Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi (سيدي محمد ولد الشيخ عبد الله) (born 1938) is a Mauritanian politician. He served in the government during the 1970s, and after a long period of absence from politics he won the March 2007 presidential election, taking office on 19 April 2007. He was deposed in a military coup d'etat on August 6, 2008.
From 1982 to late 1985 Abdallahi lived in Kuwait where he worked as an adviser to the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.
After returning to Mauritania, he was appointed to the government under Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya in early 1986. He served first as Minister of Hydraulics and Energy, then as Minister of Fishing and Maritime Economy. He was replaced as Minister of Fishing and Maritime Economy on September 21 1987. Abdallahi was accused of engaging in corruption while serving in this post and was imprisoned.
From September 1989 until June 2003 he lived in Niger, working again for the Kuwait Fund as an adviser.
Abdallahi announced his candidacy for president on July 4 2006. He ran as an independent and was viewed by some as the candidate representing or being a "puppet" of the ruling Military Council for Justice and Democracy, which planned to hand over power to the winner of the election, although Abdallahi denied this. The Coalition of Forces for Democratic Change, which won a large portion of the seats in parliament in the 2006 parliamentary election, sent a letter to various international organizations, including the African Union, accusing the junta of "running an open campaign in favour of one candidate" through various methods, including asking influential people in the country to back their favored candidate, although the letter did not directly name Abdallahi as this candidate.
In the first round of the election, held on March 11, 2007, Abdallahi took first place with 24.80% of the vote. A second round was therefore planned for March 25 between Abdallahi and the second place candidate, Ahmed Ould Daddah. On March 17, the third place candidate, Zeine Ould Zeidane, announced his support for Abdallahi in the second round. Fourth place candidate Messaoud Ould Boulkheir also announced his support for Abdallahi on March 19.
Following the second round of polling, interior minister Mohamed Ahmed Ould Mohamed Lemine declared Abdallahi the winner on March 26, saying that he won 52.85% of the vote. Abdallahi won 10 out of the country's 13 regions. He took office on April 19 and named Zeidane as prime minister on the next day.
Abdallahi addressed the nation on June 29 for the first time since taking office. In this speech, he referred to the "dark years" of 1989–91, condemning the violence of that time, expressing compassion for its victims, and emphasizing the importance of tolerance and reconciliation. He said that "the State will entirely assume its responsibility to ensure the return" of Mauritanian refugees and promised that they could all "benefit from a reintegration programme in their native lands with the support of the HCR, the Mauritanian state, united national effort and the cooperation of our development partners." He also mentioned an anti-slavery bill approved by the government.
Plans by Abdallahi's supporters to create a new party to back him were initiated in 2007; the opposition has criticized this as potentially meaning a return to a single-party dominant system, as existed under Taya. The party, called the National Pact for Democracy and Development (Adil), was established at a constitutive congress in early January 2008.
On September 26 2007, while Abdallahi was at the United Nations in New York City, he met a delegation of the Forces of African Liberation of Mauritania (FLAM), a movement seeking the improvement of the conditions of black Mauritanians; this marked the first talks between a Mauritanian head of state and FLAM since it was banned in 1986.
Early in the morning of August 6 2008, Abdallahi replaced senior army officers; at 9:20 am he was seized from his home by members of the BASEP (Presidential Security Battalion) in a military coup. Presidential spokesman Abdoulaye Mamadouba said that Abdallahi, Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghef, and the Interior Minister, were arrested by renegade senior army officers, unknown troops and a group of generals, and were held under house arrest at the presidential palace in Nouakchott. In the apparently successful and bloodless coup d'etat, Abdallahi's daughter, Amal Mint Cheikh Abdallahi, said: "The security agents of the BASEP (Presidential Security Battalion) came to our home and took away my father. The coup plotters were top fired security forces, including General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, General Muhammad Ould Al-Ghazwani, General Philippe Swikri, and Brigadier General (Aqid) Ahmad Ould Bakri. Member of parliament Mohammed Al Mukhtar claimed widespread popular support for the coup, saying that Abdallahi had headed "an authoritarian regime" and had "marginalized the majority in parliament.
The coup leaders announced on August 7 that Abdallahi's powers had been terminated and that a newly-formed High Council of State (including General Abdel Aziz as its President) would govern the nation in a transitional period leading to a new presidential election "as soon as possible".
On August 8, Abdallahi's daughter said that she had not been informed of his whereabouts, and she expressed concern for Abdallahi's "health and safety". Meanwhile, Abdel Aziz said in an interview with Jeune Afrique that the military had been forced to take power by serious economic and political problems. He accused Abdallahi of attempting a "coup against democracy" through his actions; according to Abdel Aziz, Abdallahi had set members of parliament against one another and his dismissal of the senior officers immediately prior to the coup was intended to "divide the army". Abdel Aziz also said that Abdallahi was being held at the Palace of Congress, was "in good conditions", had not complained, and would be released in a matter of days or weeks. According to Abdel Aziz, Abdallahi would probably not be required to leave Mauritania and would probably still be allowed to participate in politics. However, Abdel Aziz was quoted in an interview with Asharq al-Awsat published on August 9 as saying Abdallahi would not be released for "the time being", citing "security reasons".
Waghef and three other high-ranking officials (including the Interior Minister) were released by the military on August 11, while Abdallahi remained in custody. A few hours later, Waghef spoke before a rally of thousands of people and expressed defiance toward the junta, saying that Mauritanians did not accept its rule and urging the people to continue struggling to restore Abdallahi to power. He said that Abdallahi thanked them for their "untiring fight ... to restore constitutional order".
Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Ahmed bin Heli said on August 11, after returning from Mauritania, that he had asked to meet with Abdallahi but was not allowed to do so. Jean Ping, the Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, held talks with Abdel Aziz on August 25–26, and in a statement on August 30, the African Union Commission said that Abdel Aziz had committed to releasing Abdallahi during his talks with Ping. On September 2 2008, the Mauritanian Parliament, meeting in a special session, chose four deputies and four senators to sit as a High Court that would try Abdallahi on allegations such as corruption and obstruction of Parliament.