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As of 1987, Senegal posed no threat to Mauritania's national
security. Nevertheless, Senegal has caused Nouakchott concern by
exploiting Mauritania's ethnic cleavages for its own interests.
Leopold Senghor, president of Senegal from 1960 to 1981, feared
the prospect of a radical Mauritanian government that could
result if Mauritania were drawn into an Algerian-Libyan orbit. In
order to pressure Mauritania into making security-related
concessions favorable to Senegal, Senghor threatened to demand
self-determination for southern Mauritania's black Africans if
there was no change in Maure domination in the Nouakchott
government. He also directed a well-coordinated press campaign
that sought to publicize the racial problems between the black
and Maure populations
(see Ethnic Groups and Languages
, ch. 2).
Mauritania's relations with Senegal improved when Abdou
Diouf, who did not expect Mauritania to succumb to radical
influence instigated by Algeria and Libya, replaced Senghor as
president in 1981. Relations further improved when, after the
March 16, 1981, pro-Moroccan coup attempt in Nouakchott, Diouf
expelled Mauritanian opposition group members from Senegal.
Although members of opposition groups continued to take refuge in
Dakar, the Senegalese government did not formally offer asylum to
them, and in May 1987, Senegal extradited Captain Moulaye Asham
Ould Ashen, a former member of the CMSN, wanted on embezzling
charges. Nevertheless, Senegal had a continuing interest in
supporting a biracial Mauritania as a buffer state between its
frontiers and what it viewed as a an expansionist Arab
Maghrib (see Glossary).
Data as of June 1988