35. Mauritania (1960-present)

 

Pre-Crisis Phase (November 28, 1960-July 9, 1978):  Mauritania formally achieved its independence from France on November 28, 1960.  The French government maintained some 3,000 troops at military bases in Mauritania from 1960 to 1966.  The French government also provided extensive military assistance (weapons, equipment, logistical support, training) to the government of Mauritania from 1960 to 1974.  Moktar Ould Daddah was elected president without opposition in August 1961.  President Moktar Ould Daddah issued a decree in December 1961, which provided for the Mauritanian People’s Party (Parti du Peuple Mauritanien – PPM) as the country’s sole legal political party.  Three individuals associated with former deputy to the French National Assembly, Horma Ould Babana, were captured and executed by the Mauritanian government following an infiltration from Mali in 1962.  Legislative elections were held on May 9, 1965, and the PPM won 40 out of 40 seats in the National Assembly.  President Ould Daddah was re-elected without opposition to a second term on August 7, 1966.  Government soldiers killed seven striking workers at a mine run by the European mining and steel-making consortium, known as the Societe Anonyme des Mines de Fer de Mauritanie (MIFERMA), on June 6, 1968.  President Ould Daddah was re-elected without opposition to a third term on August 8, 1971.  Legislative elections were held on August 8, 1971, and the PPM won 50 out of 50 seats in the National Assembly.  The government nationalized the European mining and steel-making consortium, MIFERMA, on November 28, 1974.  Legislative elections were held on October 26, 1975, and the PPM won 70 out of 70 seats in the National Assembly.  President Ould Daddah was re-elected without opposition to a third term on August 8, 1976.  The Moroccan government provided military assistance (weapons, equipment, and troops) to the government of Mauritania from 1976 to 1979.  The French government provided military assistance (training, 300 military advisers) to the government of Mauritania from October 1977 to August 1978.

Crisis Phase (July 10, 1978-March 13, 1992): President Ould Daddah was deposed in a military coup led by Lt. Colonel Mustafa Ould Salek on July 10, 1978. The 27-member Military Committee for National Salvation (Comite Militaire de Salut National – CMSN) took control of the government on July 11, 1978. The CMSN dissolved the National Assembly and suspended the constitution on July 20, 1978. The CMSN appointed Lt. Colonel Ahmed Ould Bousseif as prime minister April 6, 1979, but he was killed in an airplane crash on May 27, 1979. The CMSN appointed Lt. Colonel Khouna Ould Kaydalla as prime minister on May 28, 1979. The French government agreed to provide military assistance (200 military advisers) to the Mauritanian government in August 1979.  Mohammed Mahmoud Ould Louly, the chairman of the CMSN, was replaced by Colonel Mohammed Khouna Ould Haidala on January 4, 1980.  The CMSN expelled the 200 French military advisers in May 1980.  Colonel Mohammed Khouna Ould Haidala appointed Sidi Ahmed Ould Bneijara as prime minister on December 15, 1980. President Mohammed Khouna Ould Haidala suppressed a military rebellion led by Lt. Colonel Mohammed Ould Abdel Kader and Colonel Sallam Ould Sidi on March 16, 1981, resulting in the deaths of 28 individuals. The governments of Algeria and Libya expressed support for the military government on March 16, 1981.  The U.S. government expressed support for the military government on March 19, 1981.  On March 26, 1981, four individuals were executed for their involvement in the military rebellion.  Prime Minister Sidi Ahmed Ould Bneijara was dismissed and replaced by Lt. Colonel Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed taya on April 26, 1981.  The Organization of Mauritanian Nationalists (Organisation des Nationalistes Mauritaniens – ONAM) was established by Khatri Ould Die in opposition to the government on May 28, 1984. President Haidallah was deposed in a military coup led by Lt. Colonel Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya on December 12, 1984.  Lt. Colonel Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya assumed the offices of president, prime minister, and chairman of the CMSN following the military coup.  The Libyan government provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the government of President Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya on December 13, 1984.  Municipal elections were held on December 19-26, 1986. The government suppressed a military rebellion on October 23, 1987.  On December 3, 1987, three individuals were sentenced to death for their involvement in the military rebellion (the individuals were executed on December 6, 1987).  The government expelled some 75,000 black Mauritanian to Senegal following a border incident with Senegal in April 1989.  Another 15,000 black Mauritanian nomads were not allowed to return from Mali to Mauritania.  On April 15, 1991, President Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya announced the holding of a referendum on a new constitution. A new constitution providing for a multiparty political system was approved in a referendum held on July 12, 1991. The government lifted the ban on political parties on July 25, 1991.   Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya of the Democratic and Social Republican Party (Parti Republicain Democratique et Social – PRDS) was elected president with 63 percent of the vote on January 24, 1992, and he was inaugurated as president on April 18, 1992.  Opposition political parties claimed electoral fraud.  Government security forces clashed with opposition supporters in Nouadhibou on January 26, 1992, resulting in the deaths of at least five individuals.  Legislative elections were held on March 6-13, 1992, and the Democratic and Social Republican Party (Parti Republicain Democratique et Social – PRDS) won 67 out of 79 seats in the National Assembly.  Most opposition parties boycotted the legislative elections.

