Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In April, the government reported that it had foiled an attempted coup perpetrated by both Comoran nationals and foreigners. A former minister and the son of former president Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane were arrested in connection with the coup attempt. Corruption remained a serious problem, and a case against former president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi was pending at year’s end.
In 2013, President Ikililou Dhoinine continued to push aggressive fiscal management and governance reforms in response to stagnant economic growth, rampant corruption, and high unemployment. The unemployment rate hovers around 15 percent, and unemployment among young adults is around 45 percent. In late 2012, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’s International Development Association announced $176 million in debt relief for Comoros, representing a 59 percent reduction of its future external debt service over a period of 40 years. In June 2013, the Islamic Development Bank rescheduled Comoran debt and pledged $55 million for development projects. The European Development Fund allocated $18 million toward education and road infrastructure.
Large numbers of Comorans illegally emigrate to the French-administered island of Mayotte to settle or to seek entry into metropolitan France, and the economy depends heavily on remittances and foreign aid. In September, Dhoinine criticized restrictions on movement between Comoros and Mayotte, which the government claims as part of its territory.
Political Rights: 25 / 40 [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 9 / 12
Since 1996, Comorans have voted freely in several parliamentary and presidential elections. The unicameral Assembly of the Union consists of 33 members, with 9 selected by the assemblies of the three islands and 24 by direct popular vote; all members serve five-year terms. Each of the three islands is semi-autonomous, with directly elected assemblies and governors. A 2009 referendum approved constitutional reforms increasing the powers of the federal government at the expense of the individual island governments. The reforms instituted a rotation of the federal presidency among the islands every five years.
Dhoinine won the presidential elections in 2010 with the support of then president Sambi, becoming the first president from the island of Mohéli. The constitutional court upheld the election results despite irregularities reported on the island of Anjouan. In the December 2009 legislative elections, the president’s supporters won 19 of the 24 directly elected seats. In September 2013, the constitutional court ruled that the end of the mandate for the president and governors must be respected.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 11/ 16
Political parties operate freely. They are mainly defined by their positions regarding the division of power between the federal and local governments, and are generally formed in support of particular leaders. The current main political groups are the Convention for the Renewal of the Comoros (CRC) and the Camp of the Autonomous Islands.
A major cabinet reshuffle in July 2013 was widely regarded as a purge of politicians loyal to Sambi.
C. Functioning of Government: 5 / 12
Corruption remains a major problem. There are reports of corruption at all levels of the government, judiciary, and civil service, as well as among the police and security forces. In 2011, the opposition CRC, led by former president Azali Assoumani, filed a complaint in a Moroni court against Sambi for alleged misuse of public funds while in office. The allegations concern the sale of Comoros nationality to citizens of Gulf countries, which supposedly generated $200 million that was never accounted for during financial reconciliations. The case was still pending at the end of 2013. Comoros was ranked 127 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Civil Liberties: 30 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 10 / 16
The constitution and laws provide for freedoms of speech and the press, though self-censorship is reportedly widespread. In November 2013, two journalists from the newspaper L'Observateur des Comores were arrested for contempt of court after publishing a speech by a public prosecutor denouncing evidence of judicial corruption. That same month, radio personality Abdallah Agwa of La Baraka FM was arrested for inciting hatred after approaching the corruption issue on air. The internet is available and unrestricted by the government.
Islam is the state religion, and 98 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim. Tensions have occasionally arisen between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and non-Sunni Muslims are reportedly subject to restrictions, detentions, and harassment. In March 2013, 19 Shiites were arrested for practicing and propagating Shia doctrine. Conversion from Islam and non-Muslim proselytizing are illegal. Academic freedom is generally respected.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 6 / 12
The government typically upholds freedoms of assembly and association. A few human rights and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate in the country. In May 2013, the human rights NGO Lawyers Without Borders established a branch in Moroni. Workers have the right to bargain collectively and to strike, but collective bargaining is rare.
F. Rule of Law: 8 / 16
The judicial system is based on both Sharia (Islamic law) and the French legal code, and is subject to influence by the executive branch and other elites. Minor disputes are often settled informally by village elders. Harsh prison conditions include severe overcrowding and inadequate sanitation, medical care, and nutrition.
In April, the government arrested 15 alleged coup plotters, including Mahamoud Ahmed Abdallah, the son of former president Ahmed Abdallah. Seven of those arrested were foreigners. The plotters were awaiting trial at year’s end.
Same-sex sexual activity is punishable by imprisonment and fines.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 6 / 16
The law prohibits discrimination based on gender, and the government has taken steps to improve the political participation of women. However, in practice, women are still underrepresented at the political level; only one parliamentarian is female. Economic equality also remains a key challenge, as women have far fewer opportunities for education and salaried employment than men, especially in rural areas. In accordance with modern law and some matriarchal customary laws, women have equal rights with regard to inheritance; in some cases they are the beneficiaries of all inheritable property. However, this is complicated by the concurrent application of Islamic law limiting gender equality. In addition, a poor system of land registration and women’s difficulty securing bank loans often negate the benefits of land ownership in practice. Sexual violence is believed to be widespread, but is rarely reported to authorities. In 2012, the National Assembly passed a new labor code criminalizing the trafficking of children, but Comoran children are often victims of forced labor within the country.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year