Comoros Clashes Make Political Casualty as Critic Arrested

(Bloomberg) -- Comoros placed Abdou Salami Abdou, governor of the Indian Ocean archipelago’s second-biggest island, under house arrest, heightening political tension about six months ahead of presidential elections.

The governor of the autonomous island of Anjouan since 2016 and member of the opposition Juwa party has been a vocal critic of President Azali Assoumani’s government. Interior Minister Mohamed Daoudou announced the house arrest to reporters on Sunday, after another minister said the governor supplied weapons to civilians in a mosque. He’s denied the charges.

“The arrest is arbitrary,” Abdou Said, Juwa’s deputy secretary-general, said by phone. “It is proof of dictatorship from the central government.”

Political tension has escalated in the Indian Ocean nation since Assoumani won a referendum that extends presidential term limits and abolishes a system of rotating power between Comoros’ three main islands. To protest against the referendum, the Juwa party staged a march in Mutsamudu, the Anjouan capital, which ended in clashes between civilians and military forces that left three dead.

The government offered immunity from prosecution to residents who hand in their weapons. The military recovered only three rifles and the “terrorists” will be looked for “relentlessly,” Daoudou told reporters.

Comoros, a country of about 800,000 people with a $617 million economy, has had more than 20 coups or attempts at power since it gained independence from France in 1975.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.