Mauritania | Wikipedia audio article

Mauritania ( ( listen); Arabic: موريتانيا‎
Mūrītānyā; Wolof: Gànnaar; Soninke: Murutaane; Pulaar: Moritani; French: Mauritanie), officially
the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country in Northwest Africa. It is the eleventh largest sovereign state
in Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara to the north
and northwest, Algeria to the northeast, Mali to the east and southeast, and Senegal to
the southwest. The country derives its name from the ancient
Berber kingdom of Mauretania, which existed from the 3rd century BCE into the 7th century
CE in the far north of modern-day Morocco and Algeria. Approximately 90% of Mauritania’s land is
within the Sahara; consequently, the population is concentrated in the south, where precipitation
is slightly higher. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott,
located on the Atlantic coast, which is home to around one-third of the country’s 4.3 million
people. The government was overthrown on 6 August
2008, in a military coup d’état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. On 16 April 2009, Aziz resigned from the military
to run for president in the 19 July elections, which he won.==History and politics=====
Ancient history===The ancient tribes of Mauritania were Berber
people. The Bafours were primarily agricultural, and
among the first Saharan people to abandon their historically nomadic lifestyle. With the gradual desiccation of the Sahara,
they headed south. Many of the Berber tribes claimed Yemeni (and
sometimes other Arab) origins. There is little evidence to support such claims,
but a 2000 DNA study of Yemeni people suggested there might be some ancient connection between
the peoples. Other peoples also migrated south past the
Sahara to West Africa. In 1076, Moorish Islamic warrior monks (Almoravid
or Al Murabitun) attacked and conquered the large area of the ancient Ghana Empire. The Char Bouba war (1644–74) was the unsuccessful
final effort of the peoples to repel the Yemeni Maqil Arab invaders. The invaders were led by the Beni Hassan tribe. The descendants of the Beni Hassan warriors
became the upper stratum of Moorish society. Hassaniya, a bedouin Arabic dialect that derives
its name from the Beni Hassan, became the dominant language among the largely nomadic
population.Berbers retained a niche influence by producing the majority of the region’s
marabouts: those who preserve and teach Islamic tradition.===Colonial history and present day===
Imperial France gradually absorbed the territories of present-day Mauritania from the Senegal
River area and northwards, starting in the late 19th century. In 1901, Xavier Coppolani took charge of the
imperial mission. Through a combination of strategic alliances
with Zawaya tribes, and military pressure on the Hassane warrior nomads, he managed
to extend French rule over the Mauritanian emirates. Trarza, Brakna and Tagant were occupied by
the French armies in 1903–04, but the northern emirate of Adrar held out longer, aided by
the anti-colonial rebellion (or jihad) of shaykh Maa al-Aynayn, as well by insurgents
from Tagant and the other regions. Adrar was finally defeated militarily in 1912,
and incorporated into the territory of Mauritania, which had been drawn up and planned in 1904. Mauritania was part of French West Africa
from 1920, as a protectorate and, then, a colony.French rule brought legal prohibitions
against slavery and an end to inter-clan warfare. During the colonial period, 90% of the population
remained nomadic. Many sedentary peoples, whose ancestors had
been expelled centuries earlier, began to trickle back into Mauritania. The previous capital of the country under
the French rule, Saint-Louis, was located in Senegal, so when the country gained independence
in 1960, Nouakchott, at the time little more than a fortified village (“ksar”), was chosen
as the site of the new capital of Mauritania.After gaining independence, larger numbers of indigenous
Sub-Saharan African peoples (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) entered Mauritania, moving into
the area north of the Senegal River. Educated in French language and customs, many
of these recent arrivals became clerks, soldiers, and administrators in the new state. This occurred as the French militarily suppressed
the most intransigent Hassane tribes in the north. This changed the former balance of power,
and new conflicts arose between the southern populations and Moors. Between these groups stood African origins,
who is part of the Arab society, integrated into a low-caste social position.Modern-day
slavery still exists in different forms in Mauritania. According to some estimates, thousands of
Mauritanians are still enslaved. A 2012 CNN report, “Slavery’s Last Stronghold,”
by John D. Sutter, describes and documents the ongoing slave-owning cultures. This social discrimination is applied chiefly
against the “black Moors” (Haratin) in the northern part of the country, where tribal
