Potential Hot Spots: The French Dog of War and the Comoros Islands

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February 21. 2006: Former French mercenary leader Robert Denard went on trial in Paris. He is charged with leading a September 1995 coup attempt in the Comoros. "Charged" is a bit euphemistic-- everyone knows he did it. The question is-- for whom did he do it? Denard's lawyers intend to call former French Prime Minister Alain Juppe (and several other French luminaries, too) as a witness. French troops arrived in October 1995 and put an end to the coup. The trial could get dicey. Denard allegedly suffers from dementia or Alzheimers, so that's another issue. Twenty-six other people are also charged with participating in the coup. Denard's bio reads like that of a character from a Frederick Forsythe novel. Denard has been described as "the French dog of war." (Forsythe's "Dogs of War" details a mercenary-led strike on a not-quite-mythical West African country.) He has been involved in numerous coups (several in the Comoros). Denard has been in the dock before. He beat a murder charge in 1999. In 1993 he was convicted in a French court of leading a coup against Benin's government.

On February 6, 2006, the Comoran army had sealed off the port on the Comoran island of Moheli. The report said the local army commander acted after the commander's brother was "relieved of his duties" at the port. Some 20 soldiers loyal to the commander carried out the "blockade." The Comoros have an upcoming election (scheduled for April). Pre-eleciton "tensions" are typical of the Comoros. A government spokesman on Moheli accused the military of trying to "disrupt" the elections. Family, neighborhood, "island identity" and outside interference (ie France) fracture Comoran politics. Since 2001 the Comoros has functioned as something a of confederation. The three islands (Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Moheli) each have a great deal of autonomy. The presidency of the "Union of Comoros" also rotates from island to island.

 

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