Egyptian foreign ministry slams 'illegitimate' coup in CAR

Ahram Online, Reuters, AFP , Monday 25 Mar 2013

Senior Egyptian diplomat expresses concern over the deteriorating situation in Central African Republic

Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr (Photo: Reuters)

Ambassador Mona Omar, Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister for African Affairs, expressed her concern over the deteriorating situation in Central African Republic following a coup by rebels that has plunged the mineral-rich state into political chaos.

Omar called on all parties to the conflict on Monday to ensure "peace and security" in the country through refraining from violence in order to guarantee the safety of civilians.

"Egypt stands against any illegitimate coup and regards elections as the sole channel of political change and road to fulfill the national interest of the country," Omar said.

Omar revealed that Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr had ordered the suspension of Egypt's diplomatic mission in Central African Republic to avoid the risk of facing "further political deterioration."

The Seleka fighters seized power on Sunday after a lightning offensive in which they fought their way from the far north to the presidential palace in just four days, after a January power-sharing agreement signed in the Gabonese capital Libreville collapsed.

Neighboring Cameroon confirmed on Monday that ousted President Francois Bozize had arrived there.

The removal of Bozize, who himself seized power in a 2003 coup backed by Chad, was just the latest in a series of rebellions since the poor, landlocked country won independence from France in 1960.

French military forces reported looting was continuing for a second day in parts of the riverside capital Bangui and water and electricity had not yet been switched back on. Other parts of the city appeared calm, with regional forces cooperating with Seleka fighters to try to restore order after chaos gripped the city of 600,000 inhabitants during the rebel takeover.

 Small contingents of troops from Chad, Gabon and the two Congos are there.

"We will respect the Libreville accord: a political transition of 2 to 3 years before elections," Seleka spokesman Eric Massi told Reuters by telephone, referring to the agreement reached after the rebels besieged the capital in December. The deal had created a government drawn from Bozize loyalists, rebel leaders and the civilian opposition.

A Seleka leader, Michel Djotodia, has been named president to replace the ousted Bozize. Civilian opposition member Nicolas Tiangaye would retain the prime minister's post he was given in the January power sharing deal, Massi said.

"The current prime minister remains in place and the cabinet will be slightly reshuffled," Massi added.

Seleka, a loose coalition of five rebel groups whose name means "alliance" in the Songo language, accused Bozize of breaking the January agreement by failing to integrate their fighters into the army.

With France's military contingent in Bangui refusing to intervene, two heavily armed columns of insurgents in pick up trucks swept into the capital on Sunday, brushing aside a South African force of 400 troops which attempted to defend Bangui.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said at least 13 soldiers were killed and 27 others wounded in the fighting, the worst military setback for Pretoria since the end of apartheid and an embarrassing setback to its efforts to project its power in the resource-rich heart of Africa.

The UN Security Council will hold emergency consultations Monday on the crisis in the Central African Republic after rebels seized the capital, diplomats said.

The 15-nation body is expected to release a statement calling for a return to constitutional government after President Francois Bozize fled the rebel advance on Sunday.

"There is a new president, self-proclaimed in a totally unconstitutional way and the question we are all asking is how to come back to a constitutional situation, how to have elections as quickly as possible," France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters as he announced the meeting.

"In the coming days we are going to see what we can do to convince the new president to organize elections," Araud added.

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