Post-Crisis Phase (March 14, 1992-August 2, 2005):  Prime Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubaker formed a government on April 20, 1992.  Following the re-opening of the border with Senegal on May 2, 1992, more than 30,000 black Mauritanian refugees voluntarily returned from Senegal and Mali to Mauritania between May 1992 and December 1998.  Municipal elections were held on January 28-February 4, 1994.  Anti-government demonstrations took place in Nouakchott on January 21-23, 1995.  Legislative elections were held on October 11-18, 1996, and the Democratic and Social Republican Party (Parti Republicain Democratique et Social – PRDS) won 70 out of 79 seats in the National Assembly.  President Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya was re-elected to a second term with 90 percent of the vote on December 12, 1997.  The Union Democratic Forces (Union des Forces Democratiques – UFD) and other opposition political parties boycotted the presidential election.  President Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya appointed Mohamed Lemine Ould Guig as prime minister on December 18, 1997.  President Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya dismissed Prime Minister Ould Guig, and appointed Cheikh El Avia Ould Mohammed Khouna as prime minister on November 16, 1998.  Ahmed Ould Daddah, leader of the UFD, was arrested by government police on December 17, 1998, but he was released from police custody on January 17, 1999.  Government police suppressed UFD-led demonstrations in Nouakchott on January 24, 1999.  Ahmed Ould Daddah, leader of the UFD, was re-arrested by government police on January 25, 1999.  Ahmed Ould Daddah, leader of the UFD, was arrested by government police on April 25, 2000, but he was released from police custody on April 29, 2000.  Legislative elections were held on October 19-26, 2001, and the Democratic and Social Republican Party (Parti Republicain Democratique et Social – PRDS) won 64 out of 81 seats in the National Assembly.  The Action for Change (Action pour le Changement – AC) won four seats in the National Assembly.  Government troops suppressed an attempted military coup led by Major Saleh Ould Hanenna on June 8-9, 2003, resulting in the deaths of 15 individuals.  Amara Essy, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, condemned the attempted military coup on June 8, 2003.  President Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya was re-elected with 67 percent of the vote on November 7, 2003.  The National Democratic Institute (NDI) sent seven observers to monitor the elections.  On February 3, 2005, Major Saleh Ould Hanenna and three other individuals were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for their involvement in the June 2003 coup attempt.  Islamic militants attacked a government military base in Mgheita in northeastern Mauritania on June 4, 2005, resulting in the deaths of 15 government soldiers and five militants.

