Democratic Transition in the Islands: A Final Report on the IFES Civic Education Project in Comoros, May 18 - June 13, 1992

Publication Date: 
31 Aug 1992

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INTRODUCTION

In the fall of 1991, the Government of Comoros requested assistance in establishing structures and procedures in preparation for legislative elections. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems {IFES) responded by sending a two-person pre-election assessment team to the Comoros in October 1991. The report of this team, issued in November of that year, identified organizational issues and needs, and made several recommendations for strengthening the election process in the Comoros.

 

Civic and voter education was a critical area identified by the IFES report. In Comoros, the Government had taken no official role in civic education. Instead, all political education was left to the candidates and their party workers. The Pre-Election Assessment Report of November 20, 1991 recommended an intensive civic education campaign be undertaken to disseminate information on a broad range of topics, including: how to vote; political party purposes, formation and activities; citizen participation in a democracy; protocols of the loyal opposition; differing responsibilities of president and prime minister, or federal and local assemblies; the separation of executive, legislative and judicial branches of government; the role of religion in politics and governance; the definitions of a constitution, bill of rights, law, and charter; and people's responsibilities in a democracy.

 

Approximately 15 % of the population is literate. Nearly all children attend Koranic school where they receive religious instruction in Arabic. As a result, Arabic is read by nearly everyone. Three quarters of the children go to state schools where the instruction is in Comorian and French, but only about a third go on to secondary school. Everyone speaks Comorian, but only about 20% write it. Some 20% of the people, largely government employees and professionals, speak and write French. Few understand or speak English. To reach everyone, voter information must be provided in all three languages.

 

The Ministry of Education has an Adult Literacy Program that relies heavily on outside support from the United Nations and other international donors. The Ministry is interested in adding voter education to the basic public health, nutrition and maternal and child health care themes taught in the adult literacy classes.

 

Based on the above, the Pre-Election Assessment team recommended that an intensive, non-partisan civic education program be undertaken by the government before the Constitutional referendum and National Assembly and island and municipal elections. The Pre-Election Assessment Report stated that ·without broad national understanding of what democracy is, how it works, how it must be nurtured and maintained, and what citizens should expect from their elected officials, democracy in Comoros could crumble.

 

The Government of Comoros requested, through the United States Embassy in Moroni, assistance in implementing a civic education program. IFES provided a consultant to conduct a one-month voter education project in Comoros. A one-month civic education project suddenly included an intensive two-week campaign, in an effort to inform voters of the issues relating to the Constitutional referendum, hastily called for June 7. Using radio, posters, flyers and a GET OUT THE VOTE motorcade, voters in Comoros were informed of the importance of citizen participation in a democracy, the schedule and requirements for voting, the importance of the Constitution, and issues regarding the Constitution on which they were asked to vote.

 

Section II, ·Constitutional Democracy,· outlines the political framework of the Comorian transition process and includes a narrative of the election procedures used for the June 7 referendum. Section III describes the design and activities of the IFES Civic Education Project. Section IV provides recommendations for further activities in the area of civic education as Comoros completes its transition.

 

The IFES consultant would particularly like to thank the following individuals for their assistance: M. Mohamed Taki Mboreha, Minister of Defense, previously the Minister of Interior; M. Ali Mohamed Bacar, Minister of Interior; M. Daroueche Abdallah, former Secretary General, Ministry of Interior; Mme. Sittou Raghaddt Mohamed, Minister of Women's Affairs; M. Mmadi Ahmadi, Director General, Radio Comores; M. Mohamed Boinali, Assistant Director General, Radio Comores; M. Hassane Amada, Director of Progranuning, Radio Comores and Faouzia Ali Amir, Director of Information, Radio Comores.

 

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