Mauritania achieved independence from France on 28th November 1960 and named its capital as Nouakchott.
At the time of independence 90% of the population was nomadic. Mauritania's first president was one Moktar Ould Daddah who, like so many of his counterparts is other newly emerging independent African nations, concluded that the people weren't ready for democracy so made
Mauritania into a one party state in 1964 and then ruled as an autocratic president. As the only candidate, Ould Daddah was understandably re-elected in elections
in 1966, 1971 and 1976.
to annex part of Western Sahara as part of a long held desire to unify the
tribal Arabo-Berber population of the area into Greater Mauritania (which
conveniently would have held back Morocco's desire for expansion), proved his
undoing after meeting fierce resistance from Polisario guerrillas and the
ongoing conflict strained to breaking point an already weak economy. In 1978 Daddah was met by soldiers who carried out the country's first military coup. There followed a
series of weak and ineffective governments riddled with plots and coup attempts
until Colonel Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya to power seized power as a result of
a further coup in 1984. Although Taya was elected president in subsequent
elections, these were widely seen as flawed and Taya effectively ruled as an
Like so many
others before him Taya made the mistake of leaving the country in 2005 and on
3rd August of that year troops announced his overthrow and the creation of a
military council that would hold democratic elections. This duly occurred in
2007 and Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was elected Mauritania's first
democratically elected president. Democracy however
proved to be short lived and was quashed seventeen months later as a further
military coup took place prompted by Abdallahi's attempts to sack senior members
of the military. General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, leader of the coup, was
elected president in July 2009 and currently remains in power.
70% of Mauritania is
either desert or semi dessert and frequent droughts have forced many living
nomadic lifestyles into urban area in search of food, water and work.
Unfortunately Mauritania does not have the infrastructure required to meet these
frequent influxes resulting in severe pressure, housing, sanitation and medical
care. For those who continue to live outside urban areas, less that 10% have
access to safe drinking water, whilst for the entire population it remains at
just 53%. With a life
expectancy of some 53ys and with a population literacy rate of 51%, poverty is a
major issue in Mauritania with most children just eating once a day. One mother
reported proudly that one day her one year old son ate porridge one day and
three days earlier was treated to couscous.