Mauritania Politics

Mauritania Politics, Population and Geography

Background: Having achieved independence from France in 1960, in 1976 Mauritania annexed the southern third of the Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara), but abandoned these lands after three years of attacks by the guerrilla Polisario Front, which sought the territory’s independence. In 1991 opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution adopted. Twice since then, multi-party presidential elections have been widely considered fraudulent; Mauritania remains a de facto one-party state. The country continues to suffer from ethnic divisions between the black minority and the Mauritanian (Arab-Berber) majority of the population.


Location: North Africa, on the Atlantic coast between Senegal and Western Sahara. See to know more about Mauritania Geography.
Geographic coordinates: 20° 00′ N. latitude, 12° 00′ W
Reference map: Africa.
Area: total length: 1,030,700 km2; land surface area: 1,030,400 km2; water surface area: 300 km2
Comparative area: a little over three times the size of New Mexico.
Land borders: total length: 5,074 km; with neighboring states: with Algeria 463 km, with Mali 2,237 km, with Senegal 1,813 km, with Western Sahara 1,561 km.
Coastline: 754 km.
Maritime claims: neutral waters: 24 nautical miles; continental shelf: 200 nautical miles or to the outer limits of the continent; exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles; territorial waters: 12 nautical miles.
Climate: desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty.
Terrain: mostly barren low-lying Sahara plains; there are hills in the central regions.
Maximum and minimum heights: lowest point: Sebha de Ndramcha -3 m; highest point: Kediet Ijill 910 m.
Natural resources: iron ore, gypsum, fish, copper, phosphates, diamonds, gold.
Land use: arable land: 0%; cultivated land: 0%; pastures: 38%; forests and plantations: 4%; others: 58% (1993 est.).
Irrigated lands: 490 km sq. (1993 est.).
Natural hazards: hot, dry, sandy or dusty sirocco wind, predominantly in March and April; periodic droughts.
Current environmental issues: overgrazing by livestock, deforestation and soil erosion exacerbated by droughts and leading to desertification; very limited supplies of drinking water in areas remote from the Senegal River, which is the only non-drying river.
International environmental treaties: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Waste, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands; signed but not ratified: no.
Note to the section “Geography”: the majority of the population lives in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country.


Population: 2,747,312 (July 2001 est.).
Age structure: under 14: 46.14% (male 634,940; female 632,654); 15 to 64 years old: 51.59% (male 698,433; female 718,883); over 65: 2.27% (male 25,840; female 36,562) (2001 est.).
Population growth: 2.93% (2000 est.).
Birth rate: 42.95 newborns / 1000 people. (2001 est.).
Mortality: 13.65 deaths / 1000 people. (2000 est.).
Migration: 0 people / 1000 people (2001 est.).
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male/female; up to 15 years: 1 male/female; 15 to 64 years old: 0.97 male/female; over 65: 0.71 male/female; for the general population: 0.98 male/female (2001 est.);
Child mortality: 76.7 deaths/1000 births (2001 est.).
Life expectancy: for the general population: 51.14 years; men: 49.06 years; women: 53.29 years (2001 est.).
General birth rate: 6.22 children/wives. (2001 est.).
Proportion of adults infected with HIV: 1.8% (2000 est.).
Number of people infected with HIV: 6,600 (1999 OC).
AIDS deaths: 610 (1999 est.).
Nationality: noun: Mauritanian; adjective: Moorish.
Ethnic groups: descendants of Moors and Negroes 40%, Moors 30%, Negroes 30%.
Believers: Muslims 100%.
Languages): Arabic (official), Pel, Soninke, Wolof (official), French.
Literacy: definition: persons aged 15 and over who can read and write; for the general population: 46.7%; men: 53.4%; women: 40% (1998 est.).


conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania;
conventional short form: Mauritania; local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah; local short form: Muritaniyah.
State structure: republic.
Capital: Nouakchott.
Administrative divisions: 12 regions and 1 metropolitan area*: Adrar, Assaba, Brakna, Gor-gol, Guidimaka, Daklet-Nouadhibou, Inchiri, Nouakchott*, Tagant, Tiris-Zemmour, Trarza, Hod el-Gharbi, Hod-eh- Sharguy.
Independence: November 28, 1960 (until 1960 – a French colony).
National holiday: Independence Day, 28 November (since 1960).
Constitution: adopted 12 July 1991
Legal system: combination of sharia (Islamic law) and French civil law.
Suffrage: from 18 years old; universal.
chief of state: President Colonel Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA (since 12 December 1984);
head of government: Prime Minister Cheik El Avia Ould Mohamed KHOUNA (since 16 November 1998);
Government: council of ministers; elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; elections last held 12 December 1997 (next to be held in December 2003); the prime minister is appointed by the president; Election results: President Colonel Mauya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA re-elected President with 90.9% of the vote.
Legislature: The bicameral legislature consists of the Senate (Majlis al-Shuyukh) (56 members, 17 of which are re-elected every 2 years; members are elected by the heads of municipalities for a six-year term) and the National Assembly (Majlis al-Watani) (79 members, elected by popular vote for a five-year term) elections: for Senate – last held 17 April 1998 (next to be held in 2001); to the National Assembly – last held on 11 and 18 October 1996 (next to be held in 2001); election results: Senate – distribution of votes by parties – no data; distribution of seats by parties – no data; in the National Assembly – distribution of votes by parties – no data; seat distribution by party – PRDS 71, AC 1, independent and other parties 7.
Judiciary: Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, lower courts.
Political parties and leaders: Action for Change (AC) (Messoud Ould BOULKHEIR); Rally for Democracy and Unity (RDU) (Ahmed Ould SIDI BABA); Democratic and Social Republican Party (PRDS) (Mauya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA) – ruling party; Mauritanian Renaissance and Reconciliation Party (PMRC) (Molaye El Hassen Ould LUYU); National Union for Democracy and Development (UNDD) (Tidjane KOITA); Party for Freedom, Equality and Justice (PLEJ) (Daouda M’BAGNIGA; Popular Front (FP) (Ch’bih Ould CHEIKH MALAININE); People’s Progress Union (APP) (Mohamed El Hafed Ould ISMAELj), People’s Social and Democratic Union (UPSD) (Mohamed Mahmoud Ould MAH);
Political influence groups and their leaders: Arab nationalists; General Federation of Mauritanian Workers (CGTM) (Abdallahi Ould MOHAMED, General Secretary); Independent Confederation of Mauritanian Workers (CLTM) (Samory Ould BEYE); Islamists; Union of Mauritanian Workers (UTM) (Mohamed Ely Ould BRAHIM, General Secretary).
Participation in international organizations: ABEDA, ACCT (associate), ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, AMU, CAEU, CCC, ECA, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO (pending member), ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTOO, WTRO.
Diplomatic representation in the USA: Head of Mission: Ambassador Ahmed Ben Khalifa BEN JIDOU; office: 2129 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008; phone: [1] (202) 232-5700; fax: [1] (202) 319-2623.
US Mission: Chief of Mission: Ambassador John W. LIMBERT; embassy: Rue Abdallaye, Nouak-chott; mailing address: W. R. 222, Nouakchott; phone: [222] 25-26-60, 25-26-63; fax: [222] 25-15-92.
Flag Description: Green, with a yellow five-pointed star above a yellow, horizontal crescent; the horns of the crescent are directed upwards; the crescent, star and green are the traditional symbols of Islam.

Mauritania Politics