Crisis Phase (August 3, 2005-April 19, 2007):  President Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya was overthrown in a military coup on August 3, 2005, and the 17-member Military Council for Justice and Democracy (MCJD) headed by Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall took control of the government.  The European Union (EU) condemned the military coup and imposed economic sanctions (suspension of development assistance) against the military government on August 3, 2005.  The U.S. government, French government, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the military coup on August 3, 2005.  The African Union (AU) condemned the military coup, and imposed diplomatic sanctions (suspension of membership) against the MCJD on August 4, 2005.  Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall appointed Sidi Mohamed Ould Boubacar as prime minister on August 7, 2005.  The military government freed several dozen political prisoners from prison on September 2, 2005.  The EU lifted economic sanctions (suspension of development assistance) against the military government on May 29, 2006.  A new constitution was approved with 97 percent of the vote in a referendum held on June 25, 2006.  The African Union (AU) and the League of Arab States (LAS) sent observers to monitor the referendum.  The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) sent six observers to monitor the referendum from June 21 to June 28, 2006.  Legislative elections were held on November 19 and December 3, 2006, and the Al-Mithaq (moderate Islamist independents) won 41 out of 95 seats in the National Assembly.  The Rally of Democratic Forces (Regroupement des Forces Democratiques – RFD) – Union of Forces of Progress (Union des Forces du Progres – UFP) won 25 seats in the National Assembly.  The European Union (EU) sent five election experts, 20 long-term observers, and 40 short-term observers headed by Marie-Anne Isler-Béguin of France to monitor the legislative elections.  The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) sent 16 observers to monitor the first round of legislative elections from November 17 to November 20, 2006 (five OIF observers monitored the second round of legislative elections).  The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) sent observers to monitor the legislative elections.  Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was elected president with 53 percent of the vote in the second round held on March 25, 2007.  The European Union (EU) and Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) sent observers to monitor the presidential election.  The African Union (AU) lifted diplomatic sanctions against the government on April 10, 2007.  Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was inaugurated as president on April 19, 2007

Post-Crisis Phase (April 20, 2007-August 5, 2008):  President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi appointed Zeine Ould Zeidane as prime minister on April 20, 2007.  Islamic militants killed four French tourists in Nouakchott on December 24, 2007.  Islamic militants ambushed and killed three government soldiers near the town of El Ghallaouiya on December 26-27, 2007.  The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) repatriated more than 24,000 black Mauritanian refugees (out of the remaining 38,000 refugees) from Senegal and Mali to Mauritania between January 2008 and March 2012.  Government police clashed with suspected Islamic militants in Nouakchott on April 8, 2008, resulting in the death of one government policeman and one militant.  Prime Minister Zeine Ould Zeidane resigned, and Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef of the National Pact for Development and Democracy (Pacte National pour la Démocratie et le Développement – PNDDwas appointed as prime minister on May 6, 2008.  The PNDD had been established in support of President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.  Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef formed a 30-member government (cabinet) on May 11, 2008.  Members of the National Assembly filed a censure motion against Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef on June 30, 2008, and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef resigned on July 2, 2008.  President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi re-appointed Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef as prime minister on July 3, 2008, and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef formed a new 30-member government on July 15, 2008.  On August 4, 2008, a majority of the members of the ruling PNDD (25 out of 49 members) announced that they were resigning from the political party.

