Mauritania Table of Contents
Tight control of political life by the PPM reinforced the highly centralized system. The imposition of single-party rule over a highly diverse population caused underlying tensions to emerge, especially among the southern black population, who feared Arab domination. Their fears were exacerbated by the 1966 decision to make the study of Hassaniya Arabic compulsory in secondary schools and the decision in 1968 to make Hassaniya Arabic, as well as French, an official language. Differences over linguistic and racial issues subsequently caused strikes and demonstrations by students and trade unionists in 1968, 1969, and 1971; all demonstrations were harshly repressed by the government, which in 1966 had banned discussion of racial problems. Other tensions existed among black Maures, who were still considered members of a slave class even though slavery had been outlawed under the French and by the Mauritanian Constitution (see Maures , ch. 2).
Political divisions within the trade union movement also erupted, causing the movement to split in 1969 into two factions, one favoring integration into the PPM and the other lobbying for an independent form of trade unionism. The PPM, ignoring the latter faction, integrated the trade unions in 1972. Their action followed a series of strikes in late 1971, including a two-month shutdown of the iron mine operated by the Mauritanian Iron Mines Company (Société Anonyme des Mines de Fer de Mauritanie-- MIFERMA). Soon after the integration of the trade unions, an unofficial trade union movement was formed, and in 1973 a clandestine leftist political party, the Mauritanian Kadihine Party, was created. Another clandestine group, the Party of Mauritanian Justice, was formed in 1974 and called for more political freedom.
Data as of June 1988