29 March 2019

Comoros: Gunbattle Near Military Camp Kills Several

Photo: D. Hakes/Carter Center Photos
(file photo).

Four people died Thursday in a gunfight at a military camp in Comoros where police had detained an opposition presidential candidate. VOA's Swahili service said at least seven people were injured.

Late in the day, Interior Minister Mohamed Daoudou said the government was in control of the situation.

Earlier Thursday, police arrested Soilihi Mohammed, one of 12 politicians who ran against President Azali Assoumani in Sunday's election. Police also took into custody more than a dozen women who were protesting against Assoumani's government.

Mohamed is head of an opposition transitional authority that aims to replace Assoumani.

Escape attempt

Also Thursday, sources in Comoros told VOA Swahili that an armed group tried to help former Maj. Faissoil Abdou Salam and others they considered political prisoners escape from prison in the capital, Moroni. Faissoil had been jailed for plotting against Assoumani.

Thursday's violence prompted the U.S. Embassy for Comoros and Madagascar to order its staff to leave Comoros.

On Tuesday, the country's election commission declared that Assoumani won the election with 60.77 percent of the vote. The commission said his nearest rival, Mahamoudou Ahamada, had 14.62 percent.

The opposition leaders said they didn't recognize the election results because of what they called widespread fraud. Observers from three regional bodies — the African Union, the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa, and the African Standby Forces of the East — said the voting was full of irregularities that led them to conclude it lacked credibility and transparency.

Referendum on presidential terms

Assoumani came to power in a coup in 1999 and led the government until 2006. He was elected president again in 2016.

Late last year, he ordered elections to be held after Comorans voted to support changing the constitution to extend presidential terms from one five-year term to two. The opposition boycotted the referendum.

The change alters a balance of power established in 2001 that sought to end separatist crises. Under the old constitution, the presidency rotated among the presidents of the country's three main islands — Anjouan, Moheli and Grande Comore, which also is known as N'gazidja.

Comoros, with a population of about 850,000 people, is one of the world's poorest nations. It has experienced a series of military coups and attempted coups since independence from France in 1975.

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