Comoros crisis talks stumble

2010-05-26 12:26

Fomboni - Talks to resolve a political crisis in the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros over the extension of the president's term foundered on Tuesday, officials said.

The negotiations were launched last month in reaction to mounting discontent from the Comoros' smallest isle Moheli at the extension of President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi's term by one year in a 2009 constitutional referendum.

"I regret that the negotiations had no outcome," said Fahmi Said Ibrahim, an official from Sambi's camp, blaming a senior official from Moheli for scuppering the talks.

A 2001 power-sharing constitution between the Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli isles forming the Union of Comoros says the federal presidency should rotate between the three islands every four years.

Sambi, from Anjouan, says the constitutional reform aims to harmonise the dates of presidential polls for the federation and for each one of the islands, by extending his mandate by a year.

But politicians in Moheli, next in the rotation for the federal presidency, charge that Sambi is trying to cling to power and strip their island of its turn.

"We are not concerned by Sambi's reforms," said Abdourahim Ben Cheikh Achiraf, Moheli's interior minister.

"Moheli's turn is not conditioned on the harmonisation. Moheli wants its turn," he added.

However, Ibrahim insisted that Sambi was now offering to harmonise all elections by bringing the islands' presidential polls forward to 2010 rather than by extending his own tenure until 2011.

The negotiations, backed by the African Union and the international community, had resumed late Monday.

Earlier this month, the constitutional court ruled that Sambi's term was to end on May 26 and that he would stay in power with limited prerogatives until fresh poll dates are fixed.

Sambi was elected in 2006 in the Comoros' first peaceful handover of power, replacing Azali Assoumani from Grande Comore.