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AU Commission to Meet Over Mauritania Coup D'etat

The Peace and Security Mission of the African Union (AU) will be holding an emergency meeting today to find ways of addressing the military coup d'etat in Mauritania after soldiers ousted President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. President Abdullahi, who is Mauritania's first democratically elected leader, was toppled yesterday after reportedly sacking senior army officers during a political crisis in the country. The president, prime minister, and interior minister were reportedly arrested and taken to an unknown destination. The African Union condemned the coup and demanded a return to constitutional government in Mauritania.

The AU says the Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra will soon travel to Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott to ascertain the situation on the ground and assess how best to expedite returning the country to constitutional rule. El-Ghassim Wane is the spokesman for the African Union. From the AU'S headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that the AU is disappointed about the military takeover in Mauritania.

"The chairperson of the commission issued a communiqué in which he condemned the coup and demanded the restoration of the legality and constitutional order. We did so on the basis of the relevant provisions of constitutional act of the African Union. The act on democracy and election government and other relevant instruments adopted by the AU, which rejects unconstitutional changes of government and attempts to seize power by force," Wane pointed out.

He said The African Union is sending emissaries to Mauritania to assess the situation on the ground and assist in promoting a peaceful solution to the crisis.

"Well next the chairperson, looking at the seriousness of the situation, has requested the commissioner for Peace and Security to travel to Mauritania to assess the situation on the ground and see how best to return and seep up the restoration of legality in that country. The commissioner is expected to travel in the coming few days to meet with all relevant stakeholders and see how best center our objective of restoring legality. I also would want to add that the Peace and Security Commission of the African Union would be meeting this afternoon to review the situation," he noted.

Wane said the Peace and Security Commission would look at all options available to address the crisis in Mauritania.

"Well the Peace and Security Council (PC) will act on the basis of the principles of the AU, which reject totally coups d'etat and attempts to seize power by force. Now we are looking at the situation and see how best the AU can achieve its objective. I can't preempt the outcome of the P and C meeting, but definitely the P and C will act within the bounds of the provisions of the act and other relevant instruments of the AU," Wane said.

He said the African Union has taken steps to address coups d'etat on the African continent as a measure to inhibit people from forcibly taking over power by the barrel of the gun.

"Precisely, it was in reaction to the coups d'etat that have taken place on the continent that the AU in 1999 has adopted a decision rejecting coups d'etat and all means of seizing power through unconstitutional means. A year after the AU adopted a declaration providing a framework for how the AU on how the AU should address issues linking to unconstitutional changes of power. And this was enshrined in the constitutive act, and later on last year we adopted a chapter on democracy, election and governance that among others contains provision on coup d'etat," he said.

Wane said entrenching democracy on the African continent is gradual process, which needs more effort to be invested in order to promote and establish the tenets of democracy.

"But of course, the process of promoting democracy on the continent will be a long one. It won't be an easy one, so it won't be without setbacks and difficulties on the ground. As much as we can, we try to present those difficulties and when they happen, we try to deal with them on the basis of the principles of the organization," Wane pointed out.

Meanwhile, the United States is condemning the coup d'etat in Mauritania and has urged the military to release the President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and prime minister and restore the democratically elected government.