Police on the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros have arrested 10 opposition politicians who reject a new law extending the president’s mandate on the coup-prone islands, an opposition leader said.
Police swooped as the opposition figures boarded fishing boats to travel to the island of Moheli where tensions have been running high following parliament’s vote early this month.
Houmed Msaidie, who is secretary general of the leading opposition CRC party, said President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi’s administration had restricted their travel movements.
“All airline companies here have been banned from transporting us to the African Union’s seat in Addis Ababa and between the islands,” Msaidie told Reuters as he was being taken away to a police station.
The extension of Sambi’s mandate, who is seen as an Islamist reformer by supporters, was designed to align local and federal elections and save money in one of the poorest countries in the world.
But critics accuse Sambi of trying to cling onto power and weaken the autonomy of Grand Comores, Anjouan and Moheli islands.
Many Moheli islanders feel they have been robbed of the presidency, which rotates between the islands and had been due to be handed to Moheli in May this year.
The government has sent some 200 extra troops to Moheli to quell the growing unrest there and banned public meetings and protests across the archipelago.
Local human rights campaigners have condemned the government’s crackdown on the opposition and civil liberties.
The Comoran Foundation for Human Rights denounced the ban on public assemblies as a “serious violation of the right to self expression” and last week urged the troops to return to their barracks.
Situated between Mozambique and Madagascar, the Comoros has been plagued by coups and inter-island rivalries since gaining independence from France in 1975.
Pic: Comoros President- Ahmed Abdallah Sami