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Rebel island prepares for confrontation

Latest update : 2008-03-14

While African Union soldiers have started arriving on the Comoros ahead of a military operation against the island of Anjouan, our correspondent Franck Berruyer observed the Bacar government's preparations.

While several contingents of African Union (AU) soldiers have started arriving on the Comoro islands to prepare for a military operation against the island of Anjouan, the island’s rebellious President Mohamed Bacar is preparing for confrontation.

 

“I intend to stay and see those who wish to fight me, to drink a cup of tea with them here, and to explain to them that you don’t win by Kalashnikov but by being well-behaved and responsible,” Colonel Bacar told FRANCE 24. Bacar has led Anjouan, one of four main islands in the Indian Ocean archipelago, since 2002, when he was elected for a five-year term. The federal Comoran government, based on the island Grande Comore, tried to postpone elections in 2007 citing irregularities, but Bacar printed ballots, held an election and proclaimed himself the winner. The federal government – and the African Union - regard Bacar’s reelection as illegal.

 

While a confrontation with the Comoran military and the UA seems imminent, Bacar gathered his ministers Thursday to talk about current affairs and also to organize their preparations. “Our history goes back to the warring sultans,” explains one of Bacar’s government ministers, “so we can draw on our past strengths and fight again.” It’s difficult however to prepare a response when not a single telephone works on the island, except the satellite phone in Bacar’s office. But the leader seems nevertheless confident, a book of the Koran in his hand and his limousine at his disposal.

 

In an interview with FRANCE 24 special envoy Franck Berruyer, Bacar rejected the accusations against him. “A dictator is someone who does not respect the law, he is someone who wants to make law. I am victim of those who want to spread misinformation without checking it first.”

 

The authorities of the Union of the Comoros, the federal government, have said they intend to arrest Bacar and put him on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Witnesses have told FRANCE 24 of mistreatment of Bacar’s opponents on the islands.

 

The UA supports is providing military support for the operation led by the Comoran government to remove Bacar from power. Tanzania, Senegal, Sudan and Libya have provided  troops for the operation. They are supported by France, which offered to transport the AU troops. The operation – foreign troops included – numbers some 1,000 to 1,500 men, according to military sources who spoke with the AFP.

Date created : 2008-03-14

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