Monday, March 26, 2007


Former cabinet minister Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi has won Mauritania's historic presidential election. Abdallahi gained 53% of the ballots cast in Sunday's run-off, against 47% for opposition leader Ahmed Ould Daddah. These election is perceived to be the fairest since Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960.

Mauritania started its march towards democracy in November 2006, when local and regional elections were held throughout the country. Presidential elections followed in March 2007. However, none of the 19 presidential candidates won more than 50% of the vote in the first round, and the two top candidates, Sidi Ould Sheik Abdallahi, a former government minister, and Ahmed Ould Daddah, an opposition leader, headed for the country's first-ever second round of voting.

Newly Elected President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi (Center)
"I hereby proclaim that the next president of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania will be Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi," said Interior Minister Mohamed Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lemine announced on 03-26-07

Abdallahi is a member of the so-called White Moor elite and is reported to have spent time in prison under previous military rulers. Abdallahi has pledged tough measures against slavery, which was banned in 1981 but which still persists. Mauritania is an ethnically diverse mix of Arabic-speaking Moors and black Africans. The large Black Moor population are current and former slaves of the fairer-skinned ruling elite, the White Moors. Abdallahi pledged "special legislation" criminalising slavery while his rival, Daddah, promised compensation for slaves and penalties for law-breakers.

Photo courtesy by Fayries

Mauritania, three times the size of Arizona, is situated in north west Africa with about 350 miles (592 km) of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Morocco on the north, Algeria and Mali on the east, and Senegal on the south. The country is mostly desert, with the exception of the fertile Senegal River valley in the south and grazing land in the north.

A three months old baby in his mothers hand in a small village in the Mauritanian dessert.
Photo Courtesy by Ferdinand Reus

Mauritania was first inhabited by blacks and Berbers, and it was a center for the Berber Almoravid movement in the 11th century, which sought to spread Islam throughout western Africa. It was first explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century, but by the 19th century the French gained control. They organized the area into a territory in 1904, and in 1920 it became one of the colonies that constituted French West Africa. In 1946, it was named a French Overseas territory. Mauritania became an independent nation on Nov. 28, 1960.

The Camel does not look pleased
One of the world's poorest countries, Mauritania has pinned hopes for future prosperity on the exploitation of its offshore reserves of oil and natural gas. The Chinguetti and Tiof fields are expected to yield millions of barrels of oil.

Early Morning Koran Lessons for the Children
Photo Courtesy by Ferdinand Reus

Politics in Mauritania is based on ethnic and racial lines. The primary conflict is between blacks, who dominate southern regions, and the Moorish-Arabic north, which runs the country. Racial tensions reached a peak in 1989 when Mauritania went to war with Senegal in a dispute over the border. As each country repatriated citizens of the other, critics accused Mauritania of taking the opportunity to expel thousands of blacks.

Although Mauritania officially abolished slavery in 1980, the nation continues to tolerate the enslavement of blacks by North African Arabs. In 1993, the U.S. State Department estimated that there were more than 90,000 chattel slaves in the country.

Skyra a runaway Mauritanian slave in a recent interview narrated her slavery ordeal to BBC journalist. She recalls her earliest childhood memories are of fetching water, tending animals, cooking and cleaning.
"I was tied up all night and all day. They only untied me so I could do my chores. In the end I could barely move my limbs."

Yet she never earned a single penny.

"All those years...and I don't even own a goat".
Skyra was born to a slave mother so there was never any question she would be anything else. She reveals as having been raped often by her masters.

"My master is the father of my first child, my master's son is the father of my second child and my baby girl's father was my master's nephew".

Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International initiatives are consistently hampered by the government. The government has further refused to grant official recognition of similar organisations working on this issues. Despite numerous government talk against slavery and the passing of legislation prohibiting slavery it seems the government has little interest in really wiping out slavery. More Information

The Cars are over packed
Photo Courtesy by Ferdinand Reus

Capital Nouakchott; 600,000
Area 1,030,700 square kilometers(397,955 square miles)
Language Hassaniya Arabic, Wolof, Pulaar, Soninke, French
Religion Muslim
Currency ouguiya
Life Expectancy 54
GDP per Capita U.S. $1,700
Literacy Percent 42


  • Industry: fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum.
  • Agriculture: dates, millet, sorghum, rice; cattle.
  • Exports: iron ore, fish and fish products, gold.




Audra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Audra said...

Thank you ever so much for your delightful blog.

I'd like to offer a correction to your claim that the Black Moor population in Mauritania has historically been enslaved by White Moors. While this is veritable, it is only half the story: for centuries, Black Moors have historically - and continue to be - enslaved by Negro-African populations in Mauritania, as well. I'd be happy to share some relevant literature with you on this subject, if you'd so desire.

Thanks so much for helping to bring Mauritania out of obscurity!

Anonymous said...

excellent points and the details are more specific than elsewhere, thanks.

- Murk