Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Keeping It All Together

African Union troops have helped the military of the Comoros Islands recapture the rogue island of Anjouan after a rebellion that's lasted a year. What happens in a tiny group of islands off the east coast of Africa doesn't have much obvious significance for the rest of the world, but it's another sign of how desperate countries both large and small are to keep their territory intact.

The two African countries which sent AU troops to help the Comoran authorities were Sudan and Tanzania. Both nations are struggling to control breakaway regions at home - in Sudan's case it's Darfur, while Tanzania's got Zanzibar. If African countries had allowed the Anjouan rebellion to succeed in Comoros, it would have set a dangerous precedent of permitting a restless part of a country to strike out on its own. No wonder then, that Sudan and Tanzania were so keen to help.

This idea of making sure secessionists don't get their way has coloured the recent international debate over Serbia and Kosovo. Russia, which has several restless republics in the Caucasus, was and is Serbia's biggest supporter. China, which has faced some grim international headlines of late over Tibet, kept firmly out of the Kosovo issue. You can bet both were watching events in the little Comoros Islands pretty closely.

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