Tanzania is to command the African Union force to oust rebel Anjouan President Mohammed Bacar and restore Comoros’ sovereignty over the island of Anjouan. Tanzania’s Defense Minister Hussein Mwinyi reportedly said his country is contributing 750 soldiers. He told VOA Tanzania and other countries are carrying out an African Union mandate to bring Anjouan back into the union government of Comoros.
“There was a decision by foreign ministers and the ministers of defense of four the AU members, which is Tanzania, Senegal, Sudan, and Libya to assist the Comoros in bringing back the island of Anjouan into the union government. So we in Tanzania and the countries that I have just mentioned have decided under the AU mandate we should assist the Comoros in bringing Anjouan to the union government,” he said.
Mwinyi said the four countries would join with the Comoros union army for the operation against Bacar’s 300-member gendarmerie. This would be the first such military operation by the African Union, and Mwinyi said Bacar is to blame for the upcoming military operation against his government.
“It was very clear that the AU has had a lot of negotiations with Colonel Bacar, the leader of Anjouan. But he decided not to continue with the talks. And the AU had also opted to put economic sanctions against him. Unfortunately, the sanctions did not work. So this was the only option,” Mwinyi said.
He would not reveal how many forces the African Union has mustered for the Anjouan operation, but published reports say the AU plans to send as many as 1,500 troops to Comoros.
“The Chiefs of Defense Forces have been meeting and planning the operation, and I’m sure they have come to a decision in terms of what number to send their. But I don’t that I can reveal exactly the number right now,” Mwinyi said.
Unlike past military operations, Mwinyi said the African Union has the necessary logistics to conduct the Anjouan operation.
“Absolutely! What we did was after the meeting of the foreign and defense ministers, we had instructed the chiefs of defense forces of the countries which are going to be involved to set up in a proper manner the operation. And as far as I know, I’m told that that has been done,” he said.
Mwinyi said the military option, though a policy of the African Union is always the last resort and would not be limited to Anjouan.
“I think this is a policy of the African Union. Whenever there is a conflict between member states, the first thing they do is negotiation, dialogue. This has been done in Anjouan for a long time now, and it was obvious that it was not going to work because about nine delegations were sent to Colonel Bacar’s Anjouan to discuss about this. And it was clear that he was adamant that he will continue to rule by force. So the AU subsequently decided that they should put economic sanctions. And this is normal. Whenever talks are not fruitful, economic sanctions follow. And if economic sanctions are not fruitful, then the only last resort is military force,” Mwinyi saidl