Mauritania Recent History

The name Mauritania is derived from that of the Mauri tribe already known, although in small numbers, from the time of Pliny. From an ethnic point of view the Mauri were very similar to the Numidians and other peoples of northern Africa; all these peoples gathered together were called Libi, then Berbers, and over time they also recorded Iberian infiltrations.

We find the first historical memories of the Mauri already in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC when they were in close relations with Carthage; and since then several colonies had been founded on the territory by the Phoenicians. It is known that they governed it under a monarchical regime and it is not known what the right extension of the territory was.

We find more precise information about the Mauri towards the third century, during the second Punic war and also at the time of King Bocco I who, in order to fight the Romans, made an alliance with Giugurta, king of Numidia; then he handed it over to the Romans and received western Numidia from them (2nd, 1st century BC).

According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Mauritania, no precise news has reached us of the period between the war of Giugurta and that of Cesare. Perhaps Bocco I reigned until the first years of the first century BC and perhaps his successor was the son Bogud.

Mauritania Recent History

In 49 BC when the civil war between Caesar and Pompey broke out, Mauritania was divided into two kingdoms: the eastern one ruled by Bocco the Younger and the western one ruled by Bogud, separated by the Mulucha River. Both these kings provided precious help to the legions of Caesar by receiving in return the territories that belonged to Massinissa. The two kingdoms were decidedly open to the Punic-Roman civilization, as demonstrated by some coins of the time, which each reported the name of the sovereign, sometimes written in neopunic and sometimes in Latin. Then on Cesare Bogud’s death he sided with Antonio; but the inhabitants of the capital, Tingi, in 38 BC rebelled against their king; they obtained the benefit of Roman citizenship and when Antonio was defeated by Octavian, Bogud was forced to flee to the east,

In 33 BC after the death of Bocco, Mauritania, although it was not immediately declared a Roman province, could count 12 Roman colonies on its territory: the sects on the sea were: Zulil, Igilgili, Saldae, Rusazus, Rusguniae, Gunugu, Cartenna; and five in the interior: Babba, Banasa, Tubusuptu, Aquae and Zuccabar.

The project involved annexation to the Roman Empire, instead in 25 BC, Octavian reconstituted the kingdom of Mauritania, entrusted it to King Juba II and placed the colonies under the jurisdiction of Betica, an ancient region of Spain, washed by the Baetis river, today Guadalquivir.

Juba II established his capital in Iol, calling it Caesarea but, while remaining loyal to Rome, he wanted to maintain the precise character of an independent African state to his kingdom.

Juba was succeeded by his son Ptolemy who was called to Rome by Caligula, from which he was killed and Mauritania was declared the possession of the empire. Historians say that Caligula did everything to increase his prestige among that people: calculation was never so wrong. In fact, the people of Ptolemy did not like the events and declared war on the Romans. These, prevailing Claudius, subdued the Mauri and then divided Mauritania into two provinces. Each of these was ruled by an imperial prosecutor and each got its name from the capital. The eastern one, from the Ampsaga river to the Mulucha, was called Cesariense; the western one, from Mulucha to the Ocean, was called Tingitana.

However, not all the population recognized Roman sovereignty. Some tribes, especially in the south of the territory, continued to follow their traditions, somewhat outside the Latin ones, and to be governed by small local sovereigns that Rome, willingly or unwillingly, had to recognize.

Given the diversity between regions and provinces, between tribes and populations, it was natural to ascribe to those periods the occurrence of more or less long wars. Various rebellions occurred under Domitian, Adriano, Antonino Pio and Marc’Aurelio. This being so, Roman civilization proceeded slowly and laboriously, and left its mark especially in the coastal cities.

And with the fall of the Roman empire came the Vandals, who passing through all Spain invaded Africa and Mauritania was the first state subject to their devastations. Then there were the Byzantines and finally the Arabs arrived. And under Arab rule, Mauritania remained for many centuries, until the most proud Berber tribes rebelled and drove them out. A long period began in which the state followed a little the trend of things related to Morocco, until in the 19th century some European nations, first of all France, attracted by the natural wealth of the African territories, began to occupy and colonize them. Thus Mauritania found itself part of French West Africa.

On November 28, 1958 he opted to be an autonomous state, included in the French Community and exactly two years later he obtained independence. It was proclaimed “Republique Islamique de Mauritanie” and in doing so sparked lively protests from Morocco that claimed to apply its sovereignty as Mauritania had always been a possession of Moroccan sultans.

