The new government of the independent Comoros Islands is establishing itself following last May's overthrow of President Ali Solih's Marxist administration.
The new government of the independent Comoros Islands is establishing itself following last May's overthrow of President Ali Solih's Marxist administration. The ousted President was shot dead two weeks after the coup, while allegedly trying to escape house arrest.
SYNOPSIS: On May the 15th, about 50 armed mercenaries landed in Moroni, the island's capital. The force's leader, Bob Denard, a former colonial policeman in French Africa, installed a `political military directorate' consisting of himself and two co-presidents, Ahmed Abdallah and Mohamed Ahmed. The coup was the fifth since three of the Comoros Islands declared independence from France in 1975.
The island's economy depends mainly on the export of spices, vanilla, cloves and ylang-ylang which produces an essential ingredient for the perfume industry. But the economy was also dependant of French aid which was withdrawn after independence. President Solih then attempted to introduce his won form of socialism, which included firing the entire Civil Service. A number of Europeans' fled food production decreased and infant mortality soared.
The Chinese were President Solih's key advisors and maintained the only foreign representation in the country. There are still some Chinese living in the embassy, but their presence has been less obvious since the coup.
One result of the takeover has been neighbouring Madagascar's breaking off diplomatic relations. This means that flights now only go to Kenya and Tanzania. The new government has been looking for foreign aid and at least one plane load of businessmen has arrived in the Comoros at the government's invitation. The soldiers guard an airport, built by the French before independence, but now falling into disrepair. The French never actively encouraged tourism and the island's economic plight after 1975 made airport maintenance a low priority.
In addition to diplomatic problems with Madagascar, the new government was also expelled from the Organisation of African Unity conference in Khartoum. An OAU spokesman said this was because the new administration was brought to power with the help of mercenaries. Meanwhile, Monsieur Denard, the mercenaries' leader has quit his political job in the government, but will continue to lead the country's armed forces.