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The War Nerd March 24, 2008
 
The Comoros Coup Factory: Vive le Bob!
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
 
Page 2 of 3 2 more photos
 

All that Samoan solidarity scared the local Comoran sultan so bad he couldn't wait to sign an agreement with the French for protection in 1841. The French were busy playing catchup with the Victorian Brits back then, ready to grab anything that didn't already have a Union Jack flying over it. Of course, those were usually the places the Brits had decided were more trouble than they were worth. Which definitely applied to the Comoros.

The biggest problem is that there are four islands, all tiny and overcrowded with multiethnic trouble. At the moment the problem is that one of the islands, Anjouan, is trying to defect from the big happy Comoran family. It's only following a local tradition; when the French tried to dump the place in 1975, only three of the four main islands voted for independence; one, called Mayotte, had a Christian population who didn't feel totally comfy in a 95% Muslim African country—buncha worrywarts, huh?—so they opted to keep sucking that Parisian tit.

This is where the fun starts. And it started fast. In July 1975 Sheikh Ahmed Abdullah formally declared Comoros an independent country. One month later, he was gone in the first of those 19 coups, replaced by—oh, who am I kidding? You don't need to hear the names of every Islamic frontman who held the Presidential chair for a few months. The real power was a French mercenary named Bob Denard.

Denard was da proverbial bomb. My only problem with him is that name, "Bob." That's just wrong for a French merc. And it wasn't even his real name; he was born a "Gilbert." I guess Gilbert to Bob is sort of a horizontal move, but if he was inventing names he could've done better. I mean, Pancho Villa started out as a "Doroteo." Doroteo to Pancho, now that's a real improvement.

Denard's gang of mercs who ran the Comoros for years had a much better name: the locals feared them so much they called them "The Horrors." They were all Europeans, too. Gotta give those Euros some credit: most of them have turned into techno-listening fags, but they still make the best mercenaries.

Denard started his career killing anybody in French Africa who was giving Paris trouble. The French government supposedly had a tradition until recently that the President was allowed to sign two no-questions-asked death warrants per year, as long as the names weren't French citizens. But that wasn't counting Africa. They ran more of a free-fire zone there, and Denard was one of their best shooters. Denard, who was a French rightwinger whatever that is, didn't hold to those namby-pamby restrictions anyway. When a bigtime French Prime Minister, Mendes-France, lost enthusiasm for the war against the Viet Minh, Denard tried to assassinate him. He fought special-ops in the Algerian War, then settled in Africa when he realized what a land of opportunity it was for a guy in his line of work. He managed coups in the big places, like Katanga/Congo, but he was also willing to work the smaller venues like Benin and Gabon. He even branched out to the Middle East, directing black ops in Yemen and Iran.

But the Comoros were always nearest ol' Bob's heart, unfortunately for them. In 1977 he came back to the islands because the guy he'd put in power back in 1975 was turning pinko. Bob didn't like that, and neither did the French secret service. Soon after he and his "Horribles" hit the Comoros, the pinko President died somehow or other, nobody was sure. The autopsy said, "None of my business, please don't hurt me Monsieur!"

Those were the golden years. You tell me if this wasn't the ideal life Denard was living: he was head of the Presidential Guard, which had the official army terrified; he ran the country de facto; he owned most of the hotels on the island. He was the King without having to do all the dull stuff.

And back then you could do it with just a few good men. When Denard landed on the Comoros in 1977, he had less than 50 men. Of course once he was in power, he expanded his private army to 500.


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Gary Brecher
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Email Gary at war_nerd@exile.ru, but, more importantly, buy his book.
 
 
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