elites among “white Moors” (Bidh’an, Hassaniya-speaking Arabs and Arabized Berbers) hold sway. Slavery practices exist also within the sub-Saharan
African ethnic groups of the south. The great Sahel droughts of the early 1970s
caused massive devastation in Mauritania, exacerbating problems of poverty and conflict. The Arabized dominant elites reacted to changing
circumstances, and to Arab nationalist calls from abroad, by increasing pressure to Arabize
many aspects of Mauritanian life, such as law and the education system. This was also a reaction to the consequences
of the French domination under the colonial rule. Various models for maintaining the country’s
cultural diversity have been suggested, but none were successfully implemented. This ethnic discord was evident during inter-communal
violence that broke out in April 1989 (the “Mauritania–Senegal Border War”), but has
since subsided. Mauritania expelled some 70,000 sub-Saharan
African Mauritanians in the late 1980s. Ethnic tensions and the sensitive issue of
slavery – past and, in some areas, present – are still powerful themes in the country’s
political debate. A significant number from all groups seek
a more diverse, pluralistic society.===Issue of Western Sahara===The International Court of Justice has concluded
that in spite of some evidence of both Morocco’s and Mauritania’s legal ties prior to Spanish
colonization, neither set of ties were sufficient to affect the application of the UN General
Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples to Western
Sahara.Mauritania, along with Morocco, annexed the territory of Western Sahara in 1976, with
Mauritania taking the lower one-third at the request of Spain, a former imperial power. After several military losses from the Polisario
– heavily armed and supported by Algeria, the regional power and rival to Morocco – Mauritania
withdrew in 1979. Its claims were taken over by Morocco. Due to economic weakness, Mauritania has been
a negligible player in the territorial dispute, with its official position being that it wishes
for an expedient solution that is mutually agreeable to all parties. While most of Western Sahara has been occupied
by Morocco, the UN still considers the Western Sahara a territory that needs to express its
wishes with respect to statehood. A referendum is still supposed to be held
sometime in the future, under UN auspices, to determine whether or not the indigenous
Sahrawis wish to be independent, as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or to be part of
Morocco.===Ould Daddah era (1960–1978)===
Mauritania became an independent nation in November 1960. In 1964 President Moktar Ould Daddah, originally
installed by the French, formalized Mauritania as a one-party state with a new constitution,
setting up an authoritarian presidential regime. Daddah’s own Parti du Peuple Mauritanien (PPM)
became the ruling organization in a one-party system. The President justified this on the grounds
that Mauritania was not ready for western-style multi-party democracy. Under this one-party constitution, Daddah
was reelected in uncontested elections in 1976 and 1978. He was ousted in a bloodless coup on 10 July
1978. He had brought the country to near-collapse
through a disastrous war to annex the southern part of Western Sahara, framed as an attempt
to create a “Greater Mauritania”.===CMRN and CMSN military governments (1978–1984)
===Col. Mustafa Ould Salek’s CMRN junta proved
incapable of either establishing a strong base of power or extracting the country from
its destabilizing conflict with the Sahrawi resistance movement, the Polisario Front. It quickly fell, to be replaced by another
military government, the CMSN. The energetic Colonel Mohamed Khouna Ould
Haidallah soon emerged as its strongman. By giving up all claims to Western Sahara,
he found peace with the Polisario and improved relations with its main backer, Algeria. But relations with Morocco, the other party
to the conflict, and its European ally France deteriorated. Instability continued, and Haidallah’s ambitious
reform attempts foundered. His regime was plagued by attempted coups
and intrigue within the military establishment. It became increasingly contested due to his
harsh and uncompromising measures against opponents; many dissidents were jailed, and
some executed. In 1981 slavery was formally abolished by
law, making Mauritania the last country in the world to do so.===Ould Taya’s rule (1984–2005)===
In December 1984, Haidallah was deposed by Colonel Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya, who,
while retaining tight military control, relaxed the political climate. Ould Taya moderated Mauritania’s previous
pro-Algerian stance, and re-established ties with Morocco during the late 1980s. He deepened these ties during the late 1990s
and early 2000s as part of Mauritania’s drive to attract support from Western states and
Western-aligned Arab states. Mauritania has not rescinded its recognition
of Polisario’s Western Saharan exile government, and remains on good terms with Algeria. Its position on the Western Sahara conflict
