South Africa's OAU-mandated role in respect of the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros

Current status of conflict and involvement of international community

The situation in the Comoros has changed over time. The economic and social problems of the Comoros have frequently resulted in a perpetuated state of instability. More recently, Anjouan attempted to secede and declare its own independence. The central government in Moroni failed to suppress civil disobedience and to disarm the militia in Anjouan. The OAU was invited to help disarm the Anjouanese Separatists. The OAU, with the objective of preserving the unity and integrity of member states, stepped in and organised the Addis Ababa International Conference in December 1997, to define a new constitutional framework to preserve the national unity and territorial integrity of the Archipelago. The Conference confirmed the need to assist in the alleviation of poverty in the Comoros and decided to convene a Round-Table of Donors and an Inter-Island Conference on the Comoros. The Inter-Island Conference met in Madagascar from 19-23 April 1999 and produced the Antananarivo Accord, which the Anjouanese Separatists refused to sign.

Following the death of President Taki in November 1998, Col Azali seized power of the Comoros in a coup d’etat on 30 April 1999. This complicated the Antanananarivo Accord process. The OAU imposed a range of punitive measures against the Anjouanese Separatists and also ruled that Col. Azali’s government was not welcome at OAU meetings.

On 26 August 2000 the Fomboni Agreement was signed between Col. Azali and Col. Abeid, as representatives of the Comoran government and Anjouan respectively, to the exclusion of political parties. This was unacceptable to the OAU, and a Ministerial meeting of Countries of the Region was held on 29 December 2000 in Pretoria to discuss the Comorian crisis. Subsequently a negotiation/mediation team was despatched to the Comoros.

After a period of six weeks’ intense negotiations, an All-Party Framework Agreement was signed by representatives of all three islands as well as the opposition parties on 17 February 2001. This agreement confirms the OAU negotiated principles as contained in the Antananarivo Agreement of April 1999. These are:

The unity and territorial integrity of the Comoros;
A unified solution based on inclusivity of all parties and interest groups from the three islands (inclusiveness); and
A return to constitutional order.
Due to the progress made, and since the two main aims of the OAU (territorial integrity and constitutional rule) are contained in the All Party Agreement the OAU Council of Ministers, meeting in Tripoli, Libya from 24 to 26 February 2001 decided inter alia:

"….to immediately suspend the measures taken by the OAU against the leaders of the Anjouanese Movement, it being understood that the measures will be lifted definitively upon the establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity provided for in the Framework Agreement."

Council also requested "the Secretary General to take all the necessary steps to facilitate the speedy and scrupulous implementation of the Framework Agreement for Reconciliation in the Comoros, particularly measures relating to the Framework Agreement Follow-up Mechanism, the drafting and adoption of the Constitution, arms collection, the reintegration of the youth and the organization of a Donor’s Conference".

The Role played by South Africa

South Africa as OAU mandated Coordinator of the Countries of the Region on the Comoros has coordinated several meetings, many of which we have hosted, and also took a lead in arranging logistics for visits by various delegations to the Comoros. The transition process is being monitored closely and South Africa is ready to assist however it can with the return of the Comoros to constitutional order.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa