- As an African Union (AU) representative today arrived Comoros to mediate in the archipelago's renewed political crisis, protesters on the island of Moheli call for President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi's dismissal. Thoughts of secession again are popular among Moheli islanders.
The current political crisis emerged in Comoros as President Sambi last year prolonged his term in power by one year in a constitutional referendum. The move broke with a complicated power-sharing deal from 2001 between the Comoros Union presidency and the archipelagos' three autonomous islands.
According to the 2001 deal, union presidents are elected from each of the three islands in a rotation system for one four-year term each. The first union president, according to the deal, was from Grande Comore, who transferred powers to Mr Sambi in 2006. Mr Sambi was elected from the island of Anjouan.
President Sambi's term ends on 26 May this year, according to the original scheme of the power-sharing deal. Then, a union president was to be elected from the island of Moheli.
Moheli islanders now demand their turn at the presidency and protest marches have been growing in scale and intensity on the island during the last weeks. Protesters have thrown stones against security forces and burnt tyres.
The Mohelian opposition to President Sambi has declared it will not accept Mr Sambi as union president after 26 May. If no Mohelian is heading the union presidency by that date, the 2001 power-sharing agreement will be seen as null and void.
On Moheli, secessionist thoughts are again emerging. In the 1990s, both Moheli and Anjouan declared independence from Comoros. While Moheli soon returned to the union, Anjouan staid independent in practical terms for years, only giving into an AU blockade that caused famine on the island. The secessionist crisis was only solved by the AU-brokered 2001 agreement, giving wide autonomy to the three islands.
The AU is now working hard to save the 2001 peace deal. AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ramtane Lamamra, arrived in the capital Moroni yesterday for a three-day working visit to Comoros. "We hope to leave this country with the assurance that the situation is going to improve," Mr Lamamra said upon arrival. In Moroni, he held talks with President Sambi.
But the AU efforts were thwarted today. Mr Lamamra had planned a visit to Moheli today to talk with the opposition to President Sambi. However, riots on the island again turned violent and the AU Commissioner's trip to Moheli had to be cancelled for security reasons.
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