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Mauritania Table of Contents


Role of the Military in Society

The martial tradition has been strong in Mauritania, where the armed forces have played a role that has transcended security needs. Having been integrated into the party structure of the PPM at the Third Party Congress at Nouakchott in January 1968, the resulting "people's army" was to combat the problems of misery, ignorance, and backwardness, as well as those who threatened national security. Accordingly, the armed forces were charged with transforming traditional attitudes and regionalism by good example. The soldier and policeman were to represent model citizens epitomizing Mauritanian independence, as well as the values of self-sacrifice, devotion to duty, and nationalism.

In spite of the lofty aims, recruitment practices perpetuated historic divisions. As noted, a large percentage of officers were Maures, whereas most recruits were blacks. This unevenness in recruitment policy caused resentment on the part of the black population and obstructed the formation of a united national armed forces. Nevertheless, the armed forces trained badly needed technicians and administrators, who could be employed in all areas of the economy, including civil service positions. Military personnel also assisted in civic action programs, such as roadbuilding . The military and police forces offered good pay, security, the possibility of foreign training and, depending on the position, political and economic power, all of which tended to set the armed forces' officer corps apart as an elite group.

Data as of June 1988