#Mots-clés : Eviction, Land Grabbing Dernière mise à jour le 7 June 2019



In Mauritania, the urban population was 41% in 2010 and is concentrated mainly in the capital, Nouakchott. Successive cycles of drought between 1977 and 1984 and the attraction of the city have changed social organization, with a reduction of the nomadic population and an increase in sedentary rural and urban. It is estimated that in 1960, Mauritania had 75% and 25% of nomadic sedentary. By 1980, this figure is completely reversed, with 25% and 75% of nomads settled, and in 2000 the percentage of nomads was estimated at 12% Source. This fact implies profound changes in lifestyles Mauritania.

It should be noted that population growth is particularly strong. Indeed, in 1962, the urban population accounted for 6.4% of the total population, and Nouakchott represented 0.6% of the then population. Today Nouakchott alone represents between 25 and 30% of the Mauritanian population. According Moktar Aw, geographer quoted on the website Magharebia Read the article on the site, the population of Nouakchott increased by 8% per year, which makes this city one of the cities whose growth has been fastest in the world. Over the last thirty years, its population has been multiplied by 18 and from 40 000 to almost one million inhabitants.

Maldistribution of people, activities and infrastructure is the main feature of the country, much of which is occupied by an almost uninhabited desert. Parts of the territory where the densities are higher (Senegal River Valley, Aftout) are often characterized by the existence of a multitude of small towns scattered and sometimes distant from each other, making it difficult and more expensive coverage by basic social services.



Located on the Atlantic Ocean, is the capital Nouakchott in Mauritania since 1957 (before the capital was St. Louis, Senegal). Nouakchott was founded on a camping area. The place itself is long known by the nomads, but the city itself was built by the French colonists in the 1950s. Originally, it was a ksar, that is to say a small fort where fifteen French soldiers guarding the trade route linking Morocco to Senegal. The choice to make the country’s capital Nouakchott is relatively strategic issue for political balance between the Moorish population north of the country and the black population in the South, which excluded from the outset the historic towns of Rosso and Nouadhibou. Nouakchott site is rather Moorish settlement area but is relatively close to the Senegal River. On the other hand, this choice can be explained by a milder climate than inland, under the influence of the ocean.

In 1956 we decided to establish itself in the capital. In 1959, the French architect André Leconte1 prepare the plan of the new capital. Two nuclei emerge: one around the fort, which became the European district today, the other around the mosque, a little further away at the time. Cut in half the first time, the city is coming together quickly. It had the appearance of a modern city.

Le marché capital au centre de Nouakchott, photo En haut !

In 1960, the town had 8,000 inhabitants. It now has nearly one million. The population density is much higher than in the rest of the country, since it is 800 inhabitants per km2. This sharp rise in the number of inhabitants is due among other things to the big drought the country experienced between 1968 and 1973, which caused the ruin of many breeders (breeding is the wealth of the country), forcing them to to the capital to find a job, and also forced many nomads to settle (between 1962 and 1985, nomadism has increased from 75% to 15%), this increase in population is causing a Nouakchott major problems, namely the lack of growth management.

One of the hottest things in Nouakchott is the proliferation of informal settlements (slums), which is common in developing countries and countries in the Muslim world, but that we see, particularly in the capital of Mauritania.

According to the article on Wikipedia Nouakchott, different habitat types are present in Nouakchott :

Other big cities in the land

Other major cities of Mauritania are Nouadhibou, Kiffa (91,000 inhabitants), Rosso (81,000) and Kaédi (57,000 inhabitants).


Country’s second city, Nouadhibou today an estimated population of 100,000 people. Located in the Northwest of the country, near the border with Morocco, it is considered the economic capital of Mauritania. Vibrant fishing port, the city also owes its development to iron ore, which is transported from the mine Zouerate by one of the longest trains in the world, the ore.

Une vue de NouadhibouIn a thesis on urban sprawl in Nouadhibou, the author notes that for the land, access to plots became very difficult in this city. This has forced many poor families to build homes in outlying areas that are generally deprived of urban services. Many poor families also illegally occupying public land and forming what is called in Mauritania ‘waiting areas’ where people are exposed to different environmental pollution (odors, accumulation of garbage, dust, pollution, lack drinking water etc..).

As in Nouakchott, successive droughts have led to significant social movements to the city of Nouadhibou, which generated a sudden birth of squatter inhabited by thousands of families in hygienic conditions quite difficult. This situation has forced the state in 1986 to pursue a policy of regularization and by moving in a hurry, the population of these districts to unserviced plots in the northern area of the city. But the problem is that the phenomenon of informal settlements is recurrent, and there are currently seven informal settlements inhabited by 10,000 people, or 10% of the population of Nouadhibou.

