This week’s invasion of Anjouan by African Union troops seems like a scene from a comic opera. During the rehearsal some disembarking soldiers reportedly dropped their weapons in the sea. The island’s runway was obstructed by luggage trolleys and the president is rumoured to have fled in disguise. Non-violent defiance from an island of 30 000 people hardly seems to warrant such speedy, heavy-handed action, but there may be an undeclared agenda. Political uncertainty in a small Muslim country off the east African coast will inevitably sound alarm bells in Western intelligence agencies. France is thought to be involved with the invasion’s logistics.