Troubled Comoros turns to Geingob for help

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By Timo Shihepo

Windhoek – Barely three months after becoming a full member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Comoro Islands are already in turmoil and are pleading for the regional body’s intervention.

Opposition and pressure groups in SADC’s newest member state have turned to Namibia’s President and SADC chairman Hage Geingob for his intervention.

The Southern Times understands that Geingob will, however, not meet Comoros’ opposition parties, as political uncertainty in SADC’s new member state persists.

The SADC chairperson received a letter from the opposition parties as well as one from the vice -president of Comoros, Jaffar Ahmed Said Hassani requesting a meeting in a bid to get the Namibian President to resolve the island nation’s political crisis.

In a letter dated 1 October 2018 written by Mohammed Ali Soilihi on behalf of the Union of the Opposition, opposition parties also asked the SADC chair to send a special envoy to Comoros to meet all the Comorian parties.

Soilihi said this would enable Geingob to judge for himself and find a better way to assist Comoros find lasting peace and stability.

“I beg you, Sir, to accept the expression of my highest consideration,” said Soilihi.

The letter further said that Comoros is facing a double political and institutional crisis. At the forefront of the crisis is President Azali Assoumani who plunged the nation into crisis in April when he suspended the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, sparking opposition protests.

Comoros is a nation made up of three islands and consists of three vice presidents. Under the current constitution, power rotates every five years between the three main islands. The President does not have the power to dismiss the three vice-presidents under that constitution, but Assoumani’s new constitution would allow him to abolish their posts.

Prior to the current term, Assoumani had been President of Comoros on two separate terms and with the new constitution, Assoumani would be able to run again for president when his term ends in 2021.

This sparked nationwide protests resulting in the arrest of those opposing Assoumani’s new regulations. As a result, Assoumani’s vice-president Ahmed Said Jaffar dubbed the referendum illegal, urging Comorians to “reject the dangerous abuse” of power. Jaffar has since been stripped of several rights and post as a vice president.

As the tension escalated, Comoros’ other vice-president Moustoidrane Abdou escaped an assassination attempt in July when assailants on a motorcycle riddled his car with automatic gunfire before the controversial referendum on a new constitution.

Comoros former president Ahmed Sambi, is under house arrest for alleged corruption, misappropriation of public funds and complicity in forgery dating from his time when he was in power from 2006-2011.

The Office of the President in Namibia confirmed receipt of the letters to The Southern Times.   

“We have received two letters and we have responded,” said Presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari.

Hengari could not shed light on the contents of President Geingob’s response to the correspondence, nor could he confirm whether Geingob will grant the requests for an audience.

The Southern Times understands that Geingob and Assoumani met in New York this year at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

“Yes, it is true that the two presidents met in New York and the Comoros president informed the SADC Chair that they will come for a state visit after the elections,” said Hengari.

Assoumani has called for elections, which were due in 2021 to be held next year.

Geingob told The Southern Times earlier this year that countries should not just join SADC without putting their house in order.

“It must be the local people to maintain the country’s peace not the world. People must maintain good governance, democracy, inclusivity. If you leave people out, there would be attempted coups and trouble. As far as that is concerned it would be the duty of SADC to help them (Comoros) because they are now members,” he earlier said.

 The European Union considers recent events in Comoros as "worrying".

"Violent reactions after the announcement of the results of the constitutional referendum, recent arrests, including that of the Secretary-General of the Juwa party, and the house arrest of former president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, are troubling for Comoros, "said the EU spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Maja Kocijancic, in a statement.

Kocijancic added that any constitutional amendment requires a calm environment that respects the rule of law and human rights, including freedom of the press.

 

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