is, since the 1980s, one of strict neutrality. Ordinance 83.127, enacted 5 June 1983, started
the process of nationalization of all land not clearly the property of a documented owner,
thus abolishing the traditional system of land tenure. Potential nationalization was based on the
concept of “dead land”, i.e., property which has not been developed or on which obvious
development cannot be seen. A practical effect was government seizure
of traditional communal grazing lands.Political parties, illegal during the military period,
were legalized again in 1991. By April 1992, as civilian rule returned,
16 major political parties had been recognized; 12 major political parties were active in
2004. The Parti Républicain Démocratique et Social
(PRDS), formerly led by President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya, dominated Mauritanian
politics after the country’s first multi-party elections in April 1992, following the approval
by referendum of the current constitution in July 1991. President Taya won elections in 1992 and 1997. Most opposition parties boycotted the first
legislative election in 1992. For nearly a decade the parliament was dominated
by the PRDS. The opposition participated in municipal elections
in January–February 1994, and in subsequent Senate elections – most recently in April
2004 – and gained representation at the local level, as well as three seats in the
Senate. This period was marked by extensive ethnic
violence and human rights abuses. Between 1990 and 1991, a campaign of particularly
extreme violence took place against a background of Arabization, interference with blacks’
association rights, expropriation and expatriation. In October 1987, the government allegedly
uncovered a tentative coup d’état by a group of black army officers, backed, according
to the authorities, by Senegal. Fifty-one officers were arrested and subjected
to interrogation and torture. Heightened ethnic tensions were the catalyst
for the Mauritania–Senegal Border War, which started as a result of a conflict in Diawara
between Moorish Mauritanian herders and Senegalese farmers over grazing rights. On 9 April 1989, Mauritanian guards killed
two Senegalese.Following the incident, several riots erupted in Bakel, Dakar and other towns
in Senegal, directed against the mainly Arabized Mauritanians who dominated the local retail
business. The rioting, adding to already existing tensions,
led to a campaign of terror against black Mauritanians, who are often seen as ‘Senegalese’
by Bidha’an, regardless of their nationality. As low scale conflict with Senegal continued
into 1990/91, the Mauritanian government engaged in or encouraged acts of violence and seizures
of property directed against the Halpularen ethnic group. The tension culminated in an international
airlift agreed to by Senegal and Mauritania under international pressure to prevent further
violence. The Mauritanian Government expelled tens of
thousands of black Mauritanians. Most of these so-called ‘Senegalese’ had no
ties to Senegal, and many have been repatriated from Senegal and Mali after 2007. The exact number of expulsions is not known
but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that, as of June
1991, 52,995 Mauritanian refugees were living in Senegal and at least 13,000 in Mali.From
November 1990 to February 1991, between 200 and 600 (depending on the sources) Fula and
Soninke soldiers and/or political prisoners were executed or tortured to death by Mauritanian
government forces. They were among 3,000 to 5,000 blacks – predominantly
soldiers and civil servants – arrested between October 1990 and mid-January 1991. Some Mauritanian exiles believe that the number
was as high as 5,000 on the basis of alleged involvement in an attempt to overthrow the
government.The government initiated a military investigation but never released the results. In order to guarantee immunity for those responsible
and to block any attempts at accountability for past abuses, the Parliament declared an
amnesty in June 1993 covering all crimes committed by the armed forces, security forces as well
as civilians, between April 1989 and April 1992. The government offered compensation to families
of victims, which a few accepted in lieu of settlement. Despite this amnesty, some Mauritanians have
denounced the involvement of the government in the arrests and killings.In the late 1980s,
Ould Taya had established close co-operation with Iraq, and pursued a strongly Arab nationalist
line. Mauritania grew increasingly isolated internationally,
and tensions with Western countries grew dramatically after it took a pro-Iraqi position during
the 1991 Gulf War. During the mid-to late 1990s, Mauritania shifted
its foreign policy to one of increased co-operation with the US and Europe. It was rewarded with diplomatic normalization
and aid projects. On 28 October 1999, Mauritania joined Egypt,
Palestine, and Jordan as the only members of the Arab League to officially recognize
Israel. Ould Taya also started co-operating with the
