Africa :: Mauritania

Introduction ::Mauritania

    Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976 but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA seized power in a coup in 1984 and ruled Mauritania with a heavy hand for more than two decades. A series of presidential elections that he held were widely seen as flawed. A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President TAYA and ushered in a military council that oversaw a transition to democratic rule. Independent candidate Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDALLAHI was inaugurated in April 2007 as Mauritania's first freely and fairly elected president. His term ended prematurely in August 2008 when a military junta led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ deposed him and installed a military council government. AZIZ was subsequently elected president in July 2009 and sworn in the following month. AZIZ sustained injuries from an accidental shooting by his own troops in October 2012 but has continued to maintain his authority. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population (Afro-Mauritanians) and white and black Moor (Arab-Berber) communities, and is having to confront a growing terrorism threat by al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Geography ::Mauritania

People and Society ::Mauritania

Government ::Mauritania

    conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
    conventional short form: Mauritania
    local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah
    local short form: Muritaniyah
    military junta
    name: Nouakchott
    geographic coordinates: 18 04 N, 15 58 W
    time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    13 regions (wilayas, singular - wilaya); Adrar, Assaba, Brakna, Dakhlet Nouadhibou, Gorgol, Guidimaka, Hodh ech Chargui, Hodh el Gharbi, Inchiri, Nouakchott, Tagant, Tiris Zemmour, Trarza
    28 November 1960 (from France)
    Independence Day, 28 November (1960)
    12 July 1991
    mixed legal system of Islamic and French civil law
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
    18 years of age; universal
    chief of state: President Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ (since 5 August 2009); note - AZIZ, who deposed democratically elected President Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDELLAHI in a coup and installed himself as President of the High State Council on 6 August 2008, retired from the military and stepped down from the presidency in April 2009 to run for president; he was elected president in an election held on 18 July 2009
    head of government: Prime Minister Moulaye Ould Mohamed LAGHDAF (since 14 August 2008)
    cabinet: Council of Ministers
    (For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
    elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held on 18 July 2009 (next to be held by 2014)
    election results: percent of vote - Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ 52.6%, Messaoud Ould BOULKHEIR 16.3%, Ahmed Ould DADDAH 13.7%, other 17.4%
    bicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats; 53 members elected by municipal leaders and 3 members elected for Mauritanians abroad to serve six-year terms; a portion of seats up for election every two years) and the National Assembly or Al Jamiya Al Wataniya (95 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
    elections: Senate - last held in November 2009; National Assembly - last held on 19 November and 3 December 2006 (election scheduled for 16 October 2011 postponed, rescheduled for 31 March 2012 and then postponed indefinitely)
    election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CPM (Coalition of Majority Parties) 45, COD 7, RNRD-TAWASSOUL 4; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CPM 63 (UPR 50, PRDR 7, UDP 3, HATEM-PMUC 2, RD 1), COD 27 (RFD 9, UFP 6, APP 6, PNDD-ADIL 6), RNRD-TAWASSOUL 4, FP 1
