Comoros: a long history of coups
Key dates in the Comoros, part of a former French archipelago which has undergone a series of coups and attempted coups since its unilateral declaration of independence in 1975:
– July 6, 1975: The three islands of Grande-Comore, Anjouan and Moheli, once ruled by Muslim sultans, declare their independence under Ahmed Abdallah, who becomes president. The largely Christian island of Mayotte elects to remain French.
– August 3: After less than a month in power Abdallah is overthrown in a coup led by opposition leader Ali Soilih.
– May 13, 1978: Soilih is overthrown and arrested in a successful coup and a military regime installed. The coup leader is the celebrated French mercenary Bob Denard, who became the islands’ strongman as head of the presidential guard. Soilih is killed later that month “while attempting to escape”. Abdallah returns as president. Closely linked with the mercenaries who form the presidential guard, he rules for 11 years.
– November 27, 1989: Abdallah is assassinated in the presidential palace. Suspicions centre on Denard, who leaves the Comoros on December 14 under French and South African pressure.
– March 11, 1990: Said Mohamed Djohar wins the first democratic presidential election.
– September 28, 1995: Putschists led by Denard launch a coup against Djohar, which is foiled by the French military. After a period of exile, Djohar resumes office, which has become purely symbolic and temporary.
– August 3, 1997: Anjouan unilaterally declares independence.
– April, 1999: The army, led by its chief, Colonel Azali Assoumani, takes power.
– April 9, 2001: A coup in Anjouan. In September, Mohamed Bacar declares himself chief of the island’s authorities after an attempted putsch.
– December 19: The army foils an attempted coup by a group of French mercenaries who land on Moheli.
– December 23: A referendum calls for a new constitution, creating the Union of the Comoros and giving each of the islands a large measure of autonomy and providing for a series of elections.
– April 14, 2002: Colonel Assoumani is elected president of the Union.
– March 5, 2005: A new law shares out the jurisdiction between the Union and islands after three years of conflict.
– May 14, 2006: Ahmed Abdallah Sambi is elected during an election sees as crucial to resolving the crisis, succeeding Assoumani.
– March 25, 2008: The president of Anjouan, Bacar, is overthrown during a African Union-backed army operation.
– May 17, 2009: Comorans vote in a referendum in favour of a constitutional revision under which the term of the federal president will be extended and the powers of the presidents of the islands reduced, demoting them to governors.
– May 26, 2011: New president Ikililou Dhoinine, elected in late 2010, becomes the first Mohelian to rule the Union.
– April 20, 2013: An attempted coup. Around 15 people, including foreigners, notably one Frenchman, are arrested.
– May 16, 2014: The archipelago has lived through “relative stability since 2001 and above all 2009”, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which, however points to several shortcomings, including respect for human rights and the functioning of the government.