Country Listing

Mauritania Table of Contents




Mounted color guard

SINCE GAINING INDEPENDENCE in 1960, Mauritania has faced a number of serious external and internal threats. Until 1969 the majority of Arab states refused to recognize Mauritania's sovereignty and supported Morocco's irredentist claims to the entire nation. Only in 1969 did Morocco extend official recognition to the Nouakchott government. Although the two countries signed a treaty of friendship the following year, Mauritanian leaders have treated their stronger neighbor to the north with caution, relying heavily on French protection. The dispute over sovereignty of the Spanish Sahara in the early 1970s raised further security problems. Negotiations among Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, and Spain failed to resolve the issue, and in 1976 war erupted in the area known as the Western Sahara. As that conflict dragged on, Mauritania's economy faltered and antigovernment opposition groups emerged, threatening the stability of the military regime that replaced Moktar Ould Daddah's civilian government in July 1978. Subsequently, internal coups and innumerable cabinet shuffles plagued the government from 1978 through 1984 when the regime of Colonel Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Ould Taya came to power.

In 1987 government security forces, consisting of military, paramilitary, and police units, were small and equipped only for maintaining internal security. Military forces under the Ministry of Defense included an army, navy, air force, and three paramilitary units: the Nomad Security Guard (or Camel Corps) under the jurisdiction of the army, the small Border Guard, and the National Gendarmerie. The Ministry of Interior, Telecommunications, and Information controlled the police and the National Guard, the Customs Corps, and the Presidential Guard. Mauritania's various heads of state in turn reorganized the security forces and shuffled personnel to facilitate troop deployment and to prevent any one individual or group from acquiring too much power. As a result, force readiness and strength suffered.

Data as of June 1988