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. MaaouyaOuld Sid Ahmed TAYA seized power in a coup in 1984 and ruled Mauritania with a heavy hand for over 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 SidiOuldCheikh ABDALLAHI was inaugurated in April 2007 as Mauritania’s first freely and fairly elected president. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population (Afro-Mauritanians) and White and Black Moor (Arab-Berber) communities, although the new government is attempting to ameliorate some of these tensions.


Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
Geographic coordinates: 20 00 N, 12 00 W
Population: 3,359,185 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 40.4% (male 665,314/female 660,352)

15-64 years: 56.2% (male 866,859/female 975,821)

65 years and over: 3.5% (male 48,075/female 65,213) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania

conventional short form: Mauritania

local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah

local short form: Muritaniyah

Government type: Democratic Republic
Capital: name: Nouakchott

geographic coordinates: 18 07 N, 16 02 W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Telephones – main lines in use: 71,600 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 2.745 million (2009)
Airports: 28 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 10

2,438 to 3,047 m: 5

1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 (2012)

Military branches: Mauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Mauritanian Navy (Marine Mauritanienne; includes naval infantry), Air Force (Force AerienneIslamique de Mauritanie, FAIM) (2010)
Military service age and obligation: 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)


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. In the past, drought and economic mismanagement resulted in a build-up of foreign debt, which now stands at more than three times the level of annual exports.

Transnational Issues:

Disputes – international: Mauritanian claims to Western Sahara remain dormant
Trafficking in persons: current situation: Mauritania is a source and destination country for children trafficked for the purpose of forced labour, begging, and domestic servitude; adults and children are subjected to slavery-related practices rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships in isolated parts of the country where a barter economy exists

tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Mauritania is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to show evidence of increased efforts to combat trafficking, particularly in the area of law enforcement