afrol News, 29 September - After an 11-year suspension, France and Comoros have signed a new military cooperation agreement in response to the ever-approaching Somali pirates. At the same time Comoros condemned France in the UN.
The Comoran government's relations with its former colonial power France always were complicated since independence in 1975. At that time, the population of the Comoran island Mayotte voted to remain French, to the continued protest of Comoros. Also, France has been implicated in some of the many coups and coup attempts on the archipelago.
No wonder then, that the military cooperation agreement between Comoros and its ex-colonial power, first signed in 1978, was suspended in 1999. Several French initiatives to renew the cooperation since that have failed.
Yesterday - less than a week after Comoran President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi urged the UN to act against the French annexation of "the Comoran island of Mayotte" - Comoros surprisingly agreed to restore its military cooperation with France.
In Paris, French Defence Minister Hervé Morin met with Comoran Foreign Affairs Minister Saïd Ibrahim Fahmi to sign the "military partnership accord" between the two countries.
"This new cooperation will help develop the capacities of the Comoran army to defend the sovereignty of its country both on land and at sea It also provides for cooperation on the issue of maritime security," according to a press release by the French Ministry of Defence.
While Foreign Minister Fahmi agreed to take on the French offer to help "defend the sovereignty" of Comoros, President Sambi four days earlier at the UN said France itself was the main threat to "the national unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the independent republic of Comoros."
The apparent contradiction in the official Comoran evaluation of threats to its security and the surprise restoration of military ties with France have its background in a new situation in the Indian Ocean. Piracy is becoming the new main security threat in the region.
Somali pirates have moved closer and closer on the large territorial waters of Comoros. While Somali waters are becoming safer, the pirates now operate more outside East Africa, moving towards the Mozambique Channel, where Comoros is located.
Recent pirate attacks have occurred in the waters of neighbouring Seychelles. Two months ago, pirates were spotted in the Mozambique Channel. Only today, a Norwegian-owned vessel was hijacked in the nearby waters of Tanzania. And October is seen as the high season of piracy, so more attacks are imminent.
Comoran authorities understood it was only a question of time before Somali pirates would find their poorly protected waters. While Seychelles and Tanzania have invested in their navies and received much foreign military aid to halt pirates, Comoran waters could have developed into a free haven.
Government was let with few alternatives than cooperating with its favoured "enemy" France to take pre-emptive action on the approaching pirates. "Modernising the Comoroan navy" therefore also was the top priority in the French-Comoran accord.
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