Mauritania Table of Contents
Although the government introduced conscription for a twoyear period of service in 1962, by 1987 the number of volunteers surpassed the needs of the armed forces. Volunteers had to be sixteen years of age, unmarried, and of Mauritanian nationality. Periods of enlistment ranged from two to five years. With military pay well above the national average income and with educational opportunities available, young Mauritanian males-- women did not serve in the armed forces--of all ethnic groups volunteered for military service. After service all veterans were, in effect, reservists, subject to recall in the event of a national emergency.
The armed forces, from their inception, mirrored the ethnic cleavages of the larger society. Thus, in 1987 officers still came primarily from the north, whereas enlisted men came from the black populations in the south. This practice, which gave the appearance of racism, did little to foster unity among the armed forces and further lowered morale.
With aid from France, the government established the Combined Arms School of Atar (Ecole Militaire Interarmes d'Atar--EMIA) in 1976 to train officers and NCOs. The future officers followed a two-year program, and NCOs followed a one-year program. Twenty French military advisers, twelve of whom were officers, served as technical military assistants. Working with Mauritanian counterparts, they coordinated training and supervised students. Courses included firearms, military weapons and tactics, engineering, signals, topography, and vehicle maintenance. Since 1985 France had sponsored trips for second-year graduates to various military installations and schools in St. Cyr, Coötquidan, Fontainbleau, and Paris.
Approximately 100 members of the armed forces trained in French military academies each year. The Military Academy of St. Cyr had a comprehensive two-year course for francophone Africans. The National Training Center at Montlouis in the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France conducted commando training, and the Montpellier Infantry Instruction School offered training for motorized infantry troops. The Coëtquidan Military School trained officers.
Although the Mauritanian Naval College at Nouadhibou trained some Mauritanians, for the most part the navy trained abroad. Libya and the United States each trained some Mauritanians, but the majority of navy personnel trained in France at the Toulon Navy School, which accepted four non-French students a year for an eighteen-month course. Students worked in administrative positions in military headquarters or in port services, or they worked outside the navy as administrators. Training included food services, finance, military pay, cooperative systems, personnel management, social protection, civil service, and government. Other Mauritanians trained at navy mechanics schools, where instruction included naval mechanics and refresher courses on seamanship. A two-month specialized course taught propulsion systems, and a five-month course trained naval technicians.
Some Mauritanians also attended Zaire's armor training school at Mbanza-Ngungu. Before the start of the Western Sahara conflict, Mauritanian pilots had trained at Alger's Combined Services Military Academy at Cherchell, which by 1977 had trained ten of Mauritania's twelve pilots.
Data as of June 1988