Azali Assoumani, president of the Union of Comoros and the African Union rotating chairman, told RFI that he will not accept the forced repatriation by France of around ten thousand people from Mayotte to the Comoros. Nor will he accept a financial compensation to take undocumented Comorians from Mayotte as part of the "Wuambushu" operation.
"I will not today accept money in exchange for Comorians expelled from Mayotte. One does not trade like this," Colonel Azali Assoumani, president of the Union of the Comoros, told RFI and its sister TV station, France 24 on Sunday.
Assoumani is the president of the three islands, Grande-Comore, Moheli and Anjouan as well as the rotating chairman of the African Union for 2023.
He said that he spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron twice over the phone recently and has requested to meet him.
The so-called "Wuambushu" ('take back' in Comorian) operation started on 21 April 2023 in Mayotte, a French department, in order to fight illegal migration and organised crime on the island.
The beginning of the operation did not go smoothly, despite the 1,800 members of the French security forces deployed specifically for this task.
Speaking at the French Senate in Paris on 3 May, Interior minister, Gerald Darmanin said the wild proliferation of "bangas", or slums with "no water, electricity or gas" must be stopped.
Estelle Youssouffa, a locally elected member of Parliament (MP) in Mayotte, said that the Wuambushu operation was launched at the request of MPs and the population.
"In Mayotte, one can no longer go out because of the rampant crime and violence. We no longer have a night life, or a social life," said another local MP, Mansour Kamardine, who supports the operation launched to fight organised crime.
Mayotte is a "French problem"
"France has been managing Mayotte for the last 47 years. It is responsible, if not guilty, for what is happening there, Assoumani said.
"The people traffickers are from Mayotte. It's not me.
"I take responsibility for what is going on in the three islands [Grande-Comore, Moheli, Anjouan] when it comes to juvenile delinquency but not for what is going on in Mayotte," Assoumani added.
Mayotte voted against independence in 1975, as opposed to the other three islands of the Comoros archipelago. It became France's 101st department in 2011 and its poorest.
In 2019, the Union of Comoros agreed to a financial aid of Ꞓ150 million from France to put a stop to human trafficking and the use of "kwasa-kwasa" (traditional Comorian fishing boats) to transport people illegally to Mayotte.
But according to MP Estelle Youssouffa, the situation has worsened since 2018.
"Insecurity in Mayotte and an out-of-control migration make life unbearable on the island," she added.
President Assoumani told RFI that he will not accept any financial support in return for allowing in the ten thousand people deported from Mayotte.
"France is a state that abides by the rule of law. It needs to legalise the situation of the people there. It is up to France to manage the Comorians in Mayotte, I will not accept them on the three islands," he added.
"The people [who are to be expelled] are not only from the three [Comorian] islands but also from Rwanda, Madagascar, Burundi".
In 2018, France initiated financial retaliation and a visa freeze for Comorians when no solution could be found with the Union of Comoros. Could France exert some form of retaliation if the Comoros insist on refusing to take in the undocumented Comorians?
"A visa blackmail is undignified for a country like France. And, in the past, the visa freeze did not yield any results," he commented.
The Comorian ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Defense will meet their French counterparts "to find a solution to this problem".
"We want the meetings to be at a broader governmental level, not reduced to an issue between the Interior ministries only," Assoumani added.
The President of the Union of Comoros also spoke about the Sudanese meeting in Jeddah and the war opposing Russia and Ukraine.