Crisis Phase (August 6, 2008-present):  President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was deposed in a military coup on August 6, 2008.  An eleven-member High Council of State (HCS) headed by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz took control of the government.  President Umaru Yaradua of Nigeria condemned the military coup on August 6, 2008.  The U.S. government condemned the military coup and imposed economic sanctions (suspension of bilateral development assistance) against the military government on August 7, 2008.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the military coup on August 7, 2008.  The European Union (EU) condemned “any attempt to overthrow a democratically elected institution or government by force” on August 7, 2008.  The African Union (AU) condemned the military coup, and imposed diplomatic sanctions (suspension of membership) against members of the HCS on August 9, 2008.  The Namibian ministry of foreign affairs strongly condemned the military coup on August 8, 2008.  The governments of France, Russia, Spain, South Africa, and U.K. also condemned the military coup.  Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf was appointed by the military government as prime minister on August 14, 2008.  The UN Security Council condemned the military coup on August 19, 2008.  Former prime minister Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef was arrested by government police on August 21, 2008.  The permanent council of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) imposed diplomatic sanctions (suspension of membership) against the government of Mauritania on August 26, 2008.  The European Parliament (EP) condemned the military coup on September 1, 2008.  Islamic militants ambushed and killed twelve government soldiers near Zouerate on September 15, 2008.  The U.S. government imposed additional economic sanctions (travel restrictions) against members of the HCS on October 17, 2008.  Former president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was released from detention on December 21, 2008.  The African Union (AU) imposed economic sanctions (visa restrictions, travel restrictions, and assets freezes) against members of the HCS on February 6, 2009.  Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Chairman of the African Union (AU), unsuccessfully attempted to mediate an end to the political crisis from February 25 to March 11, 2009.  The European Union (EU) imposed economic sanctions (suspension of development assistance) against the military government on April 6, 2009.  General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz resigned as head of the military government on April 15, 2009.  President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal mediated negotiations between representatives of the military government and opposition groups in Dakar, Senegal from May 31 to June 2, 2009.  Representatives of the military government and opposition formally signed the Dakar Agreement, mediated by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, in Nouakchott on June 4, 2009.  Former prime minister Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef was released from prison on June 4, 2009.  Islamic militants killed an American NGO worker in Nouakchott on June 23, 2009.  The African Union (AU) lifted diplomatic sanctions (suspension of membership) against the government of Mauritania on June 29, 2009, and lifted economic sanctions (visa restrictions, travel restrictions, and assets freezes) against members of the HCS on July 1, 2009.  Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of the Union for the Republic (Union Pour la République – UPR) was elected president with 53 percent of the vote on July 18, 2009, and he was inaugurated as president on August 5, 2009.  The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) sent 60 observers to monitor the presidential election from July 4 to July 21, 2009.  The African Union (AU), Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), League of Arab States (LAS), Arab Maghreb Union (Union du Maghreb Arabe – UMA), and Arab Democracy Foundation (ADF) also sent observers to monitor the presidential election.  The French government provided military assistance to the government of Mauritania beginning in August 2009.  The U.S. government lifted economic sanctions (suspension of bilateral development assistance) against the government of Mauritania in August 2009.  Three individuals were injured in a suicide bombing of the French embassy in Nouakchott on August 8, 2009.  The French government condemned the suicide bombing on August 9, 2009.  The European Union (EU) lifted economic sanctions (suspension of development assistance) against the Mauritanian government on January 26, 2010.  On May 25, 2010, three Islamic militants were sentenced to death for the murder of four French tourists in December 2007.  Government troops, with French government logistical support, attacked an Islamic militant camp in northern Mali on July 22, 2010, resulting in the deaths of six militants.  An Islamic militant suicide bomber attacked a military barracks in Nema on August 24, 2010.  Government military forces attacked Islamic militants in northern Mali on September 18-19, 2010, resulting in the deaths of at least 12 militants and five government soldiers.  Government security forces killed three suspected Islamic militants near Nouakchott on February 2, 2011.  Islamic militants killed one government policeman in Bezoul on February 3, 2011.  Government police clashed with anti-government protesters in Nouakchott on April 25, 2011, resulting in the arrest of 22 protesters.  Government soldiers, along with Malian government soldiers, attacked an Islamic militant camp in northwestern Mali on June 24, 2011, resulting in the deaths of 15 militants and two government soldiers.  Islamic militants attacked a government military base in Bassiknou on July 5, 2011, resulting in the deaths of at least ten militants.  Government military forces attacked Islamic militants in Mali on October 20, 2011.  Several thousand individuals held peaceful demonstrations against the government in Nouakchott on April 3, 2012.  President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was accidentally shot by government soldiers in the town of Toueila on October 13, 2012, and he was flown to France for medical treatment on October 14, 2012.  Legislative elections were held on November 23, 2013, and the UPR won 75 out of 146 seats in the National Assembly.  The National Rally for Reform and Development (RNRD) won 16 seats in the National Assembly.  Several opposition political parties boycotted the legislative elections.  The African Union (AU) sent 32 observers from 16 countries led by former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia of Algeria to monitor the legislative elections.  President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of the UPR was re-elected with 82 percent of the vote on June 21, 2014.  Most opposition political parties boycotted the election.  The African Union (AU) sent 40 observers led by former Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia to monitor the presidential election from June 13 to June 28, 2014.

