Western Sahara and recognized its independence in 1984. In the same year, he was overthrown by Army Chief Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya (born 1941).

Under the pressure of the country’s great poverty and growing protest movements from Mauritania’s black population, Taya ended the 13-year military rule in 1991 and a new constitution was adopted by referendum in July. The Constitution allows multi-party systems and Arabic is the official language. Shortly after the Constitution came into force, the first political parties were registered. The Government Party became the Republic Public Democratique et Social (PRDS). In January 1992, presidential elections were held and Taya was elected with 62 percent of the vote. Ahead of the parliamentary elections that year, half a dozen opposition parties withdrew their candidates after accusing the electoral authorities of favoring the PRDS.

While in practice Mauritania remained almost a one-party state, despite the formal democracy, pressure against the opposition increased. In 1994, Cheikh Saidibou Camara, chairman of an unauthorized human rights organization, was jailed after claiming that children of the harratin had been sold as slaves. Slavery has been prohibited since 1981, and any reference to slavery is considered hostile. In 2015, the definition of slavery was expanded and the scale of punishment was sharpened. However, according to reports by the UN Commission on Human Rights, however, slavery is still very common.

In the fall of 1994, mass arrests of suspected Islamists took place. Several radical Islamic organizations were declared illegal, and political speeches in prayer rooms were banned. Later, radical secular parties have also been dissolved by government orders, in part in connection with violent protests against Mauritania’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999. The US invasion of Iraq in March 2003 triggered new unrest, culminating in a coup attempt in June, likely led by Islamist officers. At least 15 people were killed in street fighting in Nouakchott, including the country’s army chief. Dozens of people were arrested and many senior officers were displaced.

Before the November 2003 presidential election, former President Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla was believed to be able to gather enough support from both Islamists and secular Arab nationalists and liberal reform advocates to seriously challenge Taya. However, Ould Haidalla was arrested by police just before the election and accused of planning a coup. He was immediately set free, so that the election could be conducted, but was arrested again immediately after the election and later sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. In the election, at which foreign observers were not welcome, Taya won by two-thirds of the votes. Following information on yet another coup attempt in August 2004, four officers were sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2005. Others were jailed for up to 15 years.

New coups and some democratization

In August 2005, a bloody military coup was completed under the leadership of the security forces chief Ely Ould Mohamed Vall (1953–2017). Taya was abroad at the time. Vall himself took over the presidential post, with support from the army and security forces. Initiatives were taken to reintroduce democracy in the country. In the 2007 presidential election, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdellahi (born 1938) won. However, dissatisfaction with the new president escalated rapidly, including after a number of people with ties to the Taya regime took office in the new government. Abdallahi was deposed in 2008 in a new military coup led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Abdel Aziz strengthened his mandate as president after winning the presidential election in 2009. Oppositions between the regime and the opposition persisted and the parliamentary elections held in 2013 were boycotted by large parts of the opposition, as was the 2014 presidential election in which Abdel Aziz was re-elected.

Through a referendum, which was also boycotted by the opposition, Abdel Aziz succeeded in abolishing the Senate (parliament’s upper house). The opponents harbored fears that he would also try to extend his time in power. Ahead of the 2019 presidential election, the ruling party launched Union pour la republic (UPR) instead Defense Minister Mohamed Ould Cheikh el Ghazouani (born 1956), who took over the presidential post after his election victory.

In 2010, Mauritania began closer cooperation with Mali, Niger and Algeria to fight terrorists, including the Islamist terrorist organization al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is believed to be behind several attacks and kidnappings in the area. In April 2014, G5 Sahel, an organization for enhanced development and security cooperation between the member states of Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad was formed.

History of Mauritania
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