In May 1961 he had the Constitution and the first President was Moktar Ould Daddah. On October 27, 1961 there was admission to the United Nations and two years later he participated in the foundation of the Organization of African Unity.

The main party, the “Parti du Peuple Mauritanien”, while managing to give the country some stability, always had to face the stark contrasts between the populations of the Maura (Arab-Berber) and Negro ethnic groups.

In 1965 the National Assembly was elected and as the government decided to impose Arabic on school education, strikes and riots arose.

The president, a shrewd man, took care to restore order and, by making some ministerial changes, made a larger number of Negro elements participate in the government. Then in 1968, with a constitutional amendment, Arabic was declared the second official language.

Student and union unrest began in 1969 and in 1971, on the occasion of an official visit by French President Pompidou, schools and some union members arrested were closed.

Despite various inconveniences, the Workers’ Union was formed in 1973 and in 1974 the government approved a nationalization program that mainly affected iron mines and certain mining and industrial enterprises.

In 1973, after a reconciliation with Morocco, Mauritania joined the Arab League and started a good cooperation with popular China.

In 1976 a military agreement was concluded with Morocco and this for important reasons: 1) – to obtain the withdrawal of Spain from the Spanish Sahara; 2) – to prevent the national movement, pushed by Algeria, from dividing the territory. On July 10, 1978, a coup drove Daddah and brought Colonel Ould Salek to power.

Meanwhile, the so-called Polisario Front had previously been established, which tended to obtain recognition of the independence of the Western Sahara area and created many inconveniences with its armed struggle against Mauritania.

With Salek’s rise to power, this struggle also stagnated and then resumed in June 1979 with the advent of Colonel M. Mahmoud Louly at the head of the village. Only with the intervention of Prime Minister M. Khouna Haidalla did the settlement of the war come about with the signing of the Algiers Agreement of August 5, 1979 but the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, born from the Polisario struggle, was not diplomatically recognized even in 1980 when Haidalla replaced Louly. This strange attitude provoked two subversive movements. The first, of Libyan origin, in December 1980, and the second, more serious, of March 1981 with the support of Moroccan personalities for which Mauritania broke relations with Morocco.

In February 1984 the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic gained recognition and in March Haidalla assumed full power by authorizing Colonel M. Ould Sidi Ahmed Taya who, therefore, organized a coup and assumed government.

In April 1985 Taya re-established relations with Morocco and resumed dialogue with neighboring states, easing international tension. But meanwhile the internal tension between the Arab-Berbers and the Negro minority had increased. In 1986 there were significant serious accidents due to the excessive Arabization of the country. Taya then promoted a broader Islamization with the aim of mitigating controversy, but it was all in vain. In 1987 accidents still caused victims and especially in April 1989 there was a massacre of Negroes in the capital, as a counterpart to an equally bloody massacre of Maura people residing in Senegal.

With this, Mauritania came to a knife and there was also fear of the outbreak of a real war; diplomatic relations were interrupted and then resumed in 1992, with an agreement between the two countries. Inside, however, clashes continued between the opposing ethnic groups and many Negroes withdrew to nearby Mali.

Taya approved a new Constitution with more democratic principles and was then elected President of the Republic in January 1992. In the following March there was the first multi-party election in the country and the Democratic and Social Republican Party, of pure governmental brand, won a very large majority, obtaining 67 seats out of 79.

Towards the end of that same year, following the devaluation of the currency, there were popular demonstrations due to the non-adjustment of wages given the increased cost of living.

In January 1993 the government intervened bringing economic improvements and with this came February 1994 with the administrative elections won by the governing party with a very large majority.

Strengthened by this situation, however, the government applied highly repressive means to all opponents of the system, especially against black and Islamic minorities. However, even in October 1996 the legislative elections were won by the government party. And even in December 1997 Taya was confirmed President with 90.2% of the votes.


He continued to maintain the usual governmental structure, where the Mauro-Berber majority was, without any doubt, in control of politics and the economy, to the detriment of the black ethnic groups, still in a state of poverty and ignorance. Also in the same month of December, Taya replaced Prime Minister Khouna with MLO Guig who, surprisingly, called three women to join his government.

In April 1998 Khouna returned to government and the Democratic and Social Republican Party won the January 1999 administrative elections.

In the international arena, Mauritania was very active, throughout the 1990s, so it established relations with Kuwait, began diplomatic relations with Israel, strengthened those with France and also, in union with Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, founded the NATO Mediterranean Cooperation Group in 1997.