Comoros. In July, a controversial referendum was held
regarding a proposal for a new constitution. The initiator
for this was the incumbent President Azali Assoumani, who in
May 2016 took up his third term in total. The new
constitution abolishes the system where the presidential
post rotates between the three largest islands in the
country, Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli) and Nzwani
(Anjouan). Instead of being forced to resign after five
years, the president should now be able to be re-elected
once. The opposition saw the proposal as a way for
Assoumani, who represents Ngazidja, to remain in power even
after 2021, accusing the president of having in effect
carried out a constitutional coup. This since he first
allowed the country's constitutional court to dissolve in
April and then announced plans for constitutional changes.
In May, Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, President 2006-11, was
placed under house arrest and in June one of the Vice
Presidents, Ahmed Said Jaffar, was dismissed from all his
ministerial posts except one after criticizing Assoumani.
However, the Constitution did not allow the President to
dismiss any of the Vice Presidents. The same month, violent
protests erupted against Assoumani and his plans.
Countryaah.com, the referendum was held in July. The opposition called
for a boycott and turnout in the end was 62 percent. Of
those who voted, 93 percent supported the proposal for a new
constitution, which also gives the president the right to
abolish the system of vice presidents to represent the
islands that the incumbent president does not come from. In
the months that followed, Assoumani's regime cracked down on
the opposition. Among other things, Sambi was prosecuted for
having, during his time as president, shattered revenue from
the sale of Comorian passports to foreigners. The secretary
general of the opposition party Juwa, to which Sambi also
belongs, was arrested on charges of conspiracy and attempted
In September, an international arrest warrant was issued
for the then dismissed Vice President Ahmed Said Jaffar. He
must have left the country and gone to Tanzania. Jaffar was
indicted in his absence for conspiring against the state.
Similar allegations were made against Deputy
Commander-in-Chief, Colonel Ibrahim Salim, who was arrested
the same month. The same fate affected several other
politicians and militants who opposed President Assoumani's
constitutional reforms. Several of those arrested were
sentenced in December to many years in prison.
In October, the situation escalated and gunfire between
opposition and government forces erupted in Mutsamudu, the
capital of Nzwani. Water and electricity were switched off
in the city center and after a few days the army had
regained control of the city.