On Friday, October 19, the Comoronian government announced that individuals on the island of Anjouan willing to hand over their arms to the government between 06:00 and 18:00 (local time) would not be subject to prosecution or reprisals. The main body of the rebel force intends to hand over weapons to the government at around 17:00, as they remained surrounded by government forces in the medina of Mutsamudu at daybreak on Friday despite four days of heavy fighting that allegedly claimed three lives.
While ample food supplies arrived in Mutsamudu on October 19, water supplies remain barely sufficient and electricity has yet to return to much of Anjouan island. Water and electric shortages are expected to continue. Further protests and violence, especially in and around Mutsamudu, cannot be ruled out.
The political situation in Anjouan has remained volatile in recent months following the arrest of former President Abdallah Sambi (2005 to 2011) on corruption charges; Sambi is an Anjouan-native and a political rival of President Assoumani. Protests have centered around successful attempts by Assoumani to extend presidential term limits and limit the powers of opposition parties. Presidential term limits were extended from one to two following a July 2018 referendum, largely boycotted by the opposition. Assoumani is expected to call for new elections in 2019, paving the way to remain in power until 2029. Under the previous electoral system, which in addition to limiting presidential terms to one mandate, power rotated between the three main islands; as such, a political figure from Anjouan would have been next in line to hold the presidency in 2021.
Tensions between the army and demonstrators denouncing the regime of Comorian President Azali Assoumani, remained high on the island of Anjouan on Thursday, October 18. Gunfire was reported overnight October 17-18 and into the morning hours of Thursday in and around the medina area of Mutsamudu, despite a nightly curfew in effect since October 15. Electricity and water outages were also reported in various neighborhoods.
Individuals in Comoros are advised to avoid all protests and demonstrations, monitor developments to the situation, and limit nonessential movements in Anjouan as sporadic violent demonstrations may take place over the coming days.
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