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Security Concerns

Comoros faces no external threats. However, during the 1970s and 1980s, various groups of European mercenaries, all supposedly supported by foreign powers, played a significant role in Comorian domestic politics.

Since independence the Comorian government has contended with several internal threats. This domestic instability reflects the weakness of the island's central government, the unpopularity of its rulers, and the presence of European mercenaries. On July 6, 1975, the Comorian Chamber of Deputies approved a unilateral declaration of independence from France, named Ahmed Abdallah as president, and constituted itself as the National Assembly. On August 3, 1975, a group of notables, radicals, and technocrats overthrew the Abdallah regime. These individuals replaced the National Assembly with a National Executive Council, led by Prince Said Mohammed Jaffar. In January 1976, Ali Soilih succeeded Jaffar as president.

Soilih embarked on a revolutionary program, based on Maoist and Islamic philosophies, to facilitate the development of an economically self-sufficient and ideologically progressive state. Apart from alienating France, which terminated its aid and technical assistance programs to Comoros, Soilih's policies aroused resentment among the island's traditional leaders. To make matters worse, Soilih established his version of Mao's Red Guards, the Commando Moissi. These vigilantes, trained by Tanzanian military advisers, further alienated Comorian society by acting as a repressive political police. Growing popular discontent resulted in four unsuccessful coup attempts against the Soilih regime during its two and a half-year existence.

On May 12-13, 1978, a fifty-member European mercenary unit, hired by Ahmed Abdallah in France and led by French Colonel Robert Denard, finally overthrew Soilih. Two weeks later, security personnel killed Soilih, allegedly while he was trying to escape from house arrest. Ahmed Abdallah and his former deputy, Muhammad Ahmed, then became co-presidents. Although it initially experienced some opposition because of the role played by Denard and his mercenaries in the coup, the new government eventually gained popular support. Its popularity rested on its ability to restore relations with France, which resumed economic, military, and cultural aid to the island, and to gain assistance from the European Community and several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait. On October 22, 1978, Abdallah was elected to a six-year term as president.

Despite the influx of foreign aid, political conditions in Comoros remained unsettled, largely because Abdallah failed to establish a government that included adequate representation for the people who lived on the outlying islands of Njazidja, Nzwani, and Mwali. Moreover, Abdallah frequently used repressive methods against his real and imagined adversaries. In this turbulent atmosphere, opponents of Abdallah's regime made at least four unsuccessful attempts to overthrow his government.

In February 1981, loyal Presidential Guard (Garde Presidentielle--GP) units crushed an army mutiny on the main island of Grande Comore and the authorities subsequently arrested about 150 people. In December 1983, another plot surfaced after the arrest of a group of British mercenaries in Australia. According to the Comorian government, they had planned to overthrow Abdallah on behalf of a former Comorian diplomat, Said Ali Kemal. A March 1985 plot against Abdallah by the GP also failed and resulted in seventeen people being sentenced to forced labor for life and fifty others being imprisoned for their part in the coup attempt. In November 1987, French mercenaries and South African military advisers, based in Comoros, reportedly thwarted a coup by a small number of GP and armed forces personnel.

On November 27-27, 1989, the Abdallah regime finally fell after members of the GP, which included several European advisers under Colonel Denard's command, assassinated the president. As outlined in the constitution, the Supreme Court president, Said Mohamed Djohar, became interim head of state, pending a presidential election. However, Colonel Denard and his associates engineered a coup against Djohar, disarmed the army, and killed at least twenty-seven police. Growing French and South African pressure forced Colonel Denard to leave Comoros for South Africa. In April 1990, the Comorian government announced that France would maintain a military team on the islands for two years to train local security forces.

Despite the presence of French troops and a general amnesty for all political prisoners, Comoros continued to suffer from internal instability. On August 18-19, 1990, armed rebels unsuccessfully tried to overthrow Djohar by attacking various French installations on the island of Njazidja. A small group of European mercenaries allegedly the coup attempt and believed that the Djohar regime would fall if they could force the French to withdraw from the islands. The authorities detained more that twenty people in connection with the uprising. Another coup attempt occurred on September 26, 1992, when Lieutenant Said Mohamed and 100 Comorian army personnel tried to overthrow Djohar. According to plotters, the coup's purpose was "to ensure state security and to put in place a true democracy." Troops loyal to Djohar quickly crushed this coup attempt. Since then, political instability has continued to plague Comoros, largely because of opposition to Djohar and growing demands for democratization.

Data as of August 1994

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