United States in anti-terrorism activities, a policy which was criticized by some human
rights organizations. (See also Foreign relations of Mauritania.) A group of current and former Army officers
launched a violent and unsuccessful coup attempt on 8 June 2003. The leaders of the attempted coup escaped
from the country, but some of them were caught, later on. Mauritania’s presidential election, its third
since adopting the democratic process in 1992, took place on 7 November 2003. Six candidates, including Mauritania’s first
female and first Haratine (descended from former slaves) candidates, represented a wide
variety of political goals and backgrounds. Incumbent President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed
Taya won reelection with 67.0% of the popular vote, according to the official figures, with
Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla finishing second.===August 2005 military coup===
On 3 August 2005, a military coup led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall ended Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed
Taya’s twenty-one years of rule. Taking advantage of Taya’s attendance at the
funeral of Saudi King Fahd, the military, including members of the presidential guard,
seized control of key points in the capital Nouakchott. The coup proceeded without loss of life. Calling themselves the Military Council for
Justice and Democracy, the officers released the following statement: “The national armed forces and security forces
have unanimously decided to put a definitive end to the oppressive activities of the defunct
authority, which our people have suffered from during the past years.”The Military Council
later issued another statement naming Colonel Vall as president and director of the national
police force, the Sûreté Nationale. Vall, once regarded as a firm ally of the
now-ousted president, had aided Taya in the coup that had originally brought him to power,
and had later served as his security chief. Sixteen other officers were listed as members
of the Council. Though cautiously watched by the international
community, the coup came to be generally accepted, with the military junta organizing elections
within a promised two-year timeline. In a referendum on 26 June 2006, Mauritanians
overwhelmingly (97%) approved a new constitution which limited the duration of a president’s
stay in office. The leader of the junta, Col. Vall, promised
to abide by the referendum and relinquish power peacefully. Mauritania’s establishment of relations with
Israel – it is one of only three Arab states to recognize Israel – was maintained by
the new regime, despite widespread criticism from the opposition. They considered that position as a legacy
of the Taya regime’s attempts to curry favor with the West. Parliamentary and municipal elections in Mauritania
took place on 19 November and 3 December 2006.===2007 presidential elections===Mauritania’s first fully democratic presidential
elections took place on 11 March 2007. The elections effected the final transfer
from military to civilian rule following the military coup in 2005. This was the first time since Mauritania gained
independence in 1960 that it elected a president in a multi-candidate election.The elections
were won in a second round of voting by Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, with Ahmed Ould Daddah
a close second.===2008 military coup===On 6 August 2008, the head of the presidential
guards took over the president’s palace in Nouakchott, a day after 48 lawmakers from
the ruling party resigned in protest of President Abdallahi’s policies. The army surrounded key government facilities,
including the state television building, after the president fired senior officers, one of
them the head of the presidential guards. The President, Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed
Waghef, and Mohamed Ould R’zeizim, Minister of Internal Affairs, were arrested. The coup was co-ordinated by General Mohamed
Ould Abdel Aziz, former chief of staff of the Mauritanian Army and head of the presidential
guard, who had recently been fired. Mauritania’s presidential spokesman, Abdoulaye
Mamadouba, said the President, Prime Minister, and Interior Minister had been arrested by
renegade Senior Mauritanian army officers and were being held under house arrest at
the presidential palace in the capital. In the apparently successful and bloodless
coup, Abdallahi’s daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi, said: “The security agents of the
BASEP (Presidential Security Battalion) came to our home and took away my father.” The coup plotters, all dismissed in a presidential
decree shortly beforehand, included Abdel Aziz, General Muhammad Ould Al-Ghazwani, General
Philippe Swikri, and Brigadier General (Aqid) Ahmad Ould Bakri.===After the coup===A Mauritanian lawmaker, Mohammed Al Mukhtar,
claimed that many of the country’s people supported the takeover of a government that
had become “an authoritarian regime” under a president who had “marginalized the majority
in parliament.” The coup was also backed by Abdallahi’s rival
