A leading member of Comoros Islands opposition coalition said the group will officially present a protest letter to Tanzania’s government Wednesday after accusing its foreign minister -- Bernard Membe -- of meddling in Comoros Islands internal affairs.
Ali Houmadi Msaidie said Foreign Minister Membe made pronouncements supporting the extension of President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi’s mandate, which he described as a constitutional “coup d’état”.
He said the foreign minister’s comments were inconsistent with President Jakaya Kikwete’s opposition to constitutional mandate extension.
“The stand shown today by the Tanzania foreign minister Honorable Membe is in contradiction of what His Excellency (President Kikwete) said while visiting Comoros two years ago. During this visit and in his speeches in Anjouan, Moheli and here in Grande Comoros he said that it’s not good to change the constitution in order to maintain people in power,” he said.
People in the Comoros Islands voted last year in what analysts said was a controversial referendum that extended President Sambi’s mandate. But the opposition dismissed the vote saying the low turnout was an indictment of Mr. Sambi’s leadership.
Msaidie said Foreign Minister Membe’s support for the Comoros Islands leader is an affront to the people.
“Strangely the foreign minister said that they are supporting the move taken by President Sambi to extend his mandate for 18 months more than the date of the expiring of his mandate which is on the 26 of May. And Honorable Membe came today in Comoros to support a constitutional coup. This is against what the president (Kikwete) said and it is against the official policy of the Tanzania government,” Msaidie said.
He also accused the Tanzanian foreign minister of refusing to meet with the opposition after holding discussions with officials of President Sambi’s government during his official visit.
Political observers say tension is high since President Sambi was declared winner of last year’s referendum that extended his mandate. Opposition groups accused him of clinging to power and weakening each Island’s autonomy - - a charge supporters of the government deny.
The government defended the referendum saying the current system was too costly.
Local media reported that President Sambi is scheduled to hand over power to a leader from Moheli in 2011 under the regular system of rotation.