African Union endorses plans to send troops to Comoros

The African Union has endorsed plans to deploy peacekeepers to stabilize the coup-prone Comoros archipelago and verify that the country's security forces are not involved in presidential elections set for May 14, officials said Thursday.

The mission will include election monitors and observers, 432 civilian and military personnel, and 30 police officers.

The mission is expected to be fully operational two weeks ahead of the April 16 primaries, which are to be held in the autonomous island of Anjouan.

Under a unity constitution, the island will pick three candidates out of 14 contestants for the next president of the Union of the Comoros. Nationwide elections are set for May 14.

The Comoros archipelago has been plagued by coups, assassinations, military rule and attempted secession since independence from France in 1975.

"The idea is to provide a secure environment for the Comorans to vote in," said AU's head of conflict management, El Ghassim Wane. "With the support of the AU, Comoros should have one of its best polls since independence."

The AU mission will be led by South Africa and will stay in the Indian Ocean archipelago until June 9, after the inauguration of the new president.

In December 2001, Comorans approved a new constitution that gives autonomy to the three main islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli, reports the AP.


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