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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March 2008, 16:39 GMT
Q&A: Comoros rebellion
Comoran federal troops on exercise in Fomboni (11 March 2008)
There was a dawn assault led by government forces
The authorities in the Comoros islands say that government forces have captured the island of Anjouan to end a year-long rebellion.

Government soldiers, backed by African Union troops, staged the attack to remove renegade leader Mohammed Bacar from power.

Why is the Comoros so unstable?

The three islands that make up the Comoros federation, 300km off the coast of East Africa, have never really functioned as a nation having gone through more than 20 coups or attempted coups in 38 years.

The islands were a French plantation colony for a 140 years until their independence in 1975, but the fourth island of the archipelago, Mayotte, is under still French rule.

In fact, the Comoros was the only French colony to unilaterally declare independence - the rest were offered their freedom.

Some observers blame French interests for the instability on the archipelago - and the infamous French mercenary, Bob Denard, led four coups there.

What is the root of the current dispute?

Eleven years ago, the local leaders of the two smaller islands, Moheli and Anjouan, fell out with the Comoros central government on the biggest island, Grand Comore, and declared independence.

Some on Anjouan even asked to be recolonised by the French.

In the end, a new constitution was agreed in 2001 to maintain harmony - giving more local autonomy and for the islands to take turns in selecting the federal president.

The first federal leader from Anjouan was an Iranian-trained Muslim cleric, Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, nicknamed the Ayatollah.

He took office in 2006 in the federal capital on Grand Comore, but his local rival back on Anjouan, Mohammed Bacar, refused to give up his post when it was time for a change of leader there last year.

He was re-elected in polls deemed illegitimate by the central authorities.

The island was declared to be in rebellion, and the African Union provided over 1,000 troops to back up the one-day military operation to take back Anjouan by force.

Is the Comoros of strategic importance?

The islands hold no sway economically and Comorans, more Arab than African, are among the poorest people in Africa and are heavily dependent on foreign aid.

However, their power lies in the precedent they can set.

If one of them breaks away, and the African Union lets it happen, this could be perceived as the green light for other secessionist groups.

Significantly, the two nations contributing troops are Sudan - with war-torn Darfur and the south on its hands - and Tanzania - with secessionist leanings on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar.

In pictures: Comoros exercise
24 Mar 08 |  In Pictures
'Deadly clashes' in the Comoros
18 Mar 08 |  Africa
AU troops arrive in the Comoros
11 Mar 08 |  Africa
Islamist elected Comoros leader
16 May 06 |  Africa
Timeline: Comoros
22 Jan 08 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Comoros
22 Jan 08 |  Country profiles

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