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Mauritania: The Struggle for Democracy

Noel Foster
Mauritania: The Struggle for Democracy
ISBN: 978-1-935049-30-2
ISBN: 978-1-62637-114-9
2010/315 pages/LC: 2010051828
Studies on North Africa
A FirstForumPress Book
"Any reader with an interest in modern Mauritania, as well as specialists in the country ... stand to learn a great deal from this book."—Anthony G. Pazzanita, International Journal of African Historical Studies

"Highly original and deeply researched…. This is the definitive work on a neglected country of increasing importance both to global security and to our understanding of the possibilities for and obstacles to democratic change in Africa."—Larry Diamond, Stanford University


Why did a clique of Mauritanian officers risk their lives to overthrow the autocrat they had served for twenty years, only to cede power to an elected civilian? And having won acclaim for their commitment to a process of democratic transition, why did most of these officers join a year later to overthrow the newly elected president? Had the international community been fooled by a military junta—or was it complicit in creating an elaborate pseudo-democratic facade?

Drawing on numerous interviews and field research in an Islamic republic wracked by ethnic tensions, terrorism, dire poverty, and the living legacy of slavery, Noel Foster addresses these questions to reveal the complex forces at work in Mauritania’s long struggle for better governance.


Noel Foster has lived and worked in Mauritania for several years, most recently as a graduate fellow with Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service.


  • Introduction.
  • The Making of Modern Mauritania.
  • The Army Breaks Rank.
  • A Coup for Democracy? Mauritania’s Prague Spring.
  • The Puppet Presidential Candidate.
  • The Gathering Storm.
  • All the General's Men.
  • Battling Military Rule.
  • The Vanishing Mediators.
  • Paths Forward.