Source : Mr Ahmed Salem El Arbi – thesis on : ” l’étalement urbain à Nouadhibou



A record made in the process of empowerment of the poor in Mauritania and focused on the ownership, developed jointly by the Mauritanian policy analysis (CMAP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), we find the following information:

The Mauritanian constitution of 1991 already recognizes, in its preamble, the warranty intangible property rights:

  • Article 15 provides that “the right to property is guaranteed. The right of inheritance is guaranteed. Waghf goods and foundations are recognized: the destination is protected by law. The law may limit the scope of the exercise of private property if the requirements of economic and social development require. It can not be performed when the expropriation order and the public at a fair and prior compensation. The law establishes the legal regime of expropriation. ”

And on the constitutional right to property is clearly defined and explicitly protected.


In the very interesting Wikipedia read the articleon the city Read Nouakchott, we find the following information.

“The state is the main actor in the policy planning in Mauritania because it is the sole possessor of the land. Since the creation of the state of Mauritania, it has sought to appropriate the land by dispossessing the tribes who based their right to land on the custom (not property as understood in our ). This process of appropriation of land by the State was completed in 1983. To become an owner in Mauritania must obtain permission to occupy the land by hakem (official), this license is often regarded as a property right in itself by the public, then it has no value as final. It is issued against the price of land and the cost of demarcation. From this point, the beneficiary has two years to build (according to planning regulations) before claiming the outright ownership. This circuit is very complex and slow. There were many abuses illegal occupation, land speculation, issuing title by former hakem fired … This reform has created the phenomenon of gazra insinuating in the minds of the people that the occupation of land causes its legal ownership or at least legitimate. The absence of cadastral maps and records worthy of the name that the concept of ownership is not because of the old nomadic tradition. From that moment on, the informalization of land and real estate market has not experienced real limits and continued with all the excesses of urban planning, the tensions and ensuing speculation.”


To fight against the proliferation of slums, the Mauritanian government has implemented early 80s policy evictions. But with the spread of kébbés, politicians have preferred to preserve social peace and consider more consensual solutions. But it has left traces in the fears of the population.

“The restructuring of precarious neighborhoods of Nouakchott is designed as a program to fight against poverty and, as such, aims to help poor precarious to acquire a right to their land areas populations to improve access to urban infrastructure and basic services, develop infrastructure that support economic activity through the creation of new jobs ” indicates Moktar Aw, geographer, on the site Magharebia View site.

CRIDEM reported recent cases of evictions in Zouerate city, north of the country. The city has in recent years serious housing problems exacerbated by the unprecedented population growth, and rents have increased by 10. Beginning in March 2013, more than a hundred families were threatened with eviction, to allow the construction of 600 housing units, including 300 for Snim and 300 for state officials. Landowners were massively insurgents against this situation and clashes. Residents claim to have land titles signed by the local authorities, and therefore refuse to leave. In mid-March 2013, demolition began. The same day, the owners were able to obtain a commitment from the state for future compensation proportional to their losses. To the article


Given the number of poor districts constituting the city of Nouakchott, the government has developed an ambitious program of urban development: Urban Development Programme (PDU). With funding of approximately $ 100 million, the program is spread over ten years (2001-2010). It focuses, among others, on the improvement of living conditions in informal settlements, where the largest pockets of urban poverty reside, and the integration of these areas into the urban fabric. Currently, the program is far behind, and servicing operations precarious areas of Nouakchott are far from over.


The Land Code (Ordinance 83-127 of 5 June 1983), meanwhile, said:

  • Article 1 “the land belongs to the nation and all Mauritanian, without discrimination of any kind may, by complying with the law, owning in part”
  • Article 2 “The State recognizes and guarantees private ownership of land which is in accordance with Sharia, contribute to economic and social development of the country.”

This code also puts an end to the traditional property of the tribe stating that “any property right that is not tied directly to any person or entity and which does not result in a legally protected development is non-existent”. This system of traditional land tenure and abolished arise, indeed, as a obstacle to the implementation of this right.

  • Article 6 : Land Code recognizes that “collective rights legitimately acquired under the previous regime, previously confined to farmland, benefiting all those who have either participated in the initial development or contributed to the sustainability of the operation.”

Source : Report UNDP


In his thesis on urban sprawl to the thesis, Al Arbi Ahmed Salem explains that “land management in Mauritania is very complicated, especially in the villages due to the effects of old traditional land tenure systems that existed before the land reform initiated in 1983, which abolished the system traditional land tenure (each community had its own tenure). example, newcomers to a village south lived on the edge and could not get land titles, they rented plots in exchange for a fee.

