Comoros president suspends constitutional court

By AFP

President Azali Assoumani said the court was "disfunctional" due to the number of appointed judges being incomplete. The presidential decision was made on April 12 but only made public this week.

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PIC: President Azali Assoumani said the court was "disfunctional". (AFP)

COMOROS - The president of the Comoros has suspended the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, in a move immediately denounced by the opposition in the Indian Ocean island nation.

President Azali Assoumani said the court was "disfunctional" due to the number of appointed judges being incomplete. The presidential decision was made on April 12 but only made public this week.

Comoros -- an archipelago between Mozambique and Madagascar and one of the world's poorest countries -- has been beset by instability and political disputes for years.

Assoumani, who came to power in 2016 for his third term in office, said that the Supreme Court would take over "temporarily".

The opposition Union for the Development of the Comoros (UPDC) party said that it was "an abuse of power" and that Assoumani had deliberately delayed judges being appointed to the court.

"We have gone beyond the limits of democracy," said Youssouf Boina, of the UPDC.

The top court has not been operating since July 2017 due to judges not being named to the bench.

Interior Minister Mohamed Daoudou said the president's decision was necessary "to get the country out of this blockage and allow the administration and institutions to function".

Assoumani, who first came to power in 1999 after leading a coup, returned as president in 2016 after a disputed election.

The three islands that make up the Comoros -- Anjouan, Grande-Comore and Moheli -- have a total population of just under 800,000 people, nearly all of whom are Sunni Muslims.

The fourth island of Mayotte voted against independence and is still governed by France.

Comoros exports vanilla, cloves and ylang-ylang perfume essence, but suffers dire poverty levels.