- The autonomous government of Anjouan, one of three semi-independent islands of the Comoros Union, has imposed a curfew on the capital, Mutsamudu. Authorities reacted to clashes between police forces and demonstrators, in which one or two students reportedly were killed. Several students have been arrested after the violent protest, following a strike.
The protest marches in Anjouan started as a reaction to the current teachers' strike on the island. Students demonstrated in favour of their teachers, who are on strike to demand the payment of outstanding salaries.
The student demonstration was however met by armed police forces that shot at the crowd. According to confirmed reports from the Anjouanese government, at least one high school student was killed by the police. Representatives of the striking teachers however claim that at least two students were killed during the clashes and allege police brutality.
According to the Interior Ministry in Mutsamudu, however, the police use of guns only came after the crowd got out of control. Interior Minister Djaanfar Salim Allaoui told the French news agency AFP that he personally had been "besieged" by the protesters, who were threatening to "lynch" him. He had only narrowly escaped the angry crowd, the Minister said.
The island police had only intervened after negotiations to stop the manifestations had failed and violence against state officials continued, the government claims. Armed police forces thus tried to tar down the many barricades and disperse the crowd and only shot in self defence, according to the authorities.
The Anjouanese government further holds that this demonstration is part of an attempt to "destabilise" the island, masterminded by the opposition. The 21-06 curfew announced today was therefore to prevent further violent incidents and assure peace and stability in Anjouan. Further, several student leaders had been arrested.
Authorities in Anjouan have grown increasingly intolerant to protest and dissident voices, claiming their powers are under threat. Earlier this year, a community radio was closed down by the government and the state-owned French radio RFI was hindered from broadcasting to the island.
Ironically, the Anjouanese leadership in 1997 declared the island's independence from Comoros to put an end to the endless list of military coups and political instability in the archipelago, until then dominated by the island Grande Comore. In the new Comoros Union, Anjouan however has turned out to be the most instable autonomous island, with an increasingly authoritarian government.
Meanwhile, calm has returned to the Comoran island, according to local sources. Today, shops and offices were open as usual in Mutsamudu and street life in the small Anjouanese capital seemed normal. The schools however remain closed as the teachers are continuing their strike.
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