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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

COMOROS: AU delegation hopes to smooth troubled waters

JOHANNESBURG, 16 July 2003 (IRIN) - Officials in the Comores were optimistic on Wednesday that a meeting between a delegation from the African Union (AU) and the authorities would provide a resolution to the archipelago's ongoing constitutional crisis.

In her capacity as chairwoman of the AU Executive Council of Ministers, South Africa's foreign affairs minister, Nkosozana Dlamini Zuma, is leading the 16-17 July visit. The mission is part of ongoing efforts to end the political struggle between the semi-autonomous islands and the federal government.

The visit follows last month's "congress" held in Pretoria, South Africa, which aimed to address obstacles barring the way to free and fair parliamentary elections on the Indian Ocean islands.

"There are still some outstanding obstacles towards the holding of parliamentary elections, which include, among others, the division of power, the budget, customs, tax revenue, and security," the South African foreign ministry said in a statement.

Since last year's devolution process, which saw the islands - Moheli, Anjouan and Grande Comore - elect their own presidents and govern most of its own affairs, a power struggle has ensued between Union President Azali Assoumani and Grande Comore President Abdou Soule Elbak over control of key government ministries.

"We are optimistic that our meeting with the AU representatives will clarify all of this confusion regarding control of administrative functions. Once this has been sorted out, we can go ahead and hold parliamentary elections. But it is important that we resolve this misunderstanding between President Assoumani and Mr Elbak," Comores foreign affairs permanent secretary, Ismail Shaffi, said.

"There's been some difference of opinion in interpretation of the constitution that they have agreed on. The islands feel entitled to certain powers and status, [while] the federal government disagrees with them on certain issues," a Comores political observer told IRIN.

Elections for the president of the Union of Comores and the presidents of the autonomous islands took place under international supervision in March and April 2002.

Themes: (IRIN) Governance



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