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 ushered in a military council government. AZIZ was subsequently elected president in July 2009. 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
Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
20 00 N, 12 00 W
total: 1,030,700 sq km
country comparison to the world: 29
land: 1,030,700 sq km
water: 0 sq km
slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico
total: 5,074 km
border countries: Algeria 463 km, Mali 2,237 km, Senegal 813 km, Western Sahara 1,561 km
754 km
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
Current Weather
desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty
mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills
lowest point: Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m
highest point: Kediet Ijill 915 m
iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish
arable land: 0.2%
permanent crops: 0.01%
other: 99.79% (2005)
490 sq km (2002)
11.4 cu km (1997)
total: 1.7 cu km/yr (9%/3%/88%)
per capita: 554 cu m/yr (2000)
hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind blows primarily in March and April; periodic droughts
overgrazing, deforestation, and soil erosion aggravated by drought are contributing to desertification; limited natural fresh water resources away from the Senegal, which is the only perennial river; locust infestation
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
most of the population is concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country
People ::Mauritania
3,129,486 (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135
0-14 years: 41% (male 643,436/female 638,793)
15-64 years: 55.7% (male 818,778/female 923,046)
65 years and over: 3.4% (male 44,836/female 60,597) (2010 est.)
total: 19.3 years
male: 18.5 years
female: 20.2 years (2010 est.)
2.399% (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 34
34.11 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39
9.16 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
-0.96 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 116
urban population: 41% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 3% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.89 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.74 male(s)/female
total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
total: 63.42 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 35
male: 68.65 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 58.03 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
total population: 60.37 years
country comparison to the world: 182
male: 58.22 years
female: 62.59 years (2010 est.)
4.37 children born/woman (2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 40
0.8% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 58
14,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 89
fewer than 1,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 78
degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and Rift Valley fever
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
animal contact disease: rabies (2009)
noun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian
mixed Moor/black 40%, Moor 30%, black 30%
Muslim 100%
Arabic (official and national), Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof (all national languages), French, Hassaniya
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 51.2%
male: 59.5%
female: 43.4% (2000 census)
total: 8 years
male: 8 years
female: 8 years (2006)
2.9% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 149
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 07 N, 16 02 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
12 regions (regions, singular - region) and 1 capital district*; 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
a combination of Islamic law and French civil law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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
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elections: following the August 2008 coup, the High State Council planned to hold a new presidential election in June 2009; the election was subsequently rescheduled to 18 July 2009 following the Dakar Accords, which brought Mauritania back to constitutional rule; under Mauritania's constitution, the 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 on November 2009; National Assembly - last held on 19 November and 3 December 2006 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CPM (Coalition of Majority Parties) 45, COD (Coordination of Democratic Opposition) 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
Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower 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 Ould WAGHEF] (independents formerly supporting President Abdellahi); National Rally for Freedom, Democracy and Equality or RNDLE; National Rally for Reform and Development/RNRD-TAWASSOUL [Mohamed Jamil MANSOUR] (moderate Islamists); Popular Front or FP [Ch'bih Ould CHEIKH MALAININE]; Popular Progressive Alliance or APP [Messoud 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
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Mohamed El Moctar Alaoui Ould YOUBA
chancery: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 232-5700 through 5701
FAX: [1] (202) 319-2623
chief of mission: Ambassador Mark M. BOULWARE
embassy: 288 Rue Abdallaye, Rue 42-100 (between Presidency building and Spanish Embassy), Nouakchott
mailing address: BP 222, Nouakchott
telephone: [222] 525-2660 through 2663
FAX: [222] 525-1592
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
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. In December 2007 donors pledged $2.1 billion at a triennial Consultative Group review. 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 IMF and World Bank suspended their programs in Mauritania following the August 2008 coup; following the July 2009 Presidential elections, the IMF and World Bank agreed to meet with the government to discuss a resumption. Oil prospects, while initially promising, have largely failed to materialize. The Government continues to emphasize reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and privatization of the economy.
