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Mauritania Table of Contents




Mauritanian troops

The Preindependence Period

The Mauritanian armed forces were developed by the French colonial army and used in military ventures throughout the French Empire. In recognition of the major contributions of African troops to the French war effort during the two world wars, the French government eliminated many of the distinctions between French and African troops. Pensions and allowances were granted to veterans in 1949, and conscripted military labor was abolished in 1950. By 1955 discrimination was officially eliminated by opening all military ranks to Africans. After 1956 officer training for Africans was provided at military preparatory schools located in Africa and, after 1958, at France's Military Academy of St. Cyr.

An Africanized military was especially important in Mauritania, where the military governed the colony into the 1920s and in certain cercles, or administrative subdivisions, up to independence. On the one hand, Mauritanian veterans, imbued with an esprit de corps, a more cosmopolitan view of the world, and a growing self-interest, returned home as agents of modernization and political development. On the other hand, the French practice of integrating all Africans into the French army inhibited the development of a strictly territorial or national army. Mauritanians, along with other Africans, served in France, Indochina, Senegal, or Madagascar and operated under French statutes, conditions of service, and recruitment policies. Nevertheless, the Africanization program begun in the early 1950s gave Mauritania a small core of experienced officers on which to build its military forces.

Data as of June 1988