- The President of Comoros, Assoumani Azali, on a state visit to France has been promised that the ex-colonial power was to look into the resumption of economic aid to Comoros. President Azali met with French President Jacques Chirac on Monday and had talks regarding economic aid with Cooperation Minister Xavier Darcos yesterday.
President Azali's four-day stay in France marks the first official state visit by a Comoran Head of State to Paris for twenty years. Diplomatic ties between Paris and Moroni have fluctuated with the frequently changing Comoran regimes and their claims to the still-French Comoran island of Mayotte. Further, Comoran Presidents generally avoid travelling from the coup prone island state.
The President of the Comoros Union was received with full state honours when he arrived in Paris on 31 January. The same evening, he was received by President Chirac in the Elysée Palace. Later on, President Azali had talks with National Assembly Speaker Jean-Louis Debré and French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier.
The most important meeting was however held yesterday, with Mr Darcos, the Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development and Francophony. During this meeting, the resumption of French economic aid to Comoros was discussed. President Chirac, according to unofficial sources, had already given the green light for a deepening of bilateral economic ties.
Since the last period of political chaos on the Indian Ocean archipelago - which included the 1999 military coup that brought Colonel Azali to power and the effective secession of Anjouan, Comoros' second largest island - Comoros has been mostly excluded from foreign aid. The World Bank, IMF and most bilateral development partners have awaited a stabilisation of the country.
This stabilisation started with the Fomboni reconciliation process, which brought Anjouan back to Comoros and initiated a political transformation of the island state. Comoros has now turned into the Comoros Union - with ample autonomy for each of the three main islands - and with more or less democratically elected parliaments and presidents representing the three islands and the Union.
In January 2004, the major development partners of Comoros met in Paris, including the IMF, the World Bank, France, the European Union (EU) and South Africa, all of which also are guarantors of the Fomboni Peace. First steps were taken to restart economic cooperation with the new Comoros Union, in particular in securing the "transition to definitive institutions and strengthen sound economic governance in Comoros."
Regular development aid through the French and EU cooperation agencies have not yet started at full scale. As the Comoran government now holds that the country's political transition is now completed, President Azali is now seeking the normalisation of development funding for the Union. Signals from the French government indicate that the time for a normalisation has now come.
The visit by President Azali "reflects a common wish to increase our cooperation, which will result in a meeting of the joint Franco-Comoran commission in March 2005," said a statement from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The joint commission in particular was to look into the free movement of persons and goods between France and Comoros, thus also discussing trade links.
Further, according to a statement made yesterday by the spokesman of the French Foreign Ministry, France initially intents to focus its cooperation with Comoros on the sectors of technical assistance, good governance, health and education. In particular, Paris wanted to support the newly established University of Moroni. Further, French funds would go to rural development and infrastructure, "in short, all what this country needs," the spokesman said.
During President Azali's official visit in France, a meeting with the Secretary-General of the International Francophony Organisation, Abou Diouf, was also scheduled. His programme further included a visit to the French Development Agency and the Arab World Institute. The Comoran President finally visited the city hall in Lyon, where he also met representatives of the significant Comoran Diaspora living in that city.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.