Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya ' onMouseout='HidePop("2007")' href="/topics/Arabic_transliteration">transliterated
Arabic transliteration
Different approaches and methods for the romanization of Arabic exist. They vary in the way that they address the inherent problems of rendering written and spoken Arabic in the Latin alphabet; they also use different symbols for Arabic phonemes that do not exist in English or other European...

 as Mu'awiya walad Sayyidi Ahmad Taya) (born 1941), was Prime Minister
Heads of government of Mauritania
-List of Heads of Government of Mauritania:-Affiliations:-See also:*Mauritania**Heads of State of Mauritania**Colonial Heads of Mauritania*Lists of office-holders-External links:*...

 of Mauritania
Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest...

 from 1981 to 1984 and president
Heads of state of Mauritania
-List of Heads of State of Mauritania:-Affiliations:-See also:*Mauritania**Heads of government of Mauritania**Colonial heads of Mauritania*Lists of office-holders-External links:*...

 from 1984 to 2005. He guided Mauritania from military rule to democracy, and took a pro-Western stance in foreign affairs. He was ousted by a military coup in 2005.

Early years

Born in the town of Atar
Atar, Mauritania
Atar is a town in northwestern Mauritania, the capital of the Adrar Region and the main settlement on the Adrar Plateau. It is home to an airport, a museum and a historic mosque, constructed in 1674...

 (Adrar Region), Ould Taya attended a Franco-Arabic Primary School from 1949 to 1955. He then attended Rosso
Rosso is the major city of south-western Mauritania and capital of Trarza region. It is situated on the Senegal River at the head of year-round navigation. The town is 204 km south of the capital Nouakchott...

 High School in southern Mauritania. After graduation, he attended a French military school in 1960 and graduated as an officer. In 1975, he received strategic training at the French War Academy. In 1978 the Mauritanian army seized power and ousted President Moktar Ould Daddah
Moktar Ould Daddah
Moktar Ould Daddah was the President of Mauritania from 1960, when his country gained its independence from France, to 1978, when he was deposed in a military coup d'etat.- Background :...

, in an attempt to forestall government collapse in the war over Western Sahara
Western Sahara
Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its surface area amounts to . It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly...

 against the Polisario Front
Polisario Front
The POLISARIO, Polisario Front, or Frente Polisario, from the Spanish abbreviation of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro is a Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement working for the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco...

 (1975–79). Ould Taya was among the conspirators, and quickly gained influence within the government.

President of Mauritania

After holding various positions in the military, Ould Taya was appointed Chief of Staff of the Army in January 1981, during the rule of military head of state Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla
Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla
Ret. Col. Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah was the head of state of Mauritania from 4 January 1980 to 12 December 1984...

. In the aftermath of a failed coup against Ould Haidalla in March 1981, Ould Taya was appointed Prime Minister on 25 April 1981, replacing civilian prime minister Sid Ahmed Ould Bneijara
Sid Ahmed Ould Bneijara
Sid Ahmed Ould Bneijara was briefly the Prime Minister of Mauritania in 1980-81.He was first appointed by Col. Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah of the Military Committee for National Salvation , on December 12, 1980, to replace Haidallah himself...

. He held this office until 8 March 1984, when Ould Haidalla, who was still head of state, took over the post. On 12 December 1984, while Ould Haidalla was out of the country, Ould Taya seized power and declared himself Chairman of the Military Committee for National Salvation.

President Ould Taya freed all prisoners and dissolved ALHYAKEL (people’s education committee) and sought from his arrival the establishment of a nation of law and order. He organized the first election in the nation’s 26 years of existence in 1986.

Ould Taya's regime began a transition to civilian, multiparty government in 1991; a new constitution was approved by referendum in July. The first multiparty presidential elections were held in January 1992. Ould Taya, candidate of the newly formed Democratic and Social Republican Party (PRDS), received nearly 63% of the vote amid opposition claims of serious irregularities and fraud. He won slightly more than 90% of the vote in the 12 December 1997 presidential election, which was boycotted by major opposition political parties; anticipating fraud, they said that this would make their participation futile.

Political instability

Under Ould Taya, discrimination against the Afro-Mauritanian population became more pronounced. Thousands are forced to flee to Senegal and Mali. In the armed forces and the civil service, abuse is common and many are killed. The last years of Ould Taya's rule were marred by unrest within the military and hostility between the regime and the country's Islamists. Ould Taya's harsh response to the religious opposition triggered criticisms from abroad. Ould Taya also moved away from his support of the Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

i regime of Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

 at the time of the 1991 Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, and moved towards the West. In late 1999, Mauritania established full diplomatic relations with Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, becoming only the third Arab country to do so. Ould Taya's close ties with Israel and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 served to deepen the opposition to his rule.

In June 2003 Ould Taya's government survived a coup attempt, defeating rebel soldiers after two days of fighting in the capital, Nouakchott
-Government:The town was first divided into districts in 1973. First it was divided into four. From 1986, the city has been split into nine districts.* Arafat* Dar Naim* El Mina* Ksar* Riad* Sebkha* Tevragh-Zeina* Teyarett* Toujounine...

; the coup leader, Saleh Ould Hanenna
Saleh Ould Hanenna
Saleh Ould Hanenna is a former Mauritanian soldier and political figure.Hanenna served in the Mauritanian Army and rose to the rank of Major before being forced out in 2000. In June 2003, he led an attempted coup, aiming to overthrow President Maaouya Ould Taya. He commanded a rebel section of...

