Since the establishment of party politics in colonial Mauritania, and especially since independence in 1960, the Mauritanian political arena has been marked by ethnic tensions. The best example is certainly the ethnic violence that occurred at the end of the 1980s between the Arab-Berbers (Bidhan) and the “Black Africans.” But in Mauritania, as in other countries marked by ethnic tensions and conflicts, it would be an analytical mistake to overlook other forms of group solidarity and other forms of conflict. Often, tensions based on ethnic differences unfold in conjunction with political struggles within ethnic communities, with accommodation across ethnic boundaries, and with debates about the type of political regime. These dynamics must be taken into account if we are to understand the significance of ethnicity as a political variable.

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