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High hopes for peace deal

[Comoros] Flag, Dec 2003.
Upcoming elections will test Comoros' power-sharing arrangement (IRIN)

Comoran officials on Wednesday were optimistic that a recent agreement aimed at breaking the deadlock between political leaders would pave the way towards permanent stability in the troubled Indian Ocean archipelego. The deal brokered by the African Union (AU) was signed last month in the country's capital, Moroni, and is expected to bring to an end months of internal political wrangling. "All the parties are committed to implement the agreement and there is hope now that we will move forward towards permanent peace. The international community has also assured the country of its support throughout this process," Comoros charge d'affaires in South Africa, Bacar Salim, told IRIN. Since the devolution process began in 2002, which saw each of the three islands in the archipelago elect its own president, tensions have heightened between Union president Azali Assoumani and Grande Comore President Abdou Soule Elbak over the respective powers of their offices. The principal disagreements between Assoumani and Elbak have concerned the distribution of revenues, and authority over the police and the national army. After the failure of previous attempts to crack the political standoff, the Moroni reconciliation deal is seen as the most viable, mainly because of the detail it provides as to exactly how the division of power would work between the presidents of the islands and the union government. Bacar said: "This agreement is on the right track because it is clear about who is responsible for specific functions. Previous deals were not as clear, which led to a lot of confusion." A key feature of the accord is the establishment of a Provisional Customs Council (PCC) that will be responsible for the collection and control of the shared revenue. The council will comprise seven members: a director-general appointed by Azali, three deputy directors-general appointed by the president of each island, and three international experts. The parties also agreed to the formation of a committee chaired by a representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The committee will be responsible for ensuring that customs procedures are harmonised across the three islands of Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjouan. There was also consensus among leaders over how the country's budget would be allocated. To ensure transparency, the parties agreed that a special account should be opened with the Central Bank of the Comoros. Following the collection of revenues there would be an automatic transfer of funds into the account of the Union and each island. It expected that the Union will receive 28 percent of the budget, while Grande Comore, the largest of the three islands, will be allocated 32 percent. Anjouan will receive 30.5 percent and Moheli nine percent. The parties also agreed that control of the national army would fall under the Union government, while individual island governments would be responsible for local police. Legislative elections are tentatively scheduled for April.

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

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