- The parliament of Comoros has demanded that a planned referendum regarding the island of Mayotte's attachment to France must be stopped. Mayotte is seen as part of Comoros by the African Union (AU).
Vice-President Ibrahim Mohamed Sidi of the Comoran parliament supported the condemnation. "For us," he told the press, "the project of organising a referendum on the Comoran island of Mayotte means nothing less than a declaration of war."
Mayotte is one of four islands in the Comoran archipelago, but it protested independence from France in 1975, achieving the status as a French overseas department. Mayotte citizens have since not regretted this choice, as the neighbouring Comoros Union is the world-record holder in coups, has experienced several civil wars and is caught in chronic underdevelopment, while Mayotte has enjoyed political stability, strong economic growth and generous French subsidies.
Neither Comoros nor the AU recognise Mayotte's special status and hold that the island is an inseparable part of the Comoran state. However, the Comoros government until now has laid low regarding these demands, steadily improving its ties with France.
Now, however, both the parliament and the President of Comoros are issuing strong protests, and Mr Sidi's strong-worded comment is just one of them. Also President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi last month made it clear that Mayotte was Comoran territory and that any referendum on the island not approved by him was "null and void".
The population of Mayotte is to decide in a referendum whether the island is to become a full-fledged department of France, meaning deeper political integration and further social rights to its citizens. A "yes" would inevitably mean that Mayotte will not unite with Comoros in future.
But neither Mayotte nor French authorities are willing to back down on the planned referendum. The General Council of Mayotte, presided by Ahmed Attoumani Douchina, in April this year unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the referendum. Overseas Territories Deputy Minister Yves Jégo announced the referendum had the blessings of Paris in September. He maintains it will be held in March 2009.
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