$6.39 billion (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 153
$6.454 billion (2008 est.)
$6.236 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
$3.029 billion (2009 est.)
-1% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 129
3.5% (2008 est.)
1.9% (2007 est.)
$2,000 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 186
$2,100 (2008 est.)
$2,100 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
agriculture: 12.5%
industry: 46.7%
services: 40.7% (2008 est.)
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: 176
20% (2004 est.)
40% (2004 est.)
lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 29.5% (2000)
39 (2000)
country comparison to the world: 71
37.3 (1995)
revenues: $770 million
expenditures: $770 million (2007 est.)
7.3% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 174
NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 26
12% (31 December 2007)
dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn; cattle, sheep
fish processing, oil production, mining of iron ore, gold, and copper
note: gypsum deposits have never been exploited
2% (2000 est.)
country comparison to the world: 53
415.3 million kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 163
386.2 million kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165
0 kWh (2008 est.)
0 kWh (2008 est.)
16,510 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 77
20,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 127
30,620 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 86
20,610 bbl/day (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 110
100 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 67
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 138
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 153
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
28.32 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 72
-$184 million (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88
$1.395 billion (2006)
country comparison to the world: 137
iron ore, fish and fish products, gold, copper, petroleum
China 42.06%, Italy 9.71%, Japan 7.57%, Cote d'Ivoire 6.16%, Spain 5.63%, Netherlands 4.32% (2009)
$1.475 billion (2006)
country comparison to the world: 162
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
France 14.3%, Netherlands 10.33%, China 9.94%, Brazil 5.58%, Belgium 4.87%, Germany 4.04%, Spain 4.02% (2009)
ouguiyas (MRO) per US dollar - NA (2007), 271.3 (2006), 267.04 (2005), 265.8 (2004), 263.03 (2003)
Communications ::Mauritania
76,400 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 152
2.092 million (2008)
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 60 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); optical-fiber and Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) cables for internet access (2008)
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)
23 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 217
45,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 173
Transportation ::Mauritania
28 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 120
total: 9
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4 (2010)
total: 19
1,524 to 2,437 m: 9
914 to 1,523 m: 8
under 914 m: 2 (2010)
728 km
standard gauge: 728 km 1.435-m gauge (2008)
total: 11,066 km
country comparison to the world: 132
paved: 2,966 km
unpaved: 8,100 km (2006)
some navigation possible on Senegal River
Nouadhibou, Nouakchott
Military ::Mauritania
Mauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Mauritanian Navy (Marine Mauritanienne; includes naval infantry), Islamic Air Force of Mauritania (Force Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, FAIM) (2010)
18 years of age (est.); conscript service obligation - 2 years; majority of servicemen believed to be volunteers; service in Air Force and Navy is voluntary (2006)
males age 16-49: 699,028
females age 16-49: 783,108 (2010 est.)
males age 16-49: 464,959
females age 16-49: 562,765 (2010 est.)
male: 35,322
female: 36,035 (2010 est.)
5.5% of GDP (2006)
country comparison to the world: 14
Transnational Issues ::Mauritania
Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant
current situation: Mauritania is a source and destination country for children trafficked for forced labor and sexual exploitation; slavery-related practices, rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships, continue to exist in isolated parts of the country; Mauritanian boys called talibe are trafficked within the country by religious teachers for forced begging; children are also trafficked by street gangs within the country that force them to steal, beg, and sell drugs; girls are trafficked internally for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation; women and children from neighboring states are trafficked into Mauritania for purposes of forced begging, domestic servitude, and sexual exploitation
tier rating: the Government of Mauritania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so; the government did not show evidence of overall progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders, protecting trafficking victims, and preventing new incidents of trafficking during the past year; progress that the previous government demonstrated in 2007 through enactment of strengthened anti-slavery legislation and deepened political will to eliminate slavery and trafficking has stalled; law enforcement efforts to address human trafficking including traditional slavery practices decreased (2009)