The Comoros Islands, a nation of about 800,000 people, began its programme to sell passports in 2008 as a way of raising much-needed cash. The islands arranged a deal with the governments of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait, who wanted to provide stateless inhabitants there known as the Bidoon with identity documents, but not local citizenship. The governments would buy the Comoros passports, and then distribute them to the Bidoon.
In return, the Comoros was meant to receive several hundred million dollars to help develop its economy, whose output amounts to just $600 million a year.
At the time, the Comoros was also forging ties with Iran. The islands’ president from 2006 to 2011 was Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, who had studied for years in the Iranian holy city of Qom.
… In all, more than 1,000 people whose place of birth was listed as in Iran bought Comoros passports between 2008 and 2017, according to details of a database of Comoros passports reviewed by Reuters. The majority were bought between 2011 and 2013, when the international sanctions were tightened, particularly on Iran’s oil and banking sectors.
The African Union is finally flexing some muscles. It is now certain that an AU backed force is set to attack the renegade Comoros island of Anjouan in an attempt to bring it back to the fold of the islands that form the Comoros. So far, South Africa and some reports say France are against the move but the rest of the continent, very wary of secessionists, seem to be OK with the idea of invading the island and doing all that is necessary, including killing the renegade leader of Anjouan – Mohamed Bacar – to restore Moroni’s rule on the island.
As I have written many times before, I have no love for secessionists. I believe that it is partly because of African dissenters’ (most of whom were opportunist egg heads) love for the gun that most of the continent remains in pre-modern times due to the ravages of civil wars and their aftermath. African maps were drawn arbitrarily by some old Europeans, but so what? In any case the Berlin conference saved the continent from going through bloody wars of nation creation like Europe did through most of the middle ages until and in some cases beyond the 1648 treaty of Westphalia that established the nation-state as we know it. That said, I think the problem of rival “nations” being forced into one state is a legitimate problem. However, current global trends can take care of this. As the salience of national boundaries continue to diminish, Africa should take advantage of this and open up its borders to allow free flow of people and capital. This will reduce the continent’s persistent internal feuds and will also be good for the continental economy. Intra-continental should more than the paltry 11% that it is right now.
Going back to Anjouan and the AU. I think it is commendable that this talk shop that we call the AU is finally doing something meaningful. I wish they could do more, especially in cases like Darfur, Somalia and the DRC. A lot of African armies sit in their barracks doing absolutely nothing. Why can’t they form a force and then solicit international funding and go ahead and restore order in Somalia and the DRC? Sudan is a more complex issue, but if there is a will I think it’s case can be resolved too. The proxy US involvement in Somalia through Ethiopia could have been more successful if many other African countries were involved and not just Ethiopia, given the two countries’ bad history over the Ogaden.
So as we wait to see how Mr. Bacar goes down, let’s hope that the AU casualty count will not be high enough to discourage such involvements in the future and that a success in Anjouan will make Addis even more bold in the future and possibly give it the will to have a firmer hand in reigning in on wayward African leaders like Mugabe, Al-Bashir, Biya, Obiang……. .. (I can easily reach the high forties with this).