in the 2007 election, Ahmed Ould Daddah. However, Abdel Aziz’s regime was isolated
internationally, and became subject to diplomatic sanctions and the cancellation of some aid
projects. It found few supporters (among them Morocco,
Libya and Iran), while Algeria, the United States, France and other European countries
criticized the coup, and continued to refer to Abdallahi as the legitimate president of
Mauritania. Domestically, a group of parties coalesced
around Abdallahi to continue protesting the coup, which caused the junta to ban demonstrations
and crack down on opposition activists. International and internal pressure eventually
forced the release of Abdallahi, who was instead placed under house arrest in his home village. The new government broke off relations with
Israel. In March 2010, Mauritania’s female foreign
minister Mint Hamdi Ould Mouknass announced that Mauritania had cut ties with Israel in
a “complete and definitive way.”After the coup, Abdel Aziz insisted on holding new presidential
elections to replace Abdallahi, but was forced to reschedule them due to internal and international
opposition. During the spring of 2009, the junta negotiated
an understanding with some opposition figures and international parties. As a result, Abdallahi formally resigned under
protest, as it became clear that some opposition forces had defected from him and most international
players, notably including France and Algeria, now aligned with Abdel Aziz. The United States continued to criticize the
coup, but did not actively oppose the elections. Abdallahi’s resignation allowed the election
of Abdel Aziz as civilian president, on 18 July, by a 52% majority. Many of Abdallahi’s former supporters criticized
this as a political ploy and refused to recognize the results. They argued that the election had been falsified
due to junta control, and complained that the international community had let down the
opposition. Despite complaints, the elections were almost
unanimously accepted by Western, Arab and African countries, which lifted sanctions
and resumed relations with Mauritania. By late summer, Abdel Aziz appeared to have
secured his position and to have gained widespread international and internal support. Some figures, such as Senate chairman Messaoud
Ould Boulkheir, continued to refuse the new order and call for Abdel Aziz’s resignation. In February 2011, the waves of the Arab Spring
spread to Mauritania, where thousands of people took to the streets of the capital.In November
2014, Mauritania was invited as a non-member guest nation to the G20 summit in Brisbane.==Society=====
Demographics===As of 2016, Mauritania had a population of
approximately 4.3 million. The local population is divided into three
main ethnic tiers: Bidhan or Moors, Haratin, and West Africans. The CIA World Factbook estimates 30% Bidhan,
40% Haratin, and 30% others. Local statistics bureau estimations indicates
that the Bidhan represent around 53% of citizens. They speak Hassaniya Arabic and are primarily
of Arab-Berber origin. The Haratin constitute roughly 34% of the
population. They are descendants of former slaves and
also speak Arabic. The remaining 13% of the population largely
consists of various ethnic groups of West African descent. Among these are the Niger-Congo-speaking Halpulaar
(Fulbe), Soninke, Bambara and Wolof.===Religion===Mauritania is nearly 100% Muslim, with most
inhabitants adhering to the Sunni denomination. The Sufi orders, the Tijaniyah and the Qadiriyyah,
have great influence not only in the country, but in Morocco, Algeria, Senegal and other
neighborhood countries as well. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nouakchott,
founded in 1965, serves the 4,500 Catholics in Mauritania (mostly foreign residents from
West Africa and Europe). There are extreme restrictions on freedom
of religion and belief in Mauritania; it is one of thirteen countries in the world which
punishes atheism by death. On 27 April 2018, The National Assembly passed
a law that makes the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of “blasphemous speech”
and acts deemed “sacrilegious”. The new law eliminates the possibility under
article 306 of substituting prison terms for the death penalty for certain apostasy-related
crimes if the offender promptly repents. The law also provides for a sentence of up
to two years in prison and a fine of up to 600,000 Ouguiyas (approximately EUR 13,804)
for “offending public indecency and Islamic values” and for “breaching Allah’s prohibitions”
or assisting in their breach.===Languages===
Arabic is the official and national language of Mauritania. The local spoken variety, known as Hassaniya,
contains many Berber words and significantly differs from the Modern Standard Arabic that
is used for official communication. Pulaar, Soninke and Wolof also serve as national
languages. French is widely used in the media and among
educated classes.===Health===Life expectancy at birth was 61.14 years (2011
estimate). Per capita expenditure on health was 43 US$
