WASHINGTON — The Obama administration refused Monday to support the Central African Republic's ousted leader and declined to call his weekend overthrow a coup, part of an effort to restore calm to the impoverished, rebellion-wracked nation.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the United States has no information concerning ousted leader Francois Bozize's whereabouts or intentions, despite the claim by the government of neighboring Cameroon that the 66-year-old former military chief was seeking temporary refuge there.
Ventrell said the United States was focused on salvaging peace through an accord between the Seleka rebels and a government run by the country's prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye.
The rebels' weekend invasion of the capital, Bangui, came two months after they signed a peace agreement that would have let Bozize serve until 2016. That deal unraveled in recent days, prompting the insurgents' advance into Bangui, where French troops moved to secure the airport.
Ventrell said that while political talks take place, the United States is urging calm and a resumption of basic services such as water and electricity in Bangui. He said neither the rebels nor the government have lived up to previous commitments in a country that has had instability since obtaining independence from France in 1960. Bozize himself came to power in a coup a decade ago.
U.S. officials are concerned that the political instability will affect the hunt for African warlord Joseph Kony. Bozize was a strong supporter of African efforts to dismantle Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.
About 3,350 African troops are deployed against the Lord's Resistance Army in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
The United States has about 70 to 80 anti-Kony military advisers in the Central African Republic, Ventrell said.