Tensions between the army and demonstrators denouncing the regime of Comorian President Azali Assoumani, remained high in Mutsamudu and surrounding areas 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. Residents are reportedly relocating to the outskirts of the city due to the violence and electricity and water outages have been reported in various neighborhoods. Further violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators are possible in the coming hours and days, despite a nightly curfew in effect since October 15.
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.
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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