U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Comoros
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Comoros, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3028.html [accessed 27 December 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
COMOROSThe Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros comprises three islands and claims a fourth, Mayotte, which is governed by France. The Comoros has a democratically elected government and a Constitution but has been prone to coups and political insurrection since independence in 1975. During the year, a secessionist movement rose in Anjouan, the country's second largest island. Government troops attempted to put down the movement in September but were defeated. The Organization of African Unity and the Arab League launched a mediation effort designed to help the Government and the secessionists reach a peaceful settlement, and hosted a mediation session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in December. Additional meetings were scheduled for 1998. President Mohamed Taki Abdoulkarim, elected in March 1996, dissolved his government immediately following the confrontations in Anjouan and assumed full political powers, an act permitted by the Constitution, provided that new elections are held within 90 days. As of year?s end, new elections had not been scheduled. In October more than 99 percent of citizens in Anjouan voted in a legal referendum to secede from Comoros. The Government and the international community refused to recognize the vote. The judiciary is independent. The Comorian Defense Force (FCD) and the gendarmerie are responsible for internal security. Both are under civilian control. The economy of this extremely poor country is dominated by agriculture. Revenues from the main crops--vanilla, essence of ylang-ylang, and cloves--continue to fall while the population of 550,000 continues to grow at a high rate of 3 percent annually. Per capita income is approximately $470 per year. Comoros depends heavily on foreign assistance from Arab countries, France, and the European Union. The human rights situation worsened in 1997 due to widespread political protests and the Government's response to them. More than 50 civilians and soldiers died in confrontations between the Government and opposition political forces, most during the Anjouan military incursion in September. Several civilians were killed during protests earlier in the year, but the circumstances of their deaths are not clear. During the Anjouan crisis the Government suspended a number of civil liberties such as the right to peaceful assembly. Prison conditions remain poor, and societal discrimination against women continued to be a serious problem.