This land reform stipulates that dead lands are owned by the state (before the dead lands were owned social groups that has generated incredible inequalities whose effects are impressive so far in the towns and villages, including the impoverishment of the poorest limiting their access to land in cities and therefore to basic urban services).

Next new land reforms, local authorities have the power to allocate land at the city level. Despite this, the possession of land through administrative procedures remains a difficult problem especially for poor families and that often requires the use of social and family relationships to achieve.

The fact that the mayor (local authority) is not more involved in the process of land allocation complicates his task and disrupts the proper functioning of Mauritanian cities. However, we have not been able to find traces proving that the land commission, which, according to land procedures must validate assignments plots at each Wilaya, operates regularly. ”



  • Joungpeople
  • Old people
  • Women


In 2010, the government terminated all contracts for staff accommodation, in order to alleviate the rental charges of the state. This action followed several arrests of government from unions about the urgency of the consideration of housing issues. According to the estate, this measure should contribute to lower the price of housing had in recent years, experienced a significant rise.Read on AFRAN Website



According to a report on housing Mauritania published on the website of the High Commissioner for Human Rights read the report on the websitemore than three-quarters of households are “owners” of the property they occupy. The urban environment is characterized by a high proportion of renters much stronger and significant mobility of the latter.

The issue of housing is an essential problem in the fight against urban poverty. Following the investigation of the housing 1998,more than a quarter of the population lives in Nouakchott precarious housing (housing tent, hut or box). This proportion reached 35% and 44% Kiffa Aioun. In some areas, only 18% of homes have electricity and about 80% use wood and charcoal as fuel. Hygiene conditions are very poor: a third of households do not have direct access to drinking water, less than a third have adequate sanitation facilities (sewer, septic tank or latrine).



The city of Nouakchott includes a hand through habitat quality, classic style rather a Muslim country, comparable to the habitat of the medina. It is a habitat relatively scalable, which may experience successive enlargements according to changes in the family and income. It is often configured on a square or rectangular base, the center of which is sometimes a square courtyard.

On the other hand, there are the “kébbés”, that is to say, the informal settlements or former informal settlements, which are the areas produced by the explosion of Nouakchott and suburbanization (extension of peri-urban areas). The name Mauritanian Kébbés are slums. The term comes from the word Hassanya (Arab-Berber language) which means “trash” in reference to the first eviction, when entire neighborhoods were evacuated from the city in trucks like garbage. The kébbés Nouakchott have specific characteristics. Slums, regardless of where in the world are squatter settlements, that is to say, not under town planning and not legal. These neighborhoods are often a transition zone between the city literally and rural areas from which populations of these neighborhoods. This is especially true for kébbés, which in addition to that retain some traces of nomadism. Indeed, kébbés are the agglomeration of several functional areas contiguous or non-demarcated by a pen. Shelters often boil down to a shack (material recovery) or a tent (persistent nomadic culture), and solid structures are rare. Huts and tents form a dense tangle and unorganized, this is an area where no plan is going where you want between the tents and shacks.

La périphérie de Nouakchott

Finally, it identifies areas in Nouakchott said housing scalable, also called Gazra. It is the habitat based on the evolution of certain kébbés legalized by the authorities. These ancient kébbés resemble real neighborhoods through a process of consolidation and construction, houses that compose benefit by following a better access to water, transport, education and health.

Some figures

The most recent estimates (based on figures from the late 80s, early 90s) on informal settlements in Nouakchott show 37 to 42% (I. Sachs) of the population living in informal settlements like kébbés and about another third of the population live in neighborhoods certainly legal, but devoid of equipment. But the proportion of people living in kébbés was at times proportionately larger (mainly in the years following droughts 68-73).



A file jointly conducted by the Centre Mauritanian policy analysis (CMAP) and the United Nations Programme for Development (UNDP) entitled National Process Enabling poor Mauritania has the following actors in the housing.

Logements construits par la SOCOGIM entre la villet et la plage, à NouakchottThe Society of Construction and Property Management (SOCOGIM) is responsible for the promotion of social housing in Mauritania. However, SOCOGIM faces the lack of financial resources. It launched either equity or in partnership with local banks, several projects such as the construction of 1000 housing means standing in Nouakchott and sanitation of 1118 plots Rosso. The realization of a low-cost housing program of 3000 is also improved in the study. However, the construction and sale of housing plots do not target the methodical most vulnerable.

