Mauritania (MR)

Capital

Nouakchott

Population

3.6 million

Consitution

Democratic Islamic republic headed by president

Head of state

President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani 

National Day

November 23rd

Mauritania's Ambassador to the UK

H.E. Mr Sidya Ould El Hadj

Embassy of Mauritania, Carlyle House, 235-237 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 1EJ

UK's Ambassador to Mauritania

H.E. Mr Colin Wells

British Embassy Nouakchott, Rue 42-163, B.P. 213, Tevragh Zeina, Nouakchott, Mauritania

A huge north-western African country, Mauritania borders Algeria to the north, and Mali to the west and south. Its Atlantic coastline runs from Senegal in the south to Western Sahara in the north. The largely desert country has a predominantly Arab-Berber population in the north with a mainly African population in the south. Many among its 3.6 million population are nomads.

A nation of the Sahel

Geographically, Mauritania is one of the 10 countries that are  - in total or in part - in the Sahel, the vast region that stretches along the southern edge of the Sahara Desert from the Atlantic in the west to the Red Sea in the east, wedged between the desert to the north and tropical forests and savannah to the south. For the most part, this belt has a tropical semi arid climate.

Colonisation

European traders started moving in on Mauritania in the 1400s, initially establishing trading posts along the country’s coastline. France declared Mauritania a protectorate in 1904, and an overseas French territory 42 years later. Mauritania declared independence in 1960.

Coups and politics

In 1978, a coup toppled the country’s first president, Moktar Ould Daddah. There then followed a series of intermittent coups and failed coups over the next four decades, with the last one coming in 2007 with the overthrow of President Abdallahi and his replacement by the coup-leader General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. The 2019 presidential elections saw the peaceful transfer of power from Abdel Aziz, who decided not to run, to his successor, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani who became the country’s 9th President.

Mauritania's parliament has one chamber, the National Assembly, made up of 157 members who stand for re-election in single-seat constituencies every 5 years. Its legislature was bicameral until August 2017 when the upper house, the Senate, was abolished following a referendum on its continued existence.  

Western Sahara

In 1979, Mauritania gave up any claim to any Western Sahara territory and decided to support the claims to self-determination of the Sahrawi people as represented by the Polisario Front. Morocco subsequently annexed formerly Mauritian-occupied territory in Western Sahara.

A dependable Western ally and oil producer

Mauritania is seen by the West as a reliable ally in the fight against Islamist militancy in the Sahel region, including groups such as Al Qaeda.

Mauritania is rich in mineral resources, particularly iron and ore. It started offshore oil and gas production in 2006.

Key dates

12000BC
ANCIENT BERBER ROOTS: Cave paintings discovered in south eastern Algeria date back to 12,000 BC strongly suggest region incl. Mauritania settled by ancient Berber people
218BC - 201BC
2ND PUNIC WAR: Reign of 1st historical King - King Baga/Bagas - of the Mauri-Berber people in "Mauretania" - with capital at Sila, near present-day Rabat in Morocco
25 BC
ROME PUPPET STATE: "Mauretania" becomes client state of Roman Empire - Romans install Juba II of Numidia as puppet King
44AD
ROME ANNEXES MAURETANIA: Emperor Claudius annexes "Mauretania" directly as a Roman province
200 - 700 AD
Arab immigrants arrive in present-day Mauritania
1076
ALMORAVID DYNASTY: Berber Almoravid warriors defeat the Empire of Ghana, which has its capital in Mauritania. Almoravid Empire centred in Morocco and includes much of southern Spain
1644 - '74
Berbers fail to repel Arab warriors in 30 years war
1850s - 1860s
France annexes southern Mauritania and wins allegiance of Moors
1904
FRENCH COLONY: France establishes Mauritania as a colonial territory and a French overseas territory in 1946
1960
INDEPENDENCE: Mauritania becomes independent
1976
WESTERN SAHARA: Spain pulls out of Spanish Sahara, to be known as Western Sahara
1976-1991
Morocco and Mauritania divide up Western Sahara sparking Sahrawi insurgency led by the Polisario Front
1978
COUP 1: Military coup deposes Mauritania's post-independence president, Moktar Ould Daddah
1979
RENOUNCES CLAIM TO WESTERN SAHARA: Mauritania gives up its claim to Western Sahara, and and recognises rights of Sahrawis' right to self-determination
1979
MOROCCO MOVES IN: Morocco annexes formerly Mauritian-occupied territory in Western Sahara
1981
ABOLITION OF SLAVERY: Mauritania becomes the last country in the world to officially abolish slavery but anti-slavery campaigners claim that many thousands of people, including children, remain in bonded labour
1984
COUP 2: Colonel Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya comes to power in a coup
1989
Race riots erupt in Mauritania and Senegal. Many 1000s of black Mauritians are driven out of the country and into Senegal
2005
LOCUSTS INFESTATION: UN supplies food aid to Mauritania after crops are destroyed by locust invasions
Aug' 2005
COUP 3: President Ould Taya is toppled in coup while out of the country.
2006
OIL PRODUCER: Mauritania becomes an oil producer - offshore production starts
2007
Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi becomes first democratically-elected president and Mauritania is red-admitted to the Arab League following its post-coup suspension
Aug' 2007
SLAVERY OFFICIALLY OUTLAWED: Parliament outlaws slavery, a practice still widespread despite 1981 ban
Aug' 2008
COUP 4: Military coup overthrows President Sidi Ould Sheikh Abdallahi. Coup led by senior officers recently dismissed by Abdullahi . General Ould Abdel Aziz becomes 8th President of Mauritania
2009
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz wins presidential elections
2010
AL QAEDA: Al Qaeda activity in Mauritania intensifies with kidnap of 2 Spanish aid workers. They are later freed in Mali
2014
President Abdel Aziz wins another 5 year presidential term
2018
SLAVERY CLAIMS: The Global Slavery Index estimates that approximately 90,000 people are living in modern slavery in Mauritania
Aug' 2017
SENATE ABOLITION: The 56 member upper house, the Senate is abolished, following a referendum on its continued existence
2019
ABDEL AZIZ 10 YEARS IN POWER ENDS: Abdel Aziz decides not to run in presidential elections which are won by Mohamed Ould Ghazouani
Aug' 2019
NEW PRESIDENT: Ex-general Mohamed Ould Ghazouani becomes 9th President of Mauritania