- South African military observers are leaving towards Comoros this weekend, to form part of an African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in the troubled Indian Ocean state. The AU military observation mission is part of the peace and reconciliation agreement recently signed in Moroni.
Francisco Caetano Madeira, the Special AU Envoy to Comoros, has confirmed that South African military personnel were now on their way to Moroni. The AU observers were in Comoros to guarantee "the process of national reconciliation and the organisation of elections," as accorded in the 20 December agreement, said Mr Madeira.
The AU and South Africa were the key facilitators and guaranteeing powers of the Moroni agreement. The agreement is to end a period of political chaos and power struggle in Comoros, where the centralised presidency and the leadership of the Comoran Union's three member islands have struggled to define a power balance.
The agreement defines the powers of each authority and assures the holding of fair legislative elections within short. The limited trust between the three islands' presidents and Comoran strongman Assoumani Azali - Union President and former military dictator - however called for the presence of foreign observers to guarantee the implementation of the deal.
AU Envoy Madeira told the press in Moroni that he was optimistic about the chances of the military mission to succeed securing peace and reconciliation, despite recent backlashes.
On Friday (8 February), the presidents of the three islands Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli had presented a protest letter to Mr Madeira, regarding what they called an "obvious violation of the agreement" by the union presidency of Mr Azali. The protest came after one of the Ministers in the island government of Grande Comore was imprisoned by union forces.
Also, the central authorities have expressed their dissatisfaction with the revenue sharing key as agreed upon in Moroni in December. President Azali's union administration was granted 28 percent of fiscal revenues from the three islands, while the rest was to go to the islands' authorities. President Azali has demanded to renegotiate this revenue sharing key.
Mr Madeira told the press in Moroni that he understood the three island presidents' concern about the new insecurity created by President Azali's demands. "It creates nervousness," admitted the AU Envoy, referring to the imprisonment of the Grande Comore Minister. He also regretted the current "confusion" over the revenue sharing agreement.
The AU Envoy however would not speculate whether these recent developments could negatively affect the AU and South African military observance mission. On the contrary, Mr Madeira said the international community now was present in Comoros to prevent worst case scenarios, and it would not allow "letting Comoros sink into chaos."
Also the South African has clearly declared its firm support to the Comoran peace and reconciliation process. South African President Thabo Mbeki personally overlooked the Moroni negotiations. The South African Defence Force (SANDF), which is sending its observers to Comoros, now has deployed peacekeeping troops in a large number of African countries, the largest presence being in Congo Kinshasa (DRC) and Burundi.
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