    highest court(s): Supreme Court or Cour Supreme (subdivided into 1 criminal and 2 civil chambers, each with a president and 5 counselors); Constitutional Council (consists of 6 members)
    judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court president appointed by the president of the republic to serve a 5-year renewable term; Constitutional Council members appointed - 3 by the president of the republic, 2 by the president of the National Assembly, and 1 by the president of the Senate; members serve single, 9-year terms with one-third of membership renewed every 3 years
    subordinate courts: High Court of Justice (cases involving treason and criminal acts of high government officials); courts of appeal; wilaya (regional) courts (located at the headquarters of each of the 13 regions); commercial and labor courts; criminal courts; moughataa (district) courts; informal/customary courts
    Alternative or El-Badil [Mohamed Yahdhi Ould MOCTAR HACEN]
    Coalition of Majority Parties or CPM (parties supporting the regime including PRDR, UPR, RD, HATEM-PMUC, UCD)
    Coordination of Democratic Opposition or COD (coalition of opposition political parties opposed to the government including APP, RFD, UFP, PNDD-ADIL, Alternative or El-Badil)
    Democratic Renewal or RD [Moustapha Ould ABDEIDARRAHMANE]
    Mauritanian Party for Unity and Change or HATEM-PMUC [Saleh Ould HANENA]
    National Pact for Democracy and Development or PNDD-ADIL [Yahya Ould Ahmed El WAGHEF] (independents formerly supporting President Abdellahi)
    National Rally for Freedom, Democracy and Equality or RNDLE
    National Rally for Reform and Development or RNRD-TAWASSOUL [Mohamed Jamil MANSOUR] (moderate Islamists)
    Popular Front or FP [Ch'bih Ould CHEIKH MALAININE]
    Popular Progressive Alliance or APP [Messaoud Ould BOULKHEIR]
    Rally of Democratic Forces or RFD [Ahmed Ould DADDAH]
    Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal or PRDR [Mintata Mint HDEID]
    Socialist and Democratic Unity Party or PUDS
    Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]
    Union for the Republic or UPR
    Union of Democratic Center or UCD [Cheikh Sid'Ahmed Ould BABA]
    Union of the Forces for Progress or UFP [Mohamed Ould MAOULOUD]
    General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CGTM [Abdallahi Ould MOHAMED, secretary general]
    Independent Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CLTM [Samory Ould BEYE]
    Mauritanian Workers Union or UTM [Mohamed Ely Ould BRAHIM, secretary general]
    other: Arab nationalists; Ba'thists; Islamists
    ABEDA, ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AMU, AU, CAEU (candidate), EITI (compliant country), FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAS, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OIF, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
    chief of mission: Ambassador Mohamed Lemine El HAYCEN
    chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700 through 5701
    FAX: [1] (202) 319-2623
    chief of mission: Ambassador Jo Ellen POWELL
    embassy: 288 Rue Abdallaye, Rue 42-100 (between Presidency building and Spanish Embassy), Nouakchott
    mailing address: BP 222, Nouakchott
    telephone: [222] 4525-2660 through 2663
    FAX: [222] 4525-1592
    green with a yellow five-pointed star above a yellow, horizontal crescent; the closed side of the crescent is down; the crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam; the gold color stands for the sands of the Sahara
    star and crescent
    name: "Hymne National de la Republique Islamique de Mauritanie" (National Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania)

