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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Profile: The 'Ayatollah' of Comoros
Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi is poised to become the new president of the Comoros Islands, after provisional results gave him 58% of the vote.

Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi
Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi has promised to bring change
The man known as the "Ayatollah" is a Sunni Muslim cleric and businessman, with a passion for basketball.

His nickname and religious background have led some to fear that he would introduce strict Islamic law in the overwhelmingly Muslim Comoros but he has denied this.

"I am not ashamed to be a Muslim but our country is not ready to be an Islamic state and I will not make anyone wear the veil," he has said.

The BBC's Aboubacar Omar in the Comoros says Mr Sambi is a charismatic public speaker, who knows how to work a crowd.

Former President Ahmed Abdallah once called him a "new prophet".

Mr Sambi, 48, owes his nickname to his studies of Islamic political theory in Iran, which followed his time in Saudi Arabia and Sudan, as well as his fondness for wearing turbans.

Ayatollahs are, however, an official title in Shia Islam, while Mr Sambi is a preacher from the rival Sunni tradition of Islam.

Mattresses

He is set to become the first Comoran president to peacefully inherit the job after a history of coups.

He is also due to become the first leader from the island of Anjouan, under a 2001 deal to end the island's bid to secede from the federation.

Under that deal, the national presidency rotates between the three islands, so Mr Sambi's two rival candidates were also from Anjouan.

After returning from his studies abroad, he set up a political party - the National Front for Justice - but he soon left politics to concentrate on business, while still preaching.

When the Comoros government threatened to send troops to suppress the secession movement in Anjouan, he demonstrated on his own against the idea in the capital, Moroni.

The father of seven owns factories which produce mattresses, bottled water and perfume - a key Comoros export.

He lives above a shop called The House of Mattresses in the Anjouan capital, Mutsamudu.

He also set up a television station called Ulezi (education).

During his campaign, he promised to fight corruption, create jobs and build better houses for the large number of poor Comorans.

He was seen as a relative newcomer to politics, and so untainted by corruption.


SEE ALSO:
Islamist elected Comoros leader
16 May 06 |  Africa
Q&A: Comoros elections
12 May 06 |  Africa
Country profile: Comoros
18 Aug 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Comoros
08 Dec 05 |  Country profiles


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