Historical Dictionary of Mauritania (Historical Dictionaries of Africa)
Anthony G. Pazzanita
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Mauritania is bordered by Senegal in the south, Mali in the east, Algeria in the far northeast, and the disputed territory of Western Sahara to the north. Comprised mostly of vast stretches of desert, this young country has escaped the ravages of the violent interstate and civil conflicts that have so bedeviled Africa. Mauritanian society possesses ancient antecedents and a universal religious faith that has been practiced over several centuries. These characteristics have given the country a sometimes fragile but relatively resilient sense of national identity, which has survived into the 21st century in the face of powerful political, regional, ethnic/racial, and tribal rivalries since its independence in 1960. An economy largely centered on the export of raw materials, a weak agricultural sector, and a harsh climate in most areas further add to the challenges confronting all Mauritanians.
The third edition of the Historical Dictionary of Mauritania―through its chronology, introductory essay, maps, bibliography, and hundreds of cross-referenced dictionary entries on important persons, places, events, institutions, and significant political, economic, social, and cultural aspects―provides an important reference on Mauritania.
January: Two suspects in the December 2007 Aleg killings are captured in Guinea-Bissau and are rapidly extradited to Mauritania; reportedly, they admit to being followers of AlQaeda and of perpetrating the Aleg attack as well as the killing of three Mauritanian soldiers a few days afterward. February–March: Black Mauritanian refugees in Senegal begin returning back home under the auspices of the UNHCR. 1 February: At least three gunmen open fire in Nouakchott outside the Israeli embassy, which
Black Africans, and by a hierarchical social order among the Moorish population, with the hassan occupying the highest position; the zawiya slightly below them; and the znaga in 4 • INTRODUCTION a decidedly underprivileged status, a station in life shared by assorted other occupational groups such as bards, musicians, storytellers, and the like, who helped give Mauritanian Moorish society its complex, multivariate character. “PACIFICATION” AND FRENCH COLONIAL RULE The Moors, as an
their former “white” Moorish slavemasters. Since the mid-1980s at least, the term has assumed considerable political significance. Some black Mauritanians, particularly those sympathetic to the Forces de Libération Africaine de Mauritanie (FLAM) and who felt that the country’s political arrangements discriminated against them, spoke openly of the “Beydane system” and “Beydane domination,” which in turn led 100 • BIR MOGHREIN to protests by Moors that the term was being converted into a
with other nations was stagnant or contracting. Mauritania had greatly enlarged the number of its trading partners beyond France and other Western European countries to include Japan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the oil-rich states of the Gulf. Formal trade with sub-Saharan Africa, however, was probably adversely affected by the decision of the Ould Taya regime in 2000 to withdraw from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a decision his democratically elected
of the country, and it was reported that 96.97 percent of those who voted approved the changes to the constitution. With the results believed authentic by observers from the United Nations as well as by the African Union (AU), Col. Ould Vall was clearly pleased that the first phase in his planned transition to civilian rule had gone smoothly. Later, when the Mauritanian Third Republic was inaugurated on 19 April 2007 under a new civilian president, Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdellahi, the 1991