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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #31 of 54: Mali | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #33 of 54: Mauritius »

August 10, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #32 of 54: Mauritania

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
32. MAURITANIA
Flag of Mauritania

Formal Name: Republic of Mauritania.

Formal Name: Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

Term for Citizens: Mauritanians.

Capital: Nouakchott. Population: 626,000.

Independence Achieved: November 28, 1960, from France.

Major Cities: Nouakchott.

Geography:

Mauritania is located in Northwest Africa. It is bordered by Western Sahara, Algeria, Senegal and the Atlantic Ocean. The total area of Mauritania is 397,955 square miles. The country is generally flat, and arid. The center and west of the country is mainly sand dunes. The climate is desert with meager rainfall. The rainy season is between July and September but the rain is less than 600 millimeters and zero in the northern part of the country. Desert winds cause sandstorms.

Population:

The population is estimated at 2,893,000. Urban population is 60%, concentrated around the capital city.

Ethnic Groups:

Six ethnic groups: Arab-Berber (Maure), black African (Toucouleur, Fulbe, Sonike, Wolof, and Bambara). The population is 50% African and 50% Maure.

Languages:

The languages are Maure-Hassaniya Arabic, French, Fulfulde, Azayr, Wolof, and Mande-kan.

Education:

Less than 40% of primary school age children go to school. Literacy rate is estimated at 41.7%

Religion:

The entire population is Sunni Muslim.

Economy:

The economy is primarily subsistence agriculture. GDP estimate: $5.3 billion; Per Capita GDP: $1, 900. Monetary Unit: Ouguiya (MRO).

History and Government:

Mauritania is of those African countries where African and Arab peoples meet. Thus there are black Africans and brown Arabs and Berbers coexisting in the same country. Mauritania is divided into twelve administrative and judicial regions and each headed by a governor. The central government has witnessed a series of military coup d' etat and seems unstable until the relationship between Arabs and Africans is settled. Until recently, Mauritania is said to be one of two African Countries that still practiced slavery, with Arabs owning African slaves. (The other is Sudan, also with Arabs having African slaves.) The Arab control of the country and suppression of Africans led to intolerance of democracy hence the country tends to have dictatorships of Arab rulers, military or civilian. At present, the government is an Islamic Republic headed by President Maaouya Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya. A prime minister for the day-to-day governance of the country assists the president. There are nominal Legislature and judiciary. The country is divided into 12 regions with governors appointed by the central government.




CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS



Mauritania is a country where Africa and Arabia, black and white, sort of, meet. Originally, the Soninke ethnic group lived in the area. Gradually, perhaps, beginning in the 3rd century, Berbers from North Africa drifted into the area. Eventually, Arabs, too, moved into the area. Thus, Africans, Berbers, and Arabs now coexist in Mauritania, the land of the Maurs, the land of the moors, the land of blacks.
In 1076, Islamic religious warriors (Almoravids) conquered the area, which at that time was part of Ghana Empire. These Arabs thereafter constitute the ruling class of Mauritania. Other Arab groups made incursions into the area, such as the Yemeni Maqil invaders led by the Beni Hassan tribe.

Mauritania is organized with Arabs at the top, Berbers in the middle and Africans at the bottom. Slavery, in one form or another, still exists in Mauritania.
In 1891 the French colonized the region as part of its French Sudan. In 1960 France gave Mauritania independence.
Mr. Moktar Ould Daddah became President. He was replaced by a coup in 1978. The coup’s leaders served until 2003 when Taya was elected the president.
Essentially, Mauritania has relapsed to its habitual Arab domination of Africans. The politics of Mauritania is characterized the struggle by one Arab faction or another to seize power and govern the country.
In 2003 Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya was elected the President. He was said to be very brutal and while out visiting his fellow dictators the military overthrew his government in 2005. No one missed his departure; indeed, the people heaved a sigh of relief. Another dictator, Colonel Ely Mohamed Vally took over.

Mauritania is divided into 12 regions, which are further subdivided into 44 departments (plus the capital district).

The economy of Mauritania is dependent on livestock and agriculture. Some iron ore exists and account for 50% of the country’s exports.

Mauritania is a strange country; it is strange because given its insistence on keeping Africans down, it must necessarily be dictatorial, for it takes force to suppress people. A dictatorial society is not going to amount to anything in the present world economy.
The extant world requires human beings spirit to be free to engage in creative thinking hence inventing of marketable goods and services. As long as Mauritania remains a feudal society where an Arab ruling class suppresses other people, it would remain backwater, irrelevant in world politics. When its leaders, usually unknown outside its repressive boundaries, are replaced or dead, people all over the world ask: who was that?

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at August 10, 2006 09:27 AM

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