(PPP) in 2004. Public expenditure was 2% of the GDP in 2004
and private 0.9% of the GDP in 2004. In the early 21st century, there were 11 physicians
per 100,000 people. Infant mortality is 60.42 deaths/1,000 live
births (2011 estimate).The obesity rate among Mauritanian women is high, perhaps in part
due to the traditional standards of beauty (in some regions in the country), in which
obese women are considered beautiful while thin women are considered sickly.===Education===Since 1999, all teaching in the first year
of primary school is in Modern Standard Arabic; French is introduced in the second year, and
is used to teach all scientific courses. The use of English is increasing.Mauritania
has the University of Nouakchott and other institutions of higher education, but the
majority of highly educated Mauritanians have studied outside the country. Public expenditure on education was at 10.1%
of 2000–2007 government expenditure.===Urbanization=====Administrative divisions==The government bureaucracy is composed of
traditional ministries, special agencies, and parastatal companies. The Ministry of Interior spearheads a system
of regional governors and prefects modeled on the French system of local administration. Under this system, Mauritania is divided into
15 regions (wilaya or régions). Control is tightly concentrated in the executive
branch of the central government, but a series of national and municipal elections since
1992 have produced limited decentralization. These regions are subdivided into 44 departments
(moughataa). The regions and capital district (in alphabetical
order) and their capitals are:==Geography==Mauritania’s land area is 1,030,000 square
kilometres (397,685 sq mi), 90% of which is desert. It is the world’s 29th-largest country (after
Bolivia). It is comparable in size to Egypt. It lies mostly between latitudes 14° and
26°N, and longitudes 5° and 17°W (small areas are east of 5° and west of 17°). Mauritania is generally flat, with vast arid
plains broken by occasional ridges and cliff-like outcroppings. A series of scarps face south-west, longitudinally
bisecting these plains in the center of the country. The scarps also separate a series of sandstone
plateaus, the highest of which is the Adrar Plateau. It reaches an elevation of 500 meters (1,640
ft). Spring-fed oases lie at the foot of some of
the scarps. Isolated peaks, often rich in minerals, rise
above the plateaus; the smaller peaks are called guelbs and the larger ones kedias. The concentric Guelb er Richat (also known
as the Richat Structure) is a prominent feature of the north-central region. Kediet ej Jill, near the city of Zouîrât,
has an elevation of 915 meters (3,002 ft) and is the highest peak. Approximately three quarters of Mauritania
is desert or semi-desert. As a result of extended, severe drought, the
desert has been expanding since the mid-1960s. To the west, between the ocean and the plateaus,
are alternating areas of clayey plains (regs) and sand dunes (ergs), some of which shift
from place to place, gradually moved by high winds. The dunes generally increase in size and mobility
toward the north.==Economy==Despite being rich in natural resources, Mauritania
has a low GDP. A majority of the population still depends
on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though most of the nomads and many 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 almost 50% of total exports. Gold and copper mining companies are opening
mines in the interior. The country’s first deepwater port opened
near Nouakchott in 1986. In recent years, drought and economic mismanagement
have resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In March 1999, the government signed an agreement
with a joint World Bank-International Monetary Fund mission on a $54 million enhanced structural
adjustment facility (ESAF). The economic objectives have been set for
1999–2002. Privatization remains one of the key issues. Mauritania is unlikely to meet ESAF’s annual
GDP growth objectives of 4–5%. Oil was discovered in Mauritania in 2001 in
the offshore Chinguetti field. Although potentially significant for the Mauritanian
economy, its overall influence is difficult to predict. Mauritania has been described as a “desperately
poor desert nation, which straddles the Arab and African worlds and is Africa’s newest,
if small-scale, oil producer.” There may be additional oil reserves inland
in the Taoudeni basin, although the harsh environment will make extraction expensive.United
Arab Emirates government, via its pilot green city Masdar, announced it will install new
solar plants in the city of Atar which will supply an additional 16.6 megawatts of electricity. The plants will power about 39,000 homes and
save 27,850 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.==Human rights==The Abdallahi government was widely perceived
as corrupt and restricted access to government information. Sexism, racism, female genital mutilation,
child labour, human trafficking, and the political marginalization of largely southern-based
