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Bilateral Relations

Bilateral Relations with South Africa

South Africa and the Union of the Comoros (the Comoros) have long standing bilateral relations dating back to 1993, which were primarily focused on Development Corporation. Amongst the earliest initiatives were the Galawa hotel constructed and managed by the Southern Sun Group, with financial assistance from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) as well as a farm project managed by the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa.

Following the closure of the Embassy in Moroni in 1994, South Africa was represented on a non-residential basis through its Mission in Madagascar. However, due to South Africa’s involvement in the negotiation process for a political settlement in the country as well as the preeminent role of Africa in South Africa’s foreign policy, residential representation was re-established in 2003. Ambassador Esau Mabeta was appointed as the first residential Ambassador and was followed by Ambassador Ghulam Hoosein Asmal who assumed the post as Head of Mission in February 2011. He was succeeded by Ambassador Mbulelo Bungane in January 2015.

South Africa was appointed by the Organisation of African Unity, as coordinator of countries of the region for the negotiations to find a political settlement of the secessionist crisis that had engulfed the Comoros since 1997. The negotiations resulted in the signing and implementation of the Fomboni Agreement of 2000. Former President Thabo Mbeki witnessed the signing of the Agreement. The Fomboni Agreement culminated in unifying the three Islands, the adoption of a new constitution and institutionalization of rotational presidential elections for the three Islands of the Union of Comoros.

Since the Fomboni Agreement, South Africa, acting in concert with other countries in the region and the African Union, has played a prominent role in the democratization process in the country. It provided material, financial and human resources support to the 2002 and 2006 Presidential Elections. Former President Thabo Mbeki attended the inauguration of President Azali Assoumani in May 2002.  In December 2005, South Africa pledged R10 million during the Round Table Donor Conference on Comoros that was held in Port Louis, Mauritius. Various capacity building and training initiatives were undertaken in support of the Comorian public service, notably the police and the diplomatic service.

However in 2008, relations between South Africa and Comoros were strained arising from disagreements on the resolution of the crisis that had developed between the Union Government and the Island of Anjouan under the leadership of Colonel Mohamed Bacar. South Africa, in line with its commitment of peaceful resolution of conflicts on the  African continent as well as an undertaking which it received from Colonel Bacar to hold fresh elections in Anjouan, did not support nor participate in a joint military operation by Tanzanian, Libyan, Sudanese and Senegalese troops to suppress the secessionist move by Colonel Bacar.

In June 2012, South Africa and the Union of the Comoros signed a General Cooperation Agreement.  A Comoros Roundtable Donor discussion, facilitated by the UNDP at the request of the Comorian government, was held in South Africa during September 2013 to raise funds to address the flood disaster that had occurred earlier that year. Consequently, South Africa contributed R1 million to the World Food Programme’ operations in the Comoros.

Based on the request by former President Ikililou Dhoinine to support agriculture development in the country as part of his government’s efforts to reduce food insecurity and to fight poverty, South Africa sent a team of agriculture researchers and experts in 2012 to assess the situation. One of the recommendations of the experts was that a pilot agricultural development project be initiated in Moheli. In 2016 South Africa, in conjunction with the Government of the Comoros, submitted a funding proposal to the India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) Fund. The project will be implemented by the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa in June 2017 on behalf of IBSA.

Current efforts are underway to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries in various sectors including health, education, tourism, agriculture, trade and investments, gas and oil exploration as well as the environment. In August 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was concluded between the South African Maritime Safety Association and the Comoros Port Authority in Cape Town. The MOU formalizes the existing relations between the two authorities and further aims to enhance cooperation in areas identified in the agreement and on special projects and initiatives.

The Embassy is very positive about the political situation in the country and its bilateral relations with South Africa. There is peace, stability and commitment to address the socio-economic challenges facing the country.  The new administration has a vision to make the Union of the Comoros an emerging country by 2030. South Africa through the Embassy stands ready to support the country’s developmental efforts and to further enhance the relations for the mutual benefit of both countries and its people.
HE Mr Mbulelo Bungane - Ambassador
Head of Mission
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