OFFICIAL NAME: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Unitary Multiparty Republic
AREA: 1,029,920 Sq Km (397,654 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION: 2,587,100
LOCATION & GEOGRAPHY: Mauritania is located in North West
Africa. It is bound by Senegal to the southwest, Mali to
the south and east, Algeria to the northeast, Western Sahara
(occupied by Morocco) to the north and the Atlantic Ocean
to the west. The country is divided into four geographical
zones. (1.) The Saharan zone which accounts for 66% of the
country and consists of shifting sand dunes, mountainous
plateaux and an occasional oases. (2.) The coastal zone
which is almost devoid of vegetation. (3.) The Sahelian
zone with its savannah grasslands and steppes. (4.) The
Chemama or Senegal River Valley zone which is a narrow belt
of land with rich alluvial soil. The only permanent river
is the Senegal River with floods often occurring between
September and October that cover the whole valley area.
Major Cities (pop. est.); Nouakchott 480,400, Nouadhibou
72,300, Kaedi 35,200, Kiffa 33,000, Rosso 31,400 (1992).
Land Use; forested 4%, pastures 38%, agricultural-cultivated
0.5%, desert and other 57.5% (1993).
CLIMATE: Mauritania has four climatic zones, although in general
it has a dry tropical climate characterized by sparse and sporadic rainfall.
(1.) The Chemama zone which has a rainy season from May to September while
tornadoes are also common. Average annual precipitation varies from 300
to 600 mm (12 to 24 inches). (2.) The Sahelian zone which has decreasing
rainfall northward and an average annual precipitation, in the south, of
around 350 mm (14 inches). (3.) The coastal zone which is humid but with
a temperate climate, receives less than 25 mm (1 inches) of annual precipitation.
(4.) The Saharan zone receives 25 to 127 mm (1 to 5 inches) of annual precipitation
with a rainy season from July to September. The Harmattan, which is a dry
and dust laden wind from the Sahara Desert, intensifies the conditions.
Average temperature ranges in Nouakchott are from 13 to 28 degrees Celsius
(55 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit) in December to 24 to 34 degrees Celsius (75
to 97 degrees Fahrenheit) in September.
PEOPLE: The principal ethnic majority are the Moor or Maure who
account for 81.5% of the population. The remainder belong to the Fulbe,
Toucouleur, Soninke, Wolof and Bambara tribal groups.
DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 2 persons per sq km (5
persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 39.1% urban, 60.9% rural (1988).
Sex Distribution; 49.4% male, 50.6% female (1990). Life Expectancy at Birth;
44.0 years male, 50.0 years female (1991). Age Breakdown; 45% under 15,
26% 15 to 29, 15% 30 to 44, 9% 45 to 59, 4% 60 to 74, 1% 75 and over (1990).
Birth Rate; 46.2 per 1,000 (1990). Death Rate; 19.0 per 1,000 (1990). Increase
Rate; 27.2 per 1,000 (1990). Infant Mortality Rate; 127.0 per 1,000 live
RELIGIONS: The official religion is Islam with the majority of
the population Sunni Muslims. There is also a Christian minority, predominantly
Roman Catholic, which accounts for .4% of the population.
LANGUAGES: The official language is Arabic which is also the
national language, although a variety of African tribal languages are also
EDUCATION: Aged 25 or over and having attained: N/A. Literacy;
literate population aged 15 or over 34.0% (1990).
MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: In 1946 Mauritania became an overseas
territory in the French Union and in Nov. 1958 it became a self-governing
state in the French Community. On Nov. 28, 1960 Mauritania became a fully
independent Islamic Republic. Morocco claimed that Mauritania was historically
Moroccan territory and did not recognize Mauritania's independence until
1969. In May 1961 Mauritania adopted a constitution that established a
presidential system of government and Mokhtar Ould Daddah was elected President
in Aug. In 1965 a constitutional amendment officially established the country
as a single party state. In 1973 Mauritania joined the Arab League. In
1976 Spain gave up control of its overseas province of Spanish Sahara (Western
Sahara) while Mauritania and Morocco invaded and occupied it. In July 1978
military leaders led by Col. Moustapha Ould Saleck overthrew Pres. Daddah
and took control of the government by dissolving the National Assembly.
