The Berber and Bafour people were among the first to settle in what is now Mauritania. Originally a nomadic people, they were among the first in recorded history to convert from a nomadic to agricultural lifestyle. These groups account for roughly one third of Mauritania’s ethnic makeup. The remainder of Mauritania’s ethnic groups derive from former enslaved peoples and Sub-Saharan ethnic groups originating mainly from the Senegal River Valley. These three groups are organized according to a strict caste system with deep ethnic divides that still exist today.
A former French colony, Mauritania achieved independence from France in 1960. Mauritania initially began as a single-party, authoritarian regime and saw 49 years of dictatorships, flawed elections, failed attempts at democracy, and military coups. Ould Abdel AZIZ led the last coup in 2008, and was elected president in 2009 and reelected in 2014. Mohamed Ould Cheikh GHAZOUANI was elected president in 2019, and his inauguration marked the first peaceful transition of power from one democratically elected president to another, solidifying Mauritania’s status as an emerging democracy. International observers recognized the elections as relatively free and fair.
The country is working to address a continuing practice of slavery and its vestiges. Mauritania officially abolished slavery in 1981, but the practice was not criminalized until 2007. Between 2005 and 2011, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) launched a series of attacks killing American and foreign tourists and aid workers, attacking diplomatic and government facilities, and ambushing Mauritanian soldiers and gendarmes. Although Mauritania has not seen an attack since 2011, AQIM and similar groups remain active in the Sahel region.
Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.Definitions and Notes
NOTE: The information regarding Mauritania on this page is re-published from the 2023 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Mauritania 2023 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Mauritania 2023 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.
This page was last modified 06 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.