    lyrics/music: Baba Ould CHEIKH/traditional, arranged by Tolia NIKIPROWETZKY
    note: adopted 1960; the unique rhythm of the Mauritanian anthem makes it particularly challenging to sing

Economy ::Mauritania

    Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though many of the nomads and subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for nearly 40% of total exports. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. Before 2000, drought and economic mismanagement resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In February 2000, Mauritania qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and nearly all of its foreign debt has since been forgiven. A new investment code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment. Mauritania and the IMF agreed to a three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement in 2006. Mauritania made satisfactory progress, but the IMF, World Bank, and other international actors suspended assistance and investment in Mauritania after the August 2008 coup. Since the presidential election in July 2009, donors have resumed assistance. Oil prospects, while initially promising, have largely failed to materialize, and the government has placed a priority on attracting private investment to spur economic growth. The government also emphasizes reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and privatization of the economy. Economic growth remained around 5% in 2010-12, mostly because of rising prices of gold, copper, iron ore, and oil.
    $7.824 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 157
    $7.356 billion (2011 est.)
    $7.082 billion (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    $4.199 billion (2012 est.)
    6.4% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 38
    3.9% (2011 est.)
    5.1% (2010 est.)
    $2,200 (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 190
    $2,100 (2011 est.)
    $2,000 (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    17.1% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 90
    17.5% of GDP (2011 est.)
    15.4% of GDP (2010 est.)
    household consumption: 87.7%
    government consumption: 16.9%
    investment in fixed capital: 30.5%
    investment in inventories: 0.1%
    exports of goods and services: 68.6%
    imports of goods and services: -103.9%
    (2012 est.)
    agriculture: 14.9%
    industry: 48%
    services: 37.1% (2012 est.)
    dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn; cattle, sheep
    fish processing, oil production, mining (iron ore, gold, and copper)
    note: gypsum deposits have never been exploited
    9% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 15
    1.318 million (2007)
    country comparison to the world: 134
    agriculture: 50%
    industry: 10%
    services: 40% (2001 est.)
    30% (2008 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 182
    20% (2004 est.)
    40% (2004 est.)
    lowest 10%: 2.5%
    highest 10%: 29.5% (2000)
    39 (2000)
    country comparison to the world: 67
    37.3 (1995)
    revenues: $1.143 billion
    expenditures: $1.263 billion (2012 est.)
    27.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 110
    -2.9% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 112
    calendar year
    6.5% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 172
    5.7% (2011 est.)
    9% (31 December 2009 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 17
    12% (31 December 2007)
    17% (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 29
    17% (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.723 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 140
    $1.741 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    -$659.8 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 103
    -$549.4 million (2011 est.)
    $2.66 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 136
    $2.799 billion (2011 est.)
    iron ore, fish and fish products, gold, copper, petroleum
    China 48.6%, Italy 7.5%, Japan 7%, Cote dIvoire 6.7%, France 4.7%, Spain 4.1% (2012)
    $2.916 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 146
    $2.656 billion (2011 est.)
    machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
    China 12.9%, Netherlands 10.5%, US 7.8%, France 7.7%, Brazil 5.6%, Germany 5.5%, Spain 5.1%, Belgium 4.7% (2012)
    $2.897 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 139
    $2.709 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    ouguiyas (MRO) per US dollar -
    296.6 (2012 est.)
    281.12 (2011 est.)
    275.89 (2010 est.)
    262.4 (2009)
    238.2 (2008)

Energy ::Mauritania

Communications ::Mauritania

    72,300 (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 157
    3.315 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 122
    general assessment: limited system of cable and open-wire lines, minor microwave radio relay links, and radiotelephone communications stations; mobile-cellular services expanding rapidly
    domestic: Mauritel, the national telecommunications company, was privatized in 2001 but remains the monopoly provider of fixed-line services; fixed-line teledensity 2 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular network coverage extends mainly to urban areas with a teledensity of roughly 100 per 100 persons; mostly cable and open-wire lines; a domestic satellite telecommunications system links Nouakchott with regional capitals
    international: country code - 222; satellite earth stations - 3 (1 Intelsat - Atlantic Ocean, 2 Arabsat); fiber-optic and Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) cables for Internet access (2009)
    broadcast media state-owned; 1 state-run TV and 1 state-run radio network; Television de Mauritanie, the state-run TV station, has an additional 6 regional TV stations that provide local programming (2008)
    22 (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 220
    75,000 (2009)
    country comparison to the world: 170

Transportation ::Mauritania

Military ::Mauritania

Transnational Issues ::Mauritania

    Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant
    refugees (country of origin): 26,000 (Western Saharan - Sahrawis) (2012); 69,676 (Mali) (2013)
    current situation: Mauritania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking; adults and children from traditional slave castes are subjected to slavery-related practices rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships; Mauritanian boys called talibe are trafficked within the country by religious teachers for forced begging; Mauritanian girls, as well as girls from Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, and other West African countries are forced into domestic servitude; Mauritanian women and girls are forced into prostitution in the country or transported to countries in the Middle East for the same purpose
    tier rating: Tier 3 - Mauritania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; after the previous year's unprecedented progress in prosecuting and convicting trafficking offenders, the government has not convicted any traffickers; the government has not provided adequate protective services to victims or ensure their referral to NGOs, which provide the majority of care to trafficking victims and generally do not receive government financial support; the absence of measures in place to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations may have led to victims being punished for acts committed as a result of being trafficked; the effectiveness of the 2007 anti-slavery law remains impaired because the slaves, many of whom are illiterate, are first required to file a legal complaint, and the government provides no programs to assist victims in lodging slavery complaints (2013)