Mauritanian cultural life is characterized by
the country's position as a bridge between Arab and
African culture. In the north, Arab influences dominate,
while the peoples in the south are more influenced by
the African culture in Senegal.
The Moors (see Population and Languages) are known
for their crafts. Silver, carpets, jewelery and wood
carvings are sought after among tourists.
Latest population statistics of Mauritania, including religious profiles and major languages spoken as well as population growth rates in next three decades.
Traditional music is of Arab origin and differs from
other West African music traditions. In Mauritanian
music there is often a four-stringed lute, tidal,
sometimes a harp, hardin, and usually a solo singer who
makes tributes to God. The country's internationally
best known artist was Dimi mint Abba (born Loula bint
Sidati Ould Abba), who lived between 1958 and 2011 when
she passed away after a concert in Rabat in Morocco.
Like other popular contemporary musicians, she blended
traditional Mauritian music with Western pop music.
The country has an internationally renowned film
director, Abderrahmane Sissako (born 1961), whose film
Timbuktu won seven awards at the French Film Academy
Césargala 2015, including the award for best film.
Timbuktu, which takes place in the Malian city of the
same name, was also nominated both for the Gold Palm in
Cannes and in the category of best foreign films at the
High-level meeting on Western Sahara
Mauritania, like Algeria, participates in meetings with representatives of
the Moroccan state and the liberation movement Polisario in Geneva, Switzerland,
for talks on Western Sahara. Three foreign ministers and the Speaker of the
Sahrawi National Council (their parliament) participate. It is the first time
since 2012 that the UN has been to a similar meeting. The aim is to start
regular negotiations on the future of Western Sahara, which has been occupied by
Morocco since 1975.
The US removes trade benefits
The US cancels an agreement with Mauritania that has given the African
country favorable trade terms. The change comes into force on January 1, 2019.
The reason is that after a review, Washington states that Mauritania has not
done enough to eliminate hereditary slavery and the tolerance of forced labor.
Mauritania reacts upset and a government spokesman says the decision is a
"betrayal of the friendly relationship between the two countries and a denial of
the efforts" made by Mauritania to curb slavery. Slavery was banned in
Mauritania in 1981, and in 2015 Parliament decided that slavery is "a crime
against humanity"and can provide imprisonment for up to 20 years. There is then
old a kind of slave cast that is expected to help with tasks such as guarding
livestock or doing housework without payment. No official figure exists, but
some organizations estimate that there may be around 43,000 slaves left in
The Prime Minister is replaced
Prime Minister Yahya Ould Hademine resigns and is replaced by Mohamed Salem
Ould Béchir. Instead, Yahya Ould Hademine is assigned a role as advisor to the
President. Former Army Chief of Staff Mohamed Ould Ghazouani is named new
Defense Minister, his first civilian post. Mohamed Ould Ghazouani is sometimes
mentioned as a possible successor to President Ould Abdel Aziz. Otherwise, the
old ministers are allowed to keep their jobs.
New UN-led talks on Western Sahara
The Government of Mauritania accepts an invitation from the UN for new talks
on the future of Western Sahara in December. Also included in the talks will be
the police guerrilla and the governments of Morocco and Algeria. Morocco
maintains that negotiations should be based on a proposal for Western Saharan
autonomy within Morocco, while Polisario demands that Western Saharans should
have a referendum on independence. When the UN got into a ceasefire between
Morocco and the Polisario in 1990, a promise of referendum that was not
fulfilled was included.
UPR wins its own majority
In the second round of the parliamentary elections, UPR wins all 22 seats
that are at stake. Together with 67 mandates from the first round of elections,
the ruling party gets 89 of the 157 seats and its own majority in Parliament.
The opposition alliance FNUD receives a total of 29 seats, 14 of which go to
Islamist Tewassoul. The so-called moderate opposition receives 10 seats. The
turnout is 64 percent according to the Election Commission. UPR also wins big in
the regional and local elections. The party takes home all 13 regional councils
and wins in 162 out of 210 municipalities.
The ruling UPR takes the lead in the election
General elections are held for Parliament, the City Council and, for the
first time, 13 regional councils. About 100 parties are running for candidates,
which is more than in any previous election. About 1.4 million voters are
registered for the election. In April, the largest opposition party FNDU
announced its intention to participate in the elections, unlike in the previous
election. In the first round of elections, UPR switches the grip on victory by
winning 67 of the 157 seats. Islamist Tewassoul, which boycotted the 2013
elections, gets the second most votes and 14 seats. A second round of elections
will be conducted on September 15 in relevant cases.
The border crossing to Algeria opens
A border crossing is inaugurated between Mauritania and Algeria, the first to
be set up in just over half a century which has passed since the two countries
became independent from France. The transition is near the Algerian city of
Tindouf and is said to have cost Algeria $ 10 million to build. In the desert
area along the border, smuggling of weapons, oil and migrants is common, as are
clashes between various armed groups. On the Mauritanian side, the area
constitutes a military zone. The decision to open the border was made in
Jail sentences for slavery
A court in Nouadhibou in the northwest sentenced three people to long prison
sentences after being found guilty of slavery. A man and his son are sentenced
to 20 years in prison for forcing a family, including two children, to live as
slaves. However, the older man dies before the verdict has fallen. A woman is
sentenced to 10 years in prison for enslaving three sisters. The judges are the
most severely awarded for slavery in Mauritania (see Population and Languages).
Free Trade Agreement in Africa
Mauritania is one of 44 Member States of the African Union (AU) that signs an
agreement to set up an African Free Trade Area, AFCFTA.
The currency is devalued
As of year-end, banknotes are exchanged at the same time as the currency is
written down so that ten ouguiya becomes one ouguiya. Banknote exchange takes
place gradually over six months. As a result, many Mauritanian people buy
dollars and euros for their old Ouguiya banknotes.