Tension spills into streets after Comoros president re-electedWed, 17 Jan 2024 09:44:57 GMT

Comoros security forces responded with tear gas and arrests on Wednesday after groups, angered by the re-election of President Azali Assoumani, tried to block roads in the capital.Debris and burning tyres were scattered in several streets of Moroni and the Indian Ocean archipelago’s largest street market lay deserted on the morning after the disputed poll results were announced.Government spokesman Houmed Msaidie, speaking to AFP, accused the opposition — which has denounced former military ruler Assoumani’s election win as a fraud — of organising the protests.”There have been arrests, but I can’t give you the figure for the moment. It’s totally normal when there are people out there who want to disturb public order,” Msaidie said.There have been no reports of deadly violence, but the Comoros — a three-island chain that is home to around 870,000 people — is politically volatile and has seen 20 coups or attempted coups in its short history since independence in 1975.Police, gendarmes and armed soldiers were deployed in large numbers as the day began. They used tear gas to drive civilians from the streets and back into their homes.In the working-class Coulee district in the north of the city, groups of youths threw stones at the troops, but many residents were making ready to flee, anticipating further tension.”Everyone is gone. I’m going too. I was tear-gassed,” said Amina, a stallholder in the normally bustling Volo-Volo market, now just rows of empty wooden stands.According to official results released Tuesday, Assoumani, a 65-year-old former coup leader turned civilian president, was re-elected in Sunday’s first round election with 62.97 percent.But official turnout was an unexpectedly low 16 percent, and supporters of the five defeated opposition candidates have cried foul, alleging ballot-stuffing and fraud.