Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

The Union of the Comoros is a constitutional, multiparty republic which in 2006 elected Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi as Union president in polling that international observers described as generally free and fair. In March 2008, an African Union and Comoran military intervention in Anjouan, one of the nation's three islands, deposed illegitimate island President Mohamed Bacar and restored constitutional order. Moussa Toybou subsequently was voted island president in a generally free and fair election. The Union government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, although there were some areas of concern, including poor prison conditions; restrictions on freedom of religion, movement and the press; corruption; discrimination against women; child abuse; and child labor.

Part 2: U.S Government Democracy Objectives

Following a history of multiple coups, coup attempts, and secession efforts, the 2006 election and subsequent democratic transfer of power brought hope for a more stable political future for the country. It also created an opportunity for an active U.S. Government effort to promote continued freedom and democracy. Since law and order were restored in Anjouan, the U.S. Government's top priority has been to encourage the consolidation of democratic gains by advocating continued reconciliation and consensus-building. A major opportunity to do this occurred in the first week of March 2009, when the Union government convened an "Inter-Comoran Dialogue" of all stakeholders to discuss governance, institutions, and the constitution. The U.S. Government actively worked alongside diplomatic colleagues to encourage and mediate the concerns of participants. In the coming months, the U.S. Government intends to use the Dialogue's recommendations as a frame of reference for continued discussion to strengthen effective and accountable governance and institutions.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

U.S. officials observed the 2008 presidential elections in Anjouan, in which Moussa Toybou was elected in a generally free, fair, and transparent process.

Much of the political instability in the country stems from the constitution's unclear division of responsibilities and revenue between union and island governments. To curb political conflict and promote good governance, the United States supported international conflict resolution experts to identify textual discrepancies and areas of conflict in the wording of the constitution. The findings and recommendations have been offered to political leaders as a potential roadmap for federalism and constitutional reform. This roadmap was helpful during the Dialogue and remains useful in the embassy's ongoing advocacy for political compromise.

In a country often cut off from the world by its geographic isolation, many of the U.S. Government's human rights activities focus on enhancing press freedom by developing journalists' professionalism and increasing their access to information. The United States operates an American Corner in Moroni which serves as a small cultural center and library, offering American books and periodicals, Internet service for research purposes, and a forum for discussion about a wide range of topics. Hundreds of local citizens use the facility each week. A dedicated Comoros officer from the U.S. Government has spent extended time in country, facilitating many public diplomacy events on topics such as the U.S. presidential debates and election, Islam in America, foreign policy, culture, and education. U.S. officials sent one Fulbright and one Humphrey scholar to the United States, as well as several International Visitors, including two journalists who covered the 2008 presidential election.

The U.S. Government actively promotes the rights of children through the funding of education projects. A microfinance project will seek to empower women entrepreneurs. The ambassador convenes "influential women" meetings to listen to and encourage female leaders. U.S. programs that encourage civilian control of the military and military professionalism also work to enhance the rule of law.


[This is a mobile copy of Comoros]