The Comoro Islands or Comoros form an archipelago of volcanic islands situated off the Grande Comore (also known as Ngazidja): the largest island of the Union of the Comoros, with its capital Moroni · Anjouan (also known as Ndzuwani or. He even started a popular newspaper, Al Balad. . erected large panels that advertised a development named Corniche Grande Comore. Convocation du corps électoral / Le décret de convocation mis en pièces par l’ Opposition · L’Union de l’opposition a tenu une conférence de presse ce
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The road that led them there was one of the longest in the archipelago nation — a 20km stretch that skims the west side of Ngazidja, the biggest of the three islands. It albalaf a scenic drive, lined with pineapple, breadfruit, and mango trees, as well as potholes and piles of trash. Earlier that year, the Comorian allbalad had received a proposal from some visiting Arab businessmen.
What if the Comoros started to sell their citizenship to raise funds?
There was a great demand for passports in the Middle East, the men explained; for starters, wealthy individuals saw a second or third nationality as a shortcut to make travelling and doing business abroad easier. Some Gulf countries were also figuring out what to do with large groups of Bidoonor stateless people residing within their borders. The Bidoon have no nationality for various reasons: To document the Bidoon, some countries in the region were willing to pay good money to procure Comorian citizenship in bulk, alba,ad businessmen claimed.
All the Comorians would have to do was pass a law allowing for this type of transaction, and print some passports. This was money they could use to fix the roads, take care of the rubbish, buy fuel, and build desperately needed infrastructure. Such a destitute country could not afford to be high-minded about a few pieces of paper.
Beggar states cannot be chooser states. But when the time came to discuss the proposal in parliament, Comorian politicians did not see it that way. The offer, they said, was a Faustian bargain. However, the politicians were dealing with men who would not take no for an answer.
Conveniently, the trip was scheduled to take place ahead of the comorres session of parliament. How they did so mattered very little in his eyes. As the plane climbed higher, the men caught an aerial view of their country, its hilly slopes swollