Ending the armed conflict in Comoros

Summary

The Organisation of African Unity-led diplomatic intervention helped to end the armed conflict in Comoros after several rounds of talks culminated with the creation of a federal Comorian state.

Comoros is a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean composed of three main islands. Since becoming independent from France in 1975, Comorian politics has been disrupted by over 20 coup d’états. In 1995, one such coup took place, but a French intervention restored constitutional order, and a new president was elected the following year.1 The new administration promulgated a new constitution centralising the fragmented political structure of Comoros at the expense of the autonomy of smaller islands such as Moheli and Anjouan. In August 1997, the regional administrations of these islands responded by announcing their secession from Comoros and declaring their intention to re-join France or become independent.2 The government on the main island, Grand Comore (also known as Ngazidja), dispatched troops to Anjouan with the intention of reasserting control over the island, sparking an armed conflict. Government forces were initially driven off the island. In the aftermath of the offensive, fighting broke out between the separatists, further complicating the crisis.3

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) led the international response to the conflict, appointing a Special Envoy and tasking him with mediating a settlement which preserved the territorial integrity of Comoros.4 After making some initial progress with shuttle Diplomacy, the OAU Observer Mission to Comoros (OMIC) was deployed to monitor the situation and build confidence. In December 1997, the OAU hosted negotiations in Ethiopia which resulted in the Addis Ababa Agreement.5 The Agreement represented little more than a commitment to finding a solution to the conflict and continued fighting on Anjouan soon undermined the progress it had represented. In response, the OAU appointed South African President Nelson Mandela to coordinate the effort to find a resolution to the conflict.6 In April 1999, the belligerents met under OAU auspices in Madagascar, with negotiations culminating with the Antananarivo Accords, which established a framework for the islands of Comoros to enjoy greater autonomy.7 This effort was derailed by a coup d’état that came almost immediately after the Accords were signed.8 The coup led to the withdrawal of OAU observers, however fresh rounds of dialogue in August 2000 and February 2001 (hosted by the OAU, l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, and the Arab League) culminated with the Famboni Agreements, which ended the conflict and created the framework for the establishment of a federal Comorian state upon approval by the population in a referendum.9



1 World Peace Foundation. “Comoros Short Brief.” African Politics, African Peace. (2017) p.1

2 UCDP. Comoros: Anjouan. (UCDP, 2020) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/conflict/407 (Accessed 02/12/2020)

3 Ibid.

4 World Peace Foundation. “Comoros Short Brief.” p.2

5 Addis Ababa Agreement, 1997. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/comoros-addisababa97 (Accessed 02/12/2020)

6 Bruce Baker. “Comoros: The Search for Viability.” Civil Wars, Vol. 11, No. 3. (2009) p.217

7 Accords d'Antananarivo, 1999. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/comoros-accordantananarivo99 (Accessed 02/12/2020)

8 IRIN News. “OAU military group withdraws.” The New Humanitarian. (1999) Available at: https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/report/6559/comoros-oau-military-group-withdraws (Accessed 02/12/2020)

9 Accord cadre pour la reconciliation aux Comores (Accord de Fomboni), 2001. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/comoros-accordfomboni2001 (Accessed 02/12/2020)

Start Year

1997

End Year

2003

Location

Comoros

UN Regional Group

Africa

Type of Conflict

Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict with foreign involvement

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement, Monitoring, observation, political, and verification missions

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Organisation of African Unity, l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the Government of France, and the Arab League.

Impact

Lasting

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