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Uneasy Calm Returns to Comoros Islands

In the Comoro Islands, an uneasy calm has reportedly returned to the capital, Maroni. This comes after forces loyal to the outgoing president of Anjouan last week took control of buildings housing federal offices. Some described this as a coup d’etat. Mohamed Bacar seized power on Anjouan in a coup in August 2001. He was elected president for a five-year term in March the following year. Last week, the Comoros' constitutional court ruled that President Bacar had served his term and nominated an interim president to serve until elections in June when all three Comoros islands would choose their respective presidents.

Idi Nidhom is the Vice President of the Comoro Islands. From the capital Moroni, he told VOA that former President Mohammed Bacar is the cause of the unrest.

“There is a big problem in Anjouan, due to the former president of the island’s action. His mandate finished on the 14th April 2007, but was going to run to be re-elected. The Constitutional Court decreed that the president of the union has to designate someone to be the interim president and organize the elections to be held on 10th June. Now, that person was designated, but Mohammed Bacar refused to leave the office, deployed his army, they started fighting the few soldiers of the national army,” he said.

Nidhom said forces loyal to the former president went on a rampage, destroying properties belonging to the interim president.

“They have destroyed the (interim) president’s office, they have attacked his private residence, and all the airports and seaports have closed,” Nidhom pointed out.

He said the Comoros authorities are working with the international community to come to the aid of the islands.

“We liaise with the African Union here and the South African ambassador in Moroni the capital city, I personally was in South Africa two months back. We are quite certain that securing the election will be there, because South Africa is prepared to send a certain number of policemen and security officers. The Africa union would send troops. But to hold free and fair elections, we have to have peace in that Island,” he said.

Nidhom said former President Mohammed Bacar’s forces must first be disarmed before free and fair elections can be held.

“Now, if we are going to hold the elections, secured by the African Union but leaves that militia with machine guns and what have you, then what’s the use, because they would start again? So what we are looking for today, is that we have to see the Africa Union, South Africa or other neighboring countries to come and dismantle that militia, so that the union government can have sovereignty on that Island,” Nidhom noted.

He said it is improper that the central government has little or no control over what he described as important national installations.

“It is not acceptable that that militia refuses that the national army have its prison on that Island. It’s not acceptable that in one country, the union cannot control the customs, the local airports, immigration and so forth. That’s not acceptable for us,” he said.

Nidhom said he was not happy former President Mohammed Bacar is causing confusion in Anjouan.

“For us he (Mohammed Bacar) is just a simple citizen. Today, he is the head of a rebellion in Anjouan. Now, for us to bring peace in that Island, there is no other way than to disarm that militia, collect their arms, and give them to the African Union to the Union government. And that is all, that guy is useless without heavy machine guns,” he said.