In economic difficulties, the Comoros wish to play a more important role internationally. President Azali Assoumani would like to take the chair of the African Union in 2023.
After participating in the 8th edition of the Tokyo International Conference on Development in Africa (TICAD), does Azali Assoumani feel like he is growing wings? Unaccustomed to playing a real role on the international scene, the President of the Comoros now seems to want to display a more ambitious position.
Proof of this new strategy, the international cooperation agreements, which are more and more numerous, according to Imam Abdillah, Director General of International Cooperation. “International cooperation has invested in strengthening cooperation ties with development partners,” he explains. Between 2019 and 2022 alone, several multi-sector agreements have been signed, in particular with the United Nations, Morocco, Mauritius, Senegal, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, France and Japan. We have also initiated processes which should be completed by the end of the year with Tanzania, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, China and Korea”.
An underheard voice in Africa
But as soon as we leave the economic domain, Azali Assoumani remains in an uncomfortable position, very much behind on the international scene. Worse, his image of France's eternal "itchy hair", in particular because of the Mahoran dossier, places him on the margins of international diplomacy. Admittedly, we have seen the Comoros announce the opening of a Consulate General in Laayoune in 2019 or take a position in favor of Saudi Arabia – their partner for four decades – during the Gulf crisis, against Qatar. More recently, Comoros managed to impose one of its diplomats as AU special representative in Somalia. But Moroni remains very self-effacing…
For several months, however, Azali Assoumani has had some ambitions. It must be said that the Comoros are going through a difficult economic period and the pandemic has not helped. The archipelago had organized a donor conference in Paris in 2019. Although $4 billion has been promised by partners, most of the funds have still not been released.
Lobbying for the AU Presidency
However, diplomacy, according to Azali Assoumani, would be an effective instrument of influence to enable him to recover his financial health. The Head of State sees this as an opportunity to bring funds into the coffers of the Comoros. His priorities, he assures us, "are above all economic, since the consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic have been added to those of the Ukrainian crisis which are weakening us even more, particularly on the food and energy aspects, an area where we import nearly three-quarters of our needs each year”. No wonder, therefore, that we saw the President of the Comoros with his wife during the funeral of the Queen of England.
Because less than two years from the next presidential election, Azali Assoumani is trying everything for everything and wants to show that he is present. The President of the Comoros would also see himself taking the presidency of the African Union. According to Africa Intelligence, the head of state "is taking advantage of the post-election wavering in Kenya to accelerate his lobbying with a view to seizing the presidency" of the institution in 2023, after Macky Sall. But the small country of just over a million people is not used to playing leading roles in Africa. There is only one quarter left for Azali Assoumani to try to show that his candidacy is credible.