October 19, 2018 / 3:16 PM / a month ago

Comoros authorities sign pact to end standoff on island

MORONI (Reuters) - Five days of clashes between protesters and police in Comoros’ Anjouan island have subsided after the national government, local authorities and the Anjouan capital Mutsamudu signed an accord aimed at ending the violence, officials said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Comoros President Azali Assoumani addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

Anjouan has been shaken by clashes pitting security forces against young men angry at President Azali Assoumani’s plans to end a rotating presidency in a way critics say could leave Anjouan permanently excluded from national power.

On Wednesday, the disturbances worsened when government officials said soldiers shot dead two people and wounded four as violence broke out in Mutsamudu between masked men and the military.

Officials from Mutsamudu, Anjouan island and the national government of the Indian Ocean archipelago said they had reached an agreement to end the days of disturbances.

“We cannot speak on behalf of the holders of weapons, since we do not know them. We are here to try to restore calm and a normal life in Mutsamudu,” Abdallah Mohamed, head of the delegation of Anjouan leadership, told Reuters.

On Thursday, residents said authorities had cut off water and power supplies as part of efforts to quell the unrest.

“The Union’s commitment to provide water to Mutsamudu was partly fulfilled, because even in mosques people could not do their washings in the morning,” Mohamed said.

“I feel that the situation is slowly coming to normality; the army is slowly reducing its control over the city.”

The accord does not address the constitutional question.

African Union said in a statement Tuesday that a dialogue process meant to address it and other political issues was suspended in early October.

The national government said Assoumani had granted amnesty to anyone who would surrender their weapons to the military authorities before 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Friday.

“This person will not be prosecuted and will be able to leave freely to the destination of his choice,” Mahmoud Salim, Minister of National Education, said.

In August, Assoumani - who is from the largest island, Grande Comore - said a June referendum had approved the extension of presidential term limits and an end to the rotating presidency. The opposition called the referendum illegal.

Assoumani plans to compete in presidential polls in early 2019. That would deny Anjouan its turn to occupy the presidency from 2021, as would have happened under the previous system that rotated the post among the country’s three main islands.

Assoumani has been in power since 2016 and would have had to step down in 2021 under the old term limits.

Reporting by Ahmed Ali Amir; Writing by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by George Obulutsa, William Maclean

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