ethnic groups continued to be problems. Homosexuality is illegal and is a capital
offense in Mauritania.Following the 2008 coup, the military government of Mauritania faced
severe international sanctions and internal unrest. Amnesty International accused it of practicing
coordinated torture against criminal and political detainees. Amnesty has accused the Mauritanian legal
system, both before and after the 2008 coup, of functioning with complete disregard for
legal procedure, fair trial, or humane imprisonment. The organization has said that the Mauritanian
government has practiced institutionalized and continuous use of torture throughout its
post-independence history, under all its leaders.===Modern slavery===Slavery persists in Mauritania. In 1905, the French colonial administration
declared an end of slavery in Mauritania, with very little success. Although nominally abolished in 1981, it was
not illegal to own slaves until 2007. According to the US State Department 2010
Human Rights Report, abuses in Mauritania include: …mistreatment of detainees and prisoners;
security force impunity; lengthy pretrial detention; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary
arrests; limits on freedom of the press and assembly; corruption; discrimination against
women; female genital mutilation (FGM); child marriage; political marginalization of southern-based
ethnic groups; racial and ethnic discrimination; slavery and slavery-related practices; and
child labor. The report continues: “Government efforts
were not sufficient to enforce the antislavery law. No cases have been successfully prosecuted
under the antislavery law despite the fact that ‘de facto’ slavery exists in Mauritania.” Only one person, Oumoulmoumnine Mint Bakar
Vall, has been prosecuted for owning slaves and she was sentenced to six months in jail
in January 2011. In 2012, it was estimated that 10% to 20%
of the population of Mauritania (between 340,000 and 680,000 people) live in slavery.According
to the Global Slavery Index 2014 compiled by Walk Free Foundation, there are an estimated
155,600 enslaved people in Mauritania, ranking it 31st of 167 countries by absolute number
of slaves, and 1st by prevalence, with 4% of the population. The Government ranks 121 of 167 on its response
to combating all forms of modern slavery.According to the Mauritanian government, it has taken
action to end all forms of slavery. In 2015, the government expanded the definition
of slavery to include child labor, although they have difficulty enforcing anti-slavery
laws. The government is underfunded and ill-equipped
to deal with slavery.The government of Mauritania denies that slavery continues in the country. In a 2012 interview, the Mauritanian Minister
of rural development, Brahim Ould M’Bareck Ould Med El Moctar, responded to accusations
of human rights abuse by stating: I must tell you that in Mauritania, freedom
is total: freedom of thought, equality – of all men and women of Mauritania… in all
cases, especially with this government, this is in the past. There are probably former relationships – slavery
relationships and familial relationships from old days and of the older generations, maybe,
or descendants who wish to continue to be in relationships with descendants of their
old masters, for familial reasons, or out of affinity, and maybe also for economic interests. But (slavery) is something that is totally
finished. All people are free in Mauritania and this
phenomenon no longer exists. And I believe that I can tell you that no
one profits from this commerce. Obstacles to ending slavery in Mauritania
include: The difficulty of enforcing any laws in the
country’s vast desert Poverty that limits opportunities for slaves
to support themselves if freed Belief that slavery is part of the natural
order of this society.In November 2016, an appeals court in Mauritania overturned the
jail convictions of three anti-slavery activists and reduced the sentences of seven others
to time served leaving three in custody, for their alleged role in a riot in June, Amnesty
International said. Another court had originally sentenced the
13 human rights activists and members of the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA)
to 15 years in prison.==Culture==Filming for several documentaries and films
has taken place in Mauritania, including Fort Saganne (1984), The Fifth Element (1997),
Winged Migration (2001), and Timbuktu (2014).==See also==Index of Mauritania-related articles
Outline of Mauritania==References====
Further reading====
External links==(in Arabic) République Islamique de Mauritanie
(official government site). (in French) République Islamique de Mauritanie
(official government site). “Mauritania”. The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Mauritania web resources provided by GovPubs
at the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries Mauritania at Curlie
Mauritania profile from the BBC News. Wikimedia Atlas of Mauritania
Forecasts for Mauritania Development

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