[Sources: Addis Tribune (Addis Ababa), June 13, 2003; Africa Diary, April 16-22, 1985, April 30-May 6, 1985; Africa Research Bulletin (ARB), July 1-31, 1978, January 1-31, 1980, March 1-31, 1981, June 1-30, 1982, December 1-31, 1984, January 15, 1988; African Union (AU) press release, November 21, 2013, June 5, 2014; Agence France Presse (AFP), September 20, 2010; Banks and Muller, 1998, 592-598; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), December 13, 1997, November 16, 1998, November 27, 1998, December 17, 1998, January 17, 1999, January 25, 1999, April 25, 2000, April 29, 2000, October 21, 2001, October 26, 2001, June 9, 2003, February 3, 2005, June 6, 2005, August 3, 2005, August 4, 2005, August 8, 2005, August 9, 2005, June 25, 2006, June 26, 2006, November 19, 2006, November 20, 2006, December 5, 2006, March 12, 2007, March 26, 2007, April 19, 2007, November 12, 2007, December 24, 2007, January 29, 2008, April 8, 2008, August 6, 2008, August 7, 2008, August 8, 2008, August 9, 2008, September 1, 2008, September 15, 2008, September 20, 2008, October 18, 2008, October 23, 2008, December 21, 2008, February 6, 2009, March 25, 2009, June 3, 2009, June 5, 2009, July 19, 2009, May 25, 2010, July 23, 2010, September 18, 2010, February 2, 2011, April 25, 2011, July 6, 2011, April 3, 2012, October 14, 2012, October 22, 2012, November 23, 2013, June 20, 2014; Degenhardt, 1988, 233-235; Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) press release, August 7, 2008; European Union (EU) press release, September 13, 2006; Facts on File, December 15-21, 1966, October 7-13, 1971, July 14, 1978; Jessup, 1998, 465-467; Keesing’s Record of World Events, August 28-September 4, 1971, October 13, 1978, November 9, 1979, May 30, 1980, February 27, 1981, July 31, 1981, March 1985, January 1992, March 1992, December 1997; New York Times (NYT), April 27, 1981, December 13, 1984, January 27, 1992, June 9, 2003, September 8, 2003, November 7, 2003, August 3, 2005, August 8, 2005, September 3, 2005, August 7, 2008, September 16, 2008, July 20, 2009, July 23, 2010, April 25, 2011, October 21, 2011; Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) press release, November 25, 2006; Pan African News Agency (PANA), March 10, 2007, May 28, 2009, June 10, 2014; Reuters, June 8, 2003, June 11, 2003, June 26, 2003, November 8, 2003, August 7, 2008, August 14, 2008, September 15, 2008, September 20, 2008, October 17, 2008, February 6, 2009, February 26, 2009, March 7, 2009, July 1, 2009, July 19, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 9, 2009, October 26, 2009, December 20, 2009, October 14, 2012, October 4, 2013, December 22, 2013, April 21, 2013, June 21, 2014, June 22, 2014, June 24, 2014; Voice of America (VOA), November 2, 2009.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Eagleton Jr., William.1965. “The Islamic Republic of Mauritania,” Middle East Journal, vol. 19 (1), pp. 45-53.

Moore, Clement H. 1965. “One-Partyism in Mauritania,” The Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 3 (3), pp. 409-420.

Pazzanita, Anthony G. 1996. “The Origins and Evolution of Mauritania’s Second Republic.” Journal of Modern African Studies 34 (no.4): 575-596.