- The Comoran island of Mayotte, governed from Paris, is deepening its economic dependence on France as new social benefits and subsidies are agreed upon. The French government in particular has agreed to widen health services and public servants' pensions for inhabitants on the disputed Indian Ocean island.
The French Minister of Overseas Departments, Brigitte Girardin, has approved several steps to improve civil services in Mayotte, according to a statement by the Ministry released yesterday. The new decrees come after the Follow-up Committee of the French-Mahorais agreement of January 2000, which re-affirmed French sovereignty of the Comoran island.
The five-year-old agreement deepened the ties between Paris and Mayotte by making the island a so-called "departmental collectivity" with some autonomy. France agreed to take on greater social responsibilities for the Mahorais population. The agreement was approved of by 72.5 percent of voters in a popular referendum in Mayotte on 2 July 2000.
Following the French-Mahorais agreement, France is slowly granting more services to the island, which already is heavily dependent on French subsidies. Minister Girardin now has agreed to extend the pension scheme of Mahorais public servants, which during the next year will cover a much larger group than it currently does.
Also health and social services were now to be extended to a greater part of the Mahorais population. From 1 April, island pupils will profit from a school feeding programme. Health insurance is being extended to reach greater population groups, and will now include financial aid to the poor to enable them to use private health facilities, according to Minister Girardin.
The French Minister also announced reforms in the sectors of employment and land and housing. Further, she noted that general subsidies to France's overseas territories had increased in the 2005 budget, now reaching 5.7 percent of expenses, which would also increase flows to Mayotte. Finally, Ms Girardin invited the Mahorais to sign separate cooperation agreement in the culture and sports sector with the French government.
While the Mahorais population is generally in favour of being a French overseas department - not the least because of the generous subsidies - the issue is far from controversial. Mayotte is one of the four main islands in the archipelago of Comoros and was part of the French colony Comoros. The government of Comoros claims the island - one of the four stars in the Comoran flag represents Mayotte - and its claim is sustained by the UN and the African Union (AU).
The special situation of the island goes back to 1975, when the Comoran parliament suddenly passed a resolution declaring unilateral independence from France despite an agreement to wait until 1978. The MPs representing Mayotte however protested and reached an agreement with France to organise a referendum on the island regarding its status. In the 1976, more than 99 percent voted to retain the island's link with France.
Only weeks after the referendum, however, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU, the forerunner to the AU) adopted a resolution saying the poll was "illegally imposed on the inhabitants of Mayotte" and that it constituted "an aggression against all the Comorian people." The OAU demanded the French to immediately withdraw from Mayotte. Similar resolutions have been made by the UN, and only France's veto power has hindered a UN Security Council resolution.
Since 1976, Mayotte has experienced political stability and a sustainable economic growth, strongly contrasting developments in Comoros. The 180,000 inhabitants now enjoy a GDP per capita four times higher than Comoros, although only one tenth of that of mainland France. Mayotte is the main target of illegal emigrants from Comoros, mostly due to its strong economy and political stability and freedom.
The new status of the island, approved in another referendum in 2000, has given Mayotte somewhat more autonomy. Mayotte is now one of three French overseas collectivities, with a status similar to those of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (off Canada) and Wallis and Futuna (between Fiji and Samoa in the South Pacific). The government of Comoros strongly protested the referendum in 2000.
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.