A Brief History of Mauritania

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State, US Department of. "A Brief History of Mauritania." ThoughtCo, Feb. 9, 2017, thoughtco.com/brief-history-of-mauritania-44316. State, US Department of. (2017, February 9). A Brief History of Mauritania. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/brief-history-of-mauritania-44316 State, US Department of. "A Brief History of Mauritania." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/brief-history-of-mauritania-44316 (accessed October 22, 2017).
Typical Saharan village, Mauritania
Rachel Carbonell/Getty Images

Berber Migration:

From the 3rd to 7th centuries, the migration of Berber tribes from North Africa displaced the Bafours, the original inhabitants of present-day Mauritania and the ancestors of the Soninke. Continued Arab-Berber migration drove indigenous black Africans south to the Senegal River or enslaved them. By 1076, Islamic warrior monks (Almoravid or Al Murabitun) completed the conquest of southern Mauritania, defeating the ancient Ghana empire.

Over the next 500 years, Arabs overcame fierce Berber resistance to dominate Mauritania.

Mauritanian Thirty-Year War:

The Mauritanian Thirty-Year War (1644-74) was the unsuccessful final Berber effort to repel the Maqil Arab invaders led by the Beni Hassan tribe. The descendants of Beni Hassan warriors became the upper stratum of Moorish society. Berbers retained influence by producing the majority of the region's Marabouts – those who preserve and teach Islamic tradition.

Stratification of Moorish Society:

Hassaniya, a mainly oral, Berber-influenced Arabic dialect that derives its name from the Beni Hassan tribe, became the dominant language among the largely nomadic population. Within Moorish society, aristocratic and servant classes developed, yielding "white" (aristocracy) and "black" Moors (the enslaved indigenous class).

Arrival of the French:

French colonization at the beginning of the 20th century brought legal prohibitions against slavery and an end to interclan warfare.

During the colonial period, the population remained nomadic, but sedentary black Africans, whose ancestors had been expelled centuries earlier by the Moors, began to trickle back into southern Mauritania.

Gaining Independence:

As the country gained independence in 1960, the capital city of Nouakchott was founded at the site of a small colonial village.

Ninety percent of the population was still nomadic. With independence, larger numbers of ethnic Sub-Saharan Africans (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) entered Mauritania, moving into the area north of the Senegal River. Educated in French, many of these recent arrivals became clerks, soldiers, and administrators in the new state.

Social Conflict and Violence:

Moors reacted to this change by trying to Arabicize much of Mauritanian life, such as law and language. A schism developed between those who considered Mauritania to be an Arab country (mainly Moors) and those who sought a dominant role for the Sub-Saharan peoples. The discord between these two conflicting visions of Mauritanian society was evident during inter-communal violence that broke out in April 1989 (the "1989 Events").

Military Rule:

The country's first president, Moktar Ould Daddah, served from independence until ousted in a bloodless coup on 10 July 1978. Mauritania was under military rule from 1978 to 1992, when the country's first multi-party elections were held following the July 1991 approval by referendum of a constitution.

A Return to Multi-Party Democracy:

The Democratic and Social Republican Party (PRDS), led by President Maaouiya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya, dominated Mauritanian politics from April 1992 until he was overthrown in August 2005.

President Taya, who won elections in 1992 and 1997, first became chief of state through a 12 December 1984 bloodless coup which made him chairman of the committee of military officers that governed Mauritania from July 1978 to April 1992. A group of current and former Army officers launched a bloody but unsuccessful coup attempt on 8 June 2003.

Trouble on the Horizon:

On 7 November 2003, Mauritania's third presidential election since adopting the democratic process in 1992 took place. Incumbent President Taya was reelected. Several opposition groups alleged that the government had used fraudulent means to win the elections, but did not elect to pursue their grievances via available legal channels. The elections incorporated safeguards first adopted in 2001 municipal elections – published voter lists and hard-to-falsify voter identification cards.

Second Military Rule and a Fresh Start on Democracy:

On 3 August 2005, President Taya was deposed in a bloodless coup. Military commanders, led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall seized power while President Taya was attending the funeral of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd. Colonel Vall established the ruling Military Council for Justice and Democracy to run the country. The council dissolved the Parliament and appointed a transitional government.

Mauritania held series of elections that began in November 2006 with a parliamentary vote and culminated 25 March 2007 with the second round of the presidential election. Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdellahi was elected President, taking power on 19 April.
(Text from Public Domain material, US Department of State Background Notes.)

Format
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Your Citation
State, US Department of. "A Brief History of Mauritania." ThoughtCo, Feb. 9, 2017, thoughtco.com/brief-history-of-mauritania-44316. State, US Department of. (2017, February 9). A Brief History of Mauritania. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/brief-history-of-mauritania-44316 State, US Department of. "A Brief History of Mauritania." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/brief-history-of-mauritania-44316 (accessed October 22, 2017).