Crackdown on Comoros opposition after referendum boycott

2018-08-09 16:02
President of the Comoros Azali Assoumani (File, AFP)

President of the Comoros Azali Assoumani (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Authorities in the Comoros have launched a crackdown on opposition members following a controversial referendum which they boycotted, party sources said on Wednesday.

The July 30 referendum returned overwhelming backing for reforms that will allow President Azali Assoumani to run for another term in office as the head of the Indian Ocean archipelago.

The vote also means the three posts of vice-president and constitutional court will be scrapped.

Around 10 opponents of the government have been recently arrested while a similar number have gone into hiding as they are being sought by authorities, according to opposition sources.

Former president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi who leads Juwa, one of the main opposition parties, has been under house arrest since May.

The party's secretary-general Ahmed el-Barwane has been in detention since July 31 accused of assault, attempted murder and criminal conspiracy, according to Moudjahidi Abdoulbastoi, one of his lawyers.

"The persecution of el-Barwane is unbelievable. It is due to political views which he made very public," Abdoulbastoi told AFP.

Juwa spokesperson Ahmed Abdou Chakour has also been in detention in the capital Moroni since the referendum, a party official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A number of Juwa activists have also been detained, the official added.

Yahaya Mohamed Iliasse of the ruling Convention for the Renewal of the Comoros (CRC) party confirmed there had been arrests.

"There are charges against them and I have confidence in the justice system," he said.

Half a dozen CRC dissidents have also gone into hiding, according to associates.

Ahead of the referendum, Interior Minister Mohamed Daoudou said opposition members would be "hunted down" after the vote.

"From Tuesday (July 31) we will hunt them down," he said. "Let them find a hole to hide in," he told a campaign rally.

The opposition had urged a boycott of the referendum, denouncing "abuses of power".

On Monday the Supreme Court confirmed the victory of the "yes" campaign with 92.43% of the vote on a turnout of 62.71%.

The Third Way Collective, a civil society group, blasted the referendum as "the most scandalous electoral masquerade in recent years".

It said voters had largely "steered clear of the ballot box" and that the opposition had been "muzzled".

Riding high on the referendum results, Assoumani last week promised to hold a presidential election as soon as the archipelago is able to afford one, probably early next year.

The Comoros - a group of islands between Mozambique and Madagascar and one of the world's poorest countries - has endured repeated coups and political turmoil since independence from France in 1975.

Assoumani, a 59-year-old former colonel, was president between 1999 and 2002, coming to power after a military coup.

He won the country's first multi-party elections in 2002, stepping down in 2006 to hand over power democratically to Ahmed Abdallah Sambi.

He returned again as president in 2016 in an election marred by violence and allegations of voting irregularities.

* Sign up to News24's top Africa news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO THE HELLO AFRICA NEWSLETTER

FOLLOW News24 Africa on Twitter and Facebook

Read more on:    comoros  |  southern africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.