Country Listing

Mauritania Table of Contents



As of 1987, Senegal posed no threat to Mauritania's national security. Nevertheless, Senegal has caused Nouakchott concern by exploiting Mauritania's ethnic cleavages for its own interests. Leopold Senghor, president of Senegal from 1960 to 1981, feared the prospect of a radical Mauritanian government that could result if Mauritania were drawn into an Algerian-Libyan orbit. In order to pressure Mauritania into making security-related concessions favorable to Senegal, Senghor threatened to demand self-determination for southern Mauritania's black Africans if there was no change in Maure domination in the Nouakchott government. He also directed a well-coordinated press campaign that sought to publicize the racial problems between the black and Maure populations (see Ethnic Groups and Languages , ch. 2).

Mauritania's relations with Senegal improved when Abdou Diouf, who did not expect Mauritania to succumb to radical influence instigated by Algeria and Libya, replaced Senghor as president in 1981. Relations further improved when, after the March 16, 1981, pro-Moroccan coup attempt in Nouakchott, Diouf expelled Mauritanian opposition group members from Senegal. Although members of opposition groups continued to take refuge in Dakar, the Senegalese government did not formally offer asylum to them, and in May 1987, Senegal extradited Captain Moulaye Asham Ould Ashen, a former member of the CMSN, wanted on embezzling charges. Nevertheless, Senegal had a continuing interest in supporting a biracial Mauritania as a buffer state between its frontiers and what it viewed as a an expansionist Arab Maghrib (see Glossary).

Data as of June 1988