April 3, 2008

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, examines last week’s military intervention by African Union (AU) forces to restore the authority of the central government of the Comoro Islands over the breakaway island of Nzwani (more commonly known by its former name, Anjouan).

While noting that the operation by Comorian government forces supported by AU personnel from Tanzania, Senegal, and Sudan “was undoubtedly an operational success” which “rescues the regional organization’s standing from total ignominy” in the wake of the failures of its military missions in Somalia and Sudan, Dr. Pham argues that it “also raises some significant questions”:

First, the very fact that the only operational success the AU’s leaders can point to is overrunning a tiny island whose economy is dependant upon the production of aromatic ylang-ylang oil…underscores the weakness of the organization as such. Second, having intervened, will the AU have the wherewithal to sustain even a limited role on Anjouan?... Third, one cannot help but…wonder…if the intervention was another example of African rulers’ canonization of the status quo while refusing to address the fundamental question of the legitimacy of the their system of territorial states itself… Finally, while it has to be acknowledged that Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi’s 2006 election to the union presidency was entirely constitutional and democratic procedurally, his rule has raised concerns even among his supporters about the direction he is taking the Comoros.

The article thus concludes: “Given all this, it may be a little premature to celebrate what is likely to be only a temporary respite in the ongoing state failure and downward spiral of the Comoros.”

To read the full text of the article, “Troubled Paradise: The Mixed Success of the African Union’s Intervention in the Comoros,” click here.