Stepping up the pressure on the separatist administration in the breakaway Comoro island of Anjouan, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) has said it will dispatch an assessment mission mandated to look into a possible military intervention.
A senior South African diplomat told IRIN on Monday that the decision to send a mission to the Indian Ocean archipelago off the east African coast had been taken on Friday last week at a meeting in Pretoria of senior officials from Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania and South Africa.
He described the meeting as a follow-up to a decision taken at an OAU summit in Lome, Togo last month, where he said African leaders approved the proposals “aimed at putting an end to the separatist crisis in Anjouan, particularly the military measures whose modalities will be determined by the countries of the region”.
In a statement, the South African foreign ministry said the objective was to bring the crisis to “a swift end and restore the unity and territorial integrity of the archipelago”.
In January, the OAU, which mediated the 1999 Antananarivo agreement to restore unity, said it would not acknowledge a referendum in favour of independence. It had warned the Anjouanese leadership under self-styled president Lieutenant-Colonel Said Abeid, whose 1997 breakaway is not internationally recognised, that failure to sign the accord by 1 February would trigger economic sanctions. Despite the sanctions and travel restrictions on the Anjouanese officials, Friday’s meeting in South Africa was aimed at enhancing the measures, the diplomat told IRIN.
He said that a working group of diplomats, military and security experts from Madagascar, Tanzania, Mauritius and Mozambique chaired by South Africa, would not only assess the measures in force, but also visit the Comoro Islands with a view to military planning.
The South African foreign ministry statement added: “The meeting also agreed that the countries of the region should immediately initiative the required preparations for the implementation of the Lome decision on the military-related measures. In this regard, the meeting mandated the above-mentioned working group to undertake a field mission to the Comoro islands with a view to assessing the military and security situation, updating existing plans and submitting concrete proposals in order to bring into effect the Lome decision military related measures.”
The working group would report back at another OAU meeting in Pretoria within three months.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions