Troops shot and killed two “criminals” in clashes on Comoros’ Anjouan island, a government official said, amid a wave of unrest against constitutional changes.
Protesters barricaded roads on Anjouan, angry at President Azali Assoumani’s plans to extend term limits and end a rotating tenure of his post in a way they say could leave the small island permanently excluded from power in the archipelago.
On Wednesday soldiers shot dead two people and wounded four after clashes between soldiers and a group of masked men, an official from the island’s defence ministry told Reuters, calling the group “criminals acting under the influence of drugs”.
“All are criminals who participated in these unacceptable acts. They have been identified and will face justice,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to comment to the media.
Another official, from the Ministry of Interior, said soldiers surrounded the centre of Anjouan capital Mutsamudu and were preparing to “neutralise” the group.
Politicians on the Indian Ocean islands called for restraint. Anjouan governor Abdou Salami Abdou said he “understood the motives of the insurgents”and called for an end to violence.
In August, Assoumani – from the largest island, Grande Comore – said a June referendum approved extension of presidential term limits and an end to the rotating presidency. The opposition called the referendum illegal.
Assoumani plans to compete in presidential polls in early 2019. That would deny Anjouan its turn to occupy the presidency from 2021, as would have happened under the previous system that rotated the post among the country’s three main islands.
Assoumani has been in power since 2016 and would have had to step down in 2021 under old term limits.
The former military official joins a string of leaders in African countries such as Rwanda, Uganda and Cameroon who extended presidential term limits or amended constitutions to remain in power.
“The situation is intolerable. We live with the sound of constant gunshots. We fear being hit by shrapnel. The whole family slept in a cave,” a resident of Mutsamudu, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters.