Negotiations between Comoros’ leader and opposition parties on a date for presidential elections have stalled with President Mohamed Abdallah Sambi’s rivals accusing him of illegally clinging on to power.
Sambi’s mandate expired on May 26 after the Indian Ocean archipelago’s Constitutional Court this month annulled a law extending his term. The court’s decision followed weeks of heightened political tension on the coup-prone islands.
The African Union (AU) appeared to have brokered a deal two days ago to hold elections in November but a special envoy for the pan-African body, Franceso Madeira, said talks had been suspended.
“I don’t understand Sambi’s last minute U-turn. We believe he has just carried out a putsch and we do not recognise his legitimacy,” Hamada Madi Bolero, who leads an opposition delegation from the island of Moheli, told Reuters.
The AU’s Madeira said informal talks would continue between the sparring parties.
Under the constitution, the presidency rotates among the three islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli. Many on the opposition-stronghold of Moheli, which is next to take over the presidency, feel Sambi’s manoeuvrings are an attempt to rob them of the top political post.
Fermenting anger on Moheli prior to the May 26 expiry of Sambi’s office saw the government deploy extra security forces to snuff out bouts of unrest and a ban on public rallies.
In a televised address to the nation, Sambi said on Wednesday evening the talks had failed and formed an interim government made up of his old administration and a handful of representatives allied to the governor of Anjouan.
Sambi’s allies say the impasse is not about political skullduggery but the practicalities of finding funding and logistics.
“We need time to get the finances together and organise these elections,” said Mohamed Larif Oukacha, secretary general of the president’s office.
Sandwiched between Mozambique and Madagascar, the politically volatile islands have been rocked by some 20 coups and attempted coups since independence from France in 1975.