Country Listing

Mauritania Table of Contents


Political Disintegration

By 1984 the Haidalla regime was under siege not only for its regional policies but also for corruption and mismanagement, especially within the SEMs, which were viewed by the population as vehicles for advancing the president's own interests. Furthermore, upheavals in the military compromised the loyalty of key officers, particularly at a time when the army was being asked to perform the impossible task of protecting Mauritania's vast northern regions from Morocco's attacks across the border. A severe drought compounded the regime's difficulties, forcing much of the population into the country's few urban areas and increasing Mauritania's dependence on foreign economic aid (see Balance of Payments, Debt, and Foreign Assistance , ch. 3).

In the third ministerial purge in six months, Haidalla named himself prime minister in March 1984 and took over the defense portfolio. Taya, who had held both positions, was demoted to chief of staff of the armed forces. The move infuriated Taya's allies on the CMSN. As chairman of the CMSN, Haidalla was supposed to represent a collective body. Instead, he attempted to amass considerable personal power and alienated many in the top echelons of government. On December 12, 1984, while Haidalla was out of the country, Taya, in a quiet and bloodless coup d'état, became Mauritania's president, a position he continued to hold in late 1987.

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Detailed accounts of Mauritania's early history can be found in Alfred G. Gerteiny's Mauritania and Jamil M. AbunNasr 's A History of the Maghrib. More recent literature, however, especially concerning post-World War II Mauritania, is more difficult to obtain. The best resources available on general postindependence political events are Africa South of the Sahara, Colin Legum's Africa Contemporary Record, and the periodical Africa Confidential, although the latter does not always contain the most accurate data. Two articles of special value for their depth of analysis are "The Islamic Republic of Mauritania" by William Eagleton, Jr., and "OnePartyism in Mauritania" by Clement H. Moore.

A wealth of material about the conflict in the Western Sahara, including Mauritania's role in it, is available. One of the best sources for both those with a limited knowledge of the region and those with a more extensive background in North African studies is Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff's The Western Saharans. In addition, John Damis's Conflict in Northwest Africa provides an in-depth analysis of the conflict and the roles of all those involved. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of June 1988