Date :Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018 | Time : 12:53 |ID: 63031 | Print

Comoros’s democracy under threat – country slip into political repression


SHAFAQNA – A budding democracy Comoros stands to unravel under the weight of political repression, as freedom of speech is called into question following the return of Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, the island’s former president on account of his critic of the regime.

Sambi, who ruled Comoros from 2006 to 2011, and whose return was perceived as a direct threat to the political future of Comoros’ strongman Azali Assoumani as he prepares to further assert his hold over the federal republic, was put under house arrest on trumped up charges.

The former president decried such decision, stressing:  “with such acts, it is the country’s democracy that is really threatened.”

Prior to his return the island, following an absence of six months, Sambi denounced Azali’s decision to suspend the Constitutional Court and his plan to hold a referendum to revise the Constitution, scheduled for 29 July.

The current Comorian head of state, Azali Assoumani has not yet given details of the institutional reform he plans, but he has already planned an early presidential election in 2019 if the referendum is approved.

Azali, a former coup leader, was elected president in 2016. His mandate theoretically expires in 2021.

The state defended its decision to ‘detain’ former President Sambi by invoking national security and the need to “preserve public order.”

A statement from the Interior ministry said, the decision was taken due to the action of Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, in recent days and that if he needs to travel, an application must be submitted to the department responsible for public security.

Well loved by his compatriots, former President Sambi received a hero’s welcome as he touched down to Comoros. With thousands eagerly awaiting to greet him, it took the former head of state several hours to perform the 15 minutes drive to his residence.

Needless to say that Sambi’s popularity has been ill-received in the capital.

Plagued by bouts of political instability since its independence from France in 1975, Comoros has experienced more than 20 coups d’état or attempted coups, with various heads of state assassinated.

If President Azali Assoumani was democratically elected  in 2016, his rise to power was first forged in a coup in 1999 when, as Army Chief of Staff, he was instrumental in the ouster of then-interim President Massounde, citing weak leadership.

But Assoumani failed to consolidate power and reestablish order over the islands in the midst of a rebellion.

Azali then stepped down in 2002 to run in the democratic election of the President of the Comoros, which he won. Under ongoing international pressure, as a military ruler who had originally come to power by force, and was not always democratic while in office, Azali led the Comoros through constitutional changes that enabled new elections. A Loi des compétences law was passed in early 2005 that defines the responsibilities of each governmental body, and is in the process of implementation.

The elections in 2006 were won by Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, a Muslim cleric nicknamed the “Ayatollah” for his time spent studying Islam in Iran. Azali honoured the election results, thus allowing the first peaceful and democratic exchange of power for the archipelago.

As it were, the two former political rivals could once again compete for office as Comoros seeks a stronger democratic footing.

A Shafaqna exclusive 

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