Col. Saleck was in turn ousted in another coup in Apr. 1979. In 1979, Mauritania
withdrew from the area it occupied in Western Sahara and signed a peace
treaty. In Jan. 1980 Lt. Col.. Ould Heydalla led a coup and became President
until Dec. 1984 when Col. Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya became President
in a bloodless coup. In the early 1980's a severe drought caused widespread
food shortages and large losses of livestock. In 1989 relations with Senegal
became strained and were broken off after two people died over claims regarding
farming rights on their common border. Ethnic violence then escalated as
the nationals of each country, resident in the other, were attacked resulting
in Mauritania expelling 40,000 Blacks into Senegal. In Jan. 1990 the two
countries exchanged artillery fire across the border. On April 15, 1991
Col. Taya ended 13 years of military rule by announcing the introduction
of a multiparty democracy, a national referendum on a new constitution
and new legislative elections. On July 12, 1991 there was an overwhelming
vote of approval for constitutional reforms and on July 29, 1991 a general
amnesty was announced with all citizens given the right to vote and be
nominated for office. In Oct. 1991 four new opposition parties were officially
recognized. On Jan. 24, 1992 Col. Taya won Presidential elections and in
March 1992 legislative elections resulted in Taya's Democratic and Social
Republican Party winning 67 of the 79 seats. On April 1992 Sidi Mohamed
Ould Boubacar became Prime Minister and appointed his Cabinet that consisted
of only one military representative, the Defense Minister. Also in April
1992 full diplomatic relations were reestablished with Senegal. In Oct.
1992 mass demonstrations erupted after the government, at the IMF's insistence,
devalued the currency which resulted in a 40% increase in basic food items.
On May 29, 1993 the government passed legislation that granted an unconditional
amnesty to all military and security personnel convicted for the deaths
of black Mauritanians between April 1991 to April 1992. On May 30, 1993
mass demonstrations occurred in protest to the legislation resulted in
police using tear gas to disperse the protesters. On June 24, 1993 the
opposition leader of the Union of Democratic Forces-New Era, Hamdi Ould
Mouknass was arrested while tensions between the Moors and Blacks remained
high throughout the remainder of the year.
CURRENCY: The official currency is the Ouguiya (UM) divided into
ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $947,000,000 (1993). Public
Debt; USD $2,500,000,000 (1994). Imports; UM 32,436,000,000 (1993). Exports;
UM 34,599,000,000 (1993). Tourism Receipts; USD $13,000,000 (1991). Balance
of Trade; UM 2,163,000,000 (1993). Economically Active Population; 654,000
or 30.5% of total population (1992). Unemployed; 50.0% (1988).
MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are France,
Japan, Spain ,Italy, the former USSR and Belgium.
MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Copper, Dates, Fish, Iron Ore, Livestock,
Millet, Phosphates, Rice, Salt, Sorghum, Wheat.
MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Agriculture, Cement, Fishing, Industrial Gas,
Mining, Paints, Textiles.
MAIN EXPORTS: Iron Ore, Processed Fish.
TRANSPORT: Railroads; route length 670 km (416 mi) (1989), passenger-km
7,000,000 (4,350,000 passenger-mi) (1984), cargo ton-km 6,743,000,000 (4,618,000,000
short ton-mi) (1987). Roads; length 7,558 km (4,696 mi) (1989). Vehicles;
cars 8,000 (1989), trucks and buses 5,000 (1989). Merchant Marine; vessels
121 (1990), deadweight tonnage 22,397 (1990). Air Transport; passenger-km
208,567,000 (129,597,000 passenger-mi) (1988), cargo ton-km 35,223,000
(24,124,000 short ton-mi) (1988).
COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 1 with a circulation
of N/A. (1993). Radio; receivers 300,000 (1993). Television; receivers
1,100 (1993). Telephones; units 7,600 (1993).
MILITARY: 15,650 (1995) total active duty personnel with 95.8%
army, 3.2% navy and 1.0% air force while military expenditure accounts
for 2.8% (1993) of the Gross National Product (GNP).
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