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Mauritania–Senegal Border War
Date April 1989 – July 18, 1991
Location West Africa
Result Mauritania and Senegal agree to reopen the border and end skirmishes
Senegal Senegal Mauritania Mauritania
Senegal unknown Mauritania unknown
Casualties and losses
Hundreds dead Hundreds dead

The Mauritania–Senegal Border War was a conflict fought between the West African countries of Mauritania and Senegal during 1989–1991. The conflict began around the two countries' River Senegal border, over grazing rights.



Mauritania's south is heavily populated by the black African Fula/Toucouleur, Wolof, Soninké and Bambara peoples, while the northern Moorish (Arabo-Berber) population has long dominated politics, from pre-colonial slave-taking (with some vestiges of slavery remaining today) to political Arabization and racial discrimination post-independence. The Mauritanian Government had a recent history of discriminating against the Toucouleurs and Soninke within its borders. One such example occurred in 1987, when the government imprisoned southerners and threw others out of the army.

Senegal, meanwhile, was dominated by the Wolof.


In April 1989, the dispute over grazing rights led Mauritanian Moorish border guards to fire at and kill two Senegalese peasants.[1] As a result, people on the Senegalese southern bank rioted. In Senegal, where many shopkeepers were Mauritanian, shops were looted and most Mauritanians were expelled to Mauritania. In Mauritania, lynch mobs and police brutality ended in the forced exile of about 70,000 southerners to Senegal, despite most of them having no links to the country. About 250,000 people fled their homes as both sides engaged in cross-border raids.[1] Hundreds of people died in both countries.[2]

With the departure of most Mauritanians from Senegal, the riots ended, but Mauritania's government under Ould Taya continued racist campaigns against southerners he described as black Africans (as opposed to Arab Moors). The Organisation of African Unity tried to negotiate a settlement to reopen the border, but it was ultimately an initiative of Senegalese President Abdou Diouf which led to a treaty being signed on July 18, 1991.

Mauritanian refugees would slowly trickle back into the country during the following years, but some 20,000–30,000 remain in Senegalese refugee camps today, and this is were the armed black nationalist Mauritanian movement FLAM is based.

Refugee repatriation

In June 2007, the Mauritanian government under President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help it repatriate black Mauritanians who had been forced out in the war and were living in refugee camps in Mali and Senegal. According to UNHRC estimates, there were 20,000 refugees in Senegal and 6,000 in Mali as of July 2007.[3]


  1. ^ a b "Mauitanian-Senegalese Border War 1989-1991". December 16, 2000. Retrieved November 23, 2007.  
  2. ^ "New cattle migration accord cools long-standing flashpoint". IRIN news (IRIN). May 5, 2006. Retrieved November 23, 2007.  
  3. ^ "Refugees cautiously optimistic about new initiative". IRIN news (Reuters Foundation). July 10, 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2007.  

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