Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report

Introduction

The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Madagascar to promote democracy and human rights in Comoros. For background on Comoros's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at http://www.state.gov.

Part 1: 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. Recent events, however, raise serious cause for concern. A thus-far successful attempt by President Sambi in March to extend his term in office by 18 months (beyond his original four-year mandate set to expire in May) has led to popular discontent and renewed outbreaks of civil unrest. This is particularly true on the island of Moheli, whose turn at the Union presidency is supposed to start after Sambi leaves office. The U.S. Government's top priority is to encourage the consolidation of democratic gains by advocating continued reconciliation and consensus-building.

Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The U.S. Government from the mission in Madagascar is engaged actively in promoting democracy in the Comoros. A team from Embassy Antananarivo observed both rounds of the December 2009 legislative elections. National and international observers agreed that the elections were generally free and fair. The U.S. Government continues to work with members of the international community to encourage dialogue and consensus building among political stakeholders in the country.

In a country often cut off from the world by its isolated geographic location, 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 spent extended time in country, facilitating public diplomacy events on topics such as U.S. politics, Islam in America, foreign policy, culture, and education. U.S. officials sent a number of International Visitors to the United States, including several who have been active in human rights issues.

The U.S. Government actively promotes the rights of children through the funding of education projects and by meeting regularly with lcoal authorities to discuss the implementation of their new five-year plan to combat the problem of child labor. The plan proposes specific actions to be taken, identifies responsible agencies or departments, includes indicators to measure progress, and has a timeline for the achievement of objectives. A microfinance project will seek to empower women entrepreneurs by providing much-needed credit assistance and training. The U.S. ambassador convenes "influential women" meetings to listen to and encourage female leaders. These gatherings afford Comoran women unique networking opportunities and allow them to develop concrete solutions to their most pressing problems, including underrepresentation in government and lack of access to credit. A number of these women presented themselves as candidates in the December 2009 legislative elections. 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]