, initially escaped capture. Ould Hanenna announced the formation of a rebel group called the Knights of Change, but was eventually captured in 2004 and sentenced to life in prison along with other alleged plotters in early 2005. On 7 November 2003 a presidential election
Mauritanian presidential election, 2003
A presidential election was held in Mauritania on November 7, 2003. As expected, President Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya was easily re-elected against weak opposition...

 was held, which was won by Ould Taya with over 67% of the vote. The opposition again denounced the result as fraudulent; the second place candidate, former ruler Ould Haidalla, was arrested both immediately before and after the election, and was accused of plotting a coup. In August 2004, the government arrested more alleged coup plotters, who it said had planned to overthrow Ould Taya when he took a planned trip to France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

; some, however, doubted the existence of this plot and suspected that it was a pretext for a crackdown. In late September, the government claimed to have thwarted yet another plot to oust Ould Taya.

Anticipating an increase in government revenue through the exploitation of natural resources, particularly offshore oil deposits, Ould Taya announced an increase in pay for the civil service and pensions in November 2004.

Fall from power

While Ould Taya was out of the country for the funeral of Saudi
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

 king Fahd
Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, was King of Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 2005...

 in early August 2005, soldiers seized government buildings and the state media. The group, which identified itself as the Military Council for Justice and Democracy
Military Council for Justice and Democracy
The Military Council for Justice and Democracy was the supreme political body of Mauritania. It served as the country's interim government following the coup d'etat which ousted the President, Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya on 3 August 2005. It was led by the former director of the national police...

, announced a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 in a statement run by the state news agency on August 3:
The armed forces and security forces have unanimously decided to put an end to the totalitarian practices of the deposed regime under which our people have suffered much over the last several years.

The new military dictatorship
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

 said it would remain in power for a maximum of two years to allow time for democratic institutions to be implemented. The Military Council for Justice and Democracy named Col.
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 Ely Ould Mohamed Vall
Ely Ould Mohamed Vall
Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall is a political and military figure in Mauritania. He served as the transitional military leader of Mauritania following a coup d'état in August 2005 until 19 April 2007, when he relinquished power to an elected government....

, a top associate of Ould Taya for many years, as its head.

Ould Taya, on his way back from Fahd's funeral, landed in Niamey
-Population:While Niamey's population has grown steadily since independence, the droughts of the early 1970s and 1980s, along with the economic crisis of the early 1980s, have propelled an exodus of rural inhabitants to Niger's largest city...

, the capital of Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

. He met Niger's president Tandja Mamadou
Tandja Mamadou
Lieutenant Colonel Mamadou Tandja is a Nigerien politician who was President of Niger from 1999 to 2010. He was President of the National Movement of the Development Society from 1991 to 1999 and unsuccessfully ran as the MNSD's presidential candidate in 1993 and 1996 before being elected to his...

 before going to a villa in Niamey. Speaking to Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale was created in 1975 as part of Radio France by the Government of France, and replaced the Poste Colonial , Paris Mondial , Radio Paris , RTF Radio Paris and ORTF Radio Paris...

 on August 5, Ould Taya condemned the coup, saying that there had "never been a more senseless coup in Africa" and that it reminded him of the adage "God save me from my friends, I'll take care of my enemies". On August 8, he unsuccessfully attempted to order the armed forces to restore him to power. Broad support for the coup appeared to exist across the country; Ould Taya's own PRDS party abandoned him a few days after the coup by endorsing the new regime's transitional plan. International reaction to Ould Taya's overthrow was initially strongly hostile, including the suspension of Mauritania from the African Union
African Union
The African Union is a union consisting of 54 African states. The only all-African state not in the AU is Morocco. Established on 9 July 2002, the AU was formed as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity...

, but after several days the new rulers were apparently diplomatically successful in winning tacit international acceptance of their transitional regime. The United States in particular at first called for Ould Taya to be restored to power but subsequently backed away from this.

He left Niger for Banjul
-Transport:Ferries sail from Banjul to Barra. The city is served by the Banjul International Airport. Banjul is on the Trans–West African Coastal Highway connecting it to Dakar and Bissau, and will eventually provide a paved highway link to 11 other nations of ECOWAS.Banjul International Airport...

, Gambia
The Gambia
The Republic of The Gambia, commonly referred to as The Gambia, or Gambia , is a country in West Africa. Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, surrounded by Senegal except for a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean in the west....

 on August 9, 2005. After nearly two weeks there, he and his family flew to Qatar
Qatar , also known as the State of Qatar or locally Dawlat Qaṭar, is a sovereign Arab state, located in the Middle East, occupying the small Qatar Peninsula on the northeasterly coast of the much larger Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, with the rest of its...

, where they arrived on August 22.

In April 2006, Vall said that Ould Taya could return home as a free citizen, but would not be allowed to take part in the elections that were to mark the end of the transition because, Vall said, his participation could disrupt the transitional process; however, Vall said that he would be able to return to politics after the completion of the transition.

In the March 2007 presidential election
Mauritanian presidential election, 2007
A Mauritanian presidential election occurred on 11 March 2007. Since no candidate received a majority of the votes, a second round was held on 25 March between the top two candidates, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and Ahmed Ould Daddah...

, Ould Taya is said to have favored former central bank governor Zeine Ould Zeidane
Zeine Ould Zeidane
Zeine Ould Zeidane is a Mauritanian economist and politician. He placed third as a candidate in the March 2007 presidential election, and he subsequently served as Prime Minister from April 2007 to May 2008....

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