ATOIT NGO has developed a project to build 380 housing units. This project is intended for women from low-income environments. The Mauritanian government has contributed to this project by the permanent transfer of land to Nouakchott in favor of the Association of savers.

TWIZE Project is a social housing program developed since 2000 by the Commissioner for Human Rights, the Fight Against Poverty and Integration. This ambitious program is intended to substitute for wild homes safe shelter and meet the criteria of a minimum urbanity, at a lower cost and the benefit of the poor. This aspect of the novel Mauritania implementation of the right to housing, expanded through income-generating activities for the support, has already built more than 1,600 homes in neighborhoods third precarious, such as Dar El Barka in Nouakchott. The success of the program experience Twize seems to be a new opportunity for housing development in Mauritania.


The Government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania has undertaken with the support of its development partners, a comprehensive program of macroeconomic reforms and structural reforms to reduce poverty. In this context, the Government has developed a National Strategy for the Fight against Poverty 2001 – 2015, including a set of complementary axes:

  • accelerating growth and maintaining macroeconomic stability The anchor growth in the economic sphere of the poor;
  • development of human resources and the expansion of basic services;
  • improving governance and capacity building.


The main problem in Mauritania for the slum clearance. In this regard, it is located on the site of Africas fighting ( an article on a recent government campaign for the slum clearance of Nouakchott : it began with a census operation that resulted in a massive exodus of people in the interior regions towards the capital. This census was not conducted optimally, and we further found that many families have been forgotten. The government is therefore the responsibility of a new exodus to Nouakchott, further strengthening the weight of slums in the capital.


To fight against precarious housing in Nouakchott, the government has implemented a wave of regularization district by district illegally occupied plots. This created an issue around land and property concept (which was initially relatively foreign to the rural population), and opened the door to many speculations, which have rather benefited the wealthy. Indeed, even when the state distributes several thousand plots to poor, it does not have the means to build these plots to sell more affluent then speculating over to resettle further to eventually build harder. This obviously created land speculation which benefits the rich. Wikipedia, article on Nouakchott.


Bibliography & Sitography





  • GRET MAURITANIE = nonprofit organization that works in international network brings together professionals and Cooperative Development. In Mauritania, they live among other projects on the restructuring of shantytowns – Waste Managementmicrofinance – Access to employment – clean water. Representation in Mauritania : Website – Contact them.
  • OCVIDH = Organization against abuse of human rights. OCVIDH represents the commitment of every day for the fight against racism, slavery, oppression and discrimination in Mauritania and beyond. Website
  • MAGHAREBIA = The Magharebia web site is not a social movement, as it is a portal sponsored by the United States Africa Command, the military command responsible for supporting and enhancing U.S. efforts to promote stability, cooperation and prosperity in this region of the globe. This site is, however, a source of information and news about the Maghreb in three languages: Arabic, French and English. The objective is to provide Magharebia accurate, balanced and forward-looking development of the Maghreb. There is a specific tab “home”.Website
  • AFRIQUES EN LUTTE = a collective of individuals open to everyone who wants to be a fighting tool of information and against capitalism and imperialism in Africawebsite
  • FORUM SOCIAL MAURITANIEN = In February 2008, held the first Social Forum in Nouakchott Mauritania, under the chairmanship of Ms. Sultana Mint Mohamed Yahya, active and committed activist in the anti-globalization movement. This organization has helped organizations meet Mauritanian civil society and African.Contact them
  • ADECOM = NGO founded in 2001, which conducts development activities for the well-being of communities in Mauritania. It includes, among others, education, gender and sustainable development with emphasis on a participatory approach.Contact them
  • FONADH = The Forum of National Human Rights (FONADH) is a non-governmental umbrella organization which works since 2000 for human rights in Mauritania. Composed of 17 national humanitarian organizations, the FONADH mission is to enact human rights in Mauritania and fight for them.Contact them
  • ALAKHBAR = Independent Information Agency Alakhbar was born in October 2003, following an initiative by a group of senior Mauritanian residing in Mauritania and abroad, with a view to breaking the monopoly media experience in the country time.Website
  • SOS ESCLAVES = NGOs promoting human rights and protection of their defenders in Mauritania. It was formed in 1995 by descendants of slaves and masters, united by a similar resolution to eradicate slavery traditional Mauritanian space. Website
  • GERDDES = GERDDES AFRICA (Group of Studies and Research on Democracy and Economic and Social Development) is a non-partisan Pan INGOs established IN 1990 by executives and African intellectuals from diverse backgrounds. Its objective is to promote and monitor democracy to accelerate economic and social development of the continent. The NGO in Mauritania, represented by Diabira Maroufa.Contact themWebsite