Tension In The Comoros As Presidential Polls Draw Near
By NFOR Hanson NCHANJI
There is an atmosphere of uncertainty after the President Azali Assoumani, stepped down mid February to brace for upcoming elections this March and April. He did that in fulfillment of the country’s constitution which says that any President of Governor seeking reelection should step down immediately the list is published.
However Mr Azali’s quest for another mandate has brought untold suffering to the opposition political class.
In July 2018, he amended the constitution to change the rotational Presidency deal between the three Comoros Islands, taking an upper hand to be reelected and even stay in power beyond 2021, more than his required required.
This change was followed by a supposedly “failed coup attempt” which led to massive arrest of politicians. Though the opposition boycotted the vote, majority voted YES.
The man who has ruled Comoros for three mandates; 1999 to 2002, 2002 to 2006 and 2016 till date is seeking to go beyond the expected but has met with strong opposition.
The AU’s call for restrain of violence did not stop arrest nor prevent many to flee into exile.
Among those arrested are soldiers and a prominent author, Said Ahmed Said Tourqui. Barrister Bahassane AHMED SAID, junior former of the exiled Vice President, was also arrested and kept in detention. Tension has reportedly increased with the arrest recently of two journalists. Sources have said, they are being detained under inhuman conditions and in some cases denied access to medial check-up.
Following these arrests, Spokesperson for the Juwa Party Abubakar Aboud said “Going by the past events, we are not surprised by the proliferation of this type of serious acts.The lack of credibility of the judicial authorities reinforces the idea of government conspiracies that are aiming to arrest discordant voices. All of this proves that the country is going through an unprecedented period of instability.”
The European Union earlier described the events in the Comoros “worrying”.
“Violent reactions after the announcement of the results of the constitutional referendum, recent arrests, including that of the Secretary-General of the Juwa party, and the house arrest of former president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, are troubling for Comoros, “the EU spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Maja Kocijancic said in a statement.
“Any constitutional amendment requires a calm environment that respects the rule of law and human rights, including freedom of the press,” EU spokesperson added.
Many have gone on exile like Djaffar Ahmed Said from Grande Comore, one time elected Vice President. Since May 2016, he served as VP for Economy, Planning, Industry, Crafts, Investments, Private Sector and Land Affairs. He fled out of Comoros after an international arrest warrant was issued against him for opposing to the President’s intention to stay in power.
Just like other African dictators in countries like Rwanda, Uganda and Cameroon who have extended presidential term limits or amended the constitution in order to remain in power, Assoumani, a former military officer, has now joined the list. He is also among the list of Presidents who came to power through a military coup( 1999)
Brief history of the Comoros culled from BBC
1886 – Comoros become a French protectorate.
1974 – Three of the islands making up the Comoros vote for independence, but a fourth island, Mayotte, votes to stay with France. A year later, Comoros unilaterally declares independence, with Ahmed Abdallah as president. The same year, however, Abdallah is overthrown, ushering in decades of political unrest punctuated by coups.
1997 – The islands of Anjouan and Moheli declare independence from the Comoros. Troops from the island of Grande Comore land in Anjouan to try to prevent its secession, but are routed. The conflict lasts until 2001 when voters agree on a new constitution that will keep the three islands as one country, but will grant each greater autonomy. Tensions linger, however.
2003 – Leaders of semi-autonomous islands reach a power-sharing deal, paving the way for elections
2007 – The African Union sends troops to help keep the peace in June’s elections after Anjouan president Mohamed Bacar refuses to stand down. The crisis escalates when Anjouan holds local elections in defiance of the federal government and the African Union. Mohamed Bacar is inaugurated as Anjouan’s president. The African Union starts a navy blockade around the island. The following year, the separatists are defeated.
2009 – The island of Mayotte votes to fully integrate with France. The Comoros government, which lays claim to the island, terms the referendum null and void.
2009 – Yemenia Airways plane crashes off Comoros, killing all but one of 153 people on board. Comoran expatriates demonstrate in France after suggestions plane may have been faulty.
2013 – Comoros comes out on top in a survey of women’s rights in 21 Arab League states. The poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation surveyed 336 gender experts.