UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
COMORO ISLANDS: African military chiefs fly in
JOHANNESBURG, 9 December (IRIN) - A delegation of African military chiefs flew from South Africa to the Indian Ocean Comoro Islands on Wednesday in a bid to seek ways of mediating an end to secessionist fighting which has already claimed over 40 lives since the weekend.
A South African government spokesman told IRIN the delegation led by South African army Brigadier-General Jan Lusse, with senior officers from Madgascar, Mauritius, Mozmbique, Kenya and Tanzania, would make recommendations on behalf of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) at a meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 17 December.
After meetings with South African officials, OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim said no decisision about any military intervention would be taken until the officers at reported back. "The use of force is the last possible consideration," Salim told a news conference in the South African capital, Pretoria. "The objective of this mission is to make a proper, professional assessment of the situation and examine all the options on how to assist in the restoration of the normal situation in Anjouan and how to end the current state of affairs."
A militia faction seized control of the capital of Anjouan, where summary executions, looting and burning have followed three days of fierce fighting since Saturday in which the South African government spokesman said more than 40 people had been killed.
"It is a difficult situation, made worse by economic deprivation in the islands of Anjouan and Moheli where secessionists are seeking closer ties with Paris as French overseas territories like the other island in the archipelago, Mayotte," the spokesman said. "This is a country which has suffered some 17 coups in the last 15 years."
Salim said he was concerned at a growing humanitarian crisis in which thousands of people had been forced to flee their homes. The OAU, he added, had received a number of appeals for intervention from the Comoran government - "not an intervention to settle the political problem, but a humanitarian intervention to save lives and so on."
A senior South African diplomat told IRIN it was ironic that Salim had arrived in South Africa on Sunday night, to explore earlier plans of an inter-island conference to prevent just such an outbreak of violence.
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 11:35:57 +0300 From: IRIN - Southern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: COMORO ISLANDS: African military chiefs fly in 1998.12.9
Editor: Ali B. Dinar, email@example.com