Country Listing

Mauritania Table of Contents


Time of Radicalization

In 1969 following Morocco's official recognition of Mauritania, the government pursued a more radical political agenda to reduce its economic dependence on France. The first major step toward this aim was taken in 1972, when the government announced that it would review the agreements signed with France at independence and would sign new, more stringent agreements on cultural, technical, and economic cooperation in 1973. New agreements on military and monetary cooperation were pointedly eliminated, and Mauritania soon declared its intention of leaving the West Africa Monetary Union and its Franc Zone (see Glossary) and introducing its own currency, the ouguiya, with the backing of Algeria and other Arab countries (see Banking and Government Finances , ch. 3). In 1974, MIFERMA, which was controlled by French interests and provided 80 percent of national exports, was nationalized and the name changed to National Mining and Industrial Company (Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière-- SNIM). Also in 1974, Mauritania joined the League of Arab States (Arab League). Finally, during the August 1975 congress of the PPM, Daddah presented a charter calling for an Islamic, national, centralist, and socialist democracy. The charter was so popular that both the Mauritanian Kadihine Party and the Party of Mauritanian Justice withdrew their opposition to the Daddah government.

In the early 1970s, the Daddah government made some progress toward achieving national unity and economic independence. These gains, however, were more than offset by the economic hardship caused by a Sahelian drought that lasted from 1969 to 1974. Thousands of nomads migrated to shantytowns outside the cities, increasing urban population from 8 percent of the total population to 25 percent between 1962 and 1975 (see Changing Social Patterns , ch. 2). But other problems forced Mauritania's leaders to shift their focus from internal to external events: the decolonization of the neighboring Western Sahara at the end of 1975; the subsequent occupation of that former Spanish territory by Morocco and Mauritania; and the liberation struggle of the indigenous people of the Western Sahara, which embroiled Mauritania in a long and costly war.

Data as of June 1988