The Legal Agenda
The general population and housing census conducted between March 25 and April 8, 2013 found that Mauritania has a population of 3,537,368. Youth constitute 50.7% of the population, women constitute 51%, and nomadic Bedouins constitute 1.09%. Twenty-seven percent of the population inhabits the capital Nouakchott, and the population growth rate is 2.77%, according to the Office of National Statistics. It is estimated that White Moors constitute 30% of the population, while Haratin people (former slaves) constitute 40%, and the Hassaniya dialect unites these two groups. The third population group consists of black Africans of the Soninke, Fula, and Wolof tribes and constitutes 30%. The vast majority of Mauritanian citizens are Muslims, a factor that has led to gradual unity and integration, and helped Arabize high culture. In pre-modern times, Mauritania was known by numerous names: Bilad al-Mulathameen (the land of the Mulathameen or ‘scarfed people’), Bilad al-Sanhaja (the land of the Sanhaja), Bilad al-Tukulor (the land of the Tukulor), Western Sudan, and al-Mankib al-Barzakhi(the isthmian highland). The modern name Mauritania was first given in 1843 by the French officer Jean Francois Caille. This diverse ethnic and historical background reflected by the aforementioned names led, in the past, to religious harmony. In modern times and from this background, a series of essentially ethnic frictions emerged largely as a result of French colonialism. These frictions deepened as the modern state arose after the country gained independence on November 28, 1960.