- Title: COMOROS: Comoros demands France extradite rebel leader
- Date: 28th March 2008
- Summary: POLICEMEN STANDING IN FRONT OF PROTESTERS FRENCH AND EUROPEAN UNION FLAGS
- Embargoed: 12th April 2008 13:00
- Location: Comoros
- Country: Comoros
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVADKEWFMQPDLW442O9UDX6HLY4T
- Story Text: Hundreds takes to the streets in Comoros capital Moroni in anti-French protest.
Comoros demanded on Thursday (March 27) that France hand over a rebel leader wanted by the Indian Ocean archipelago for crimes against humanity and troops fired tear gas to stop protests against the former colonial power.
Mohamed Bacar, the 45-year-old self-declared leader of Anjouan island, fled to nearby French-run Mayotte during a lightning offensive by African Union and Comorian forces. The French government said he has asked for political asylum.
France, along with the United States, backed the operation to topple Bacar, a French-trained former gendarme who seized power in 2001 and clung on with an illegal election last year in Anjouan -- one of Comoros' three islands.
Many Anjouan residents accuse him of ruling through threats of violence and crushing dissent with torture and intimidation, and some Comorians have accused France of helping him escape.
Angry demonstrators -- many of them refugees from Anjouan -- took to the streets of Moroni, capital of the biggest Comorian island, where joint AU-Comorian forces fired tear gas to disperse crowds waving banners denouncing "enemy France".
"We are doing this protest to show France that we have had enough, we have had enough of this politics, we've had enough of their niceness, we've had enough of their participation here in Comoros. We are doing this protest to tell them they must send Mohamed Bacar and his group here to be judged."
Demonstrations also took place outside the central bank, which employs several French workers, and the French Embassy, where protesters called for the ambassador to be expelled.
"We have already launched an international mandate and we hope that this time the French authorities of Mayotte will cooperate so Mohammed Bacar cannot have impunity. In front of all of his crimes it would be a very bad of Franco-Comorean relations, and also for the country of liberty, democracy and brotherhood to protect criminals and criminals like Mohammed Bacar and his consorts," said a Government spokesman Abdourahim Said Bacar.
One French national said the French school in Moroni was closed by protests, stranding several teachers and students.
With a history of assassinations, mercenary invasions and some 20 coups or attempted rebellions since independence from France in 1975, Comoros is notorious for its political instability -- which many locals blame on French meddling.
Islanders are bitter that French soldier-of-fortune Bob Denard, who was involved in four coups and attempted coups in Comoros, did not face justice on the islands before his death.
Denard claimed to enjoy covert French support for operations meant to retain France's influence in its former colonies.
Despite turbulent ties between the two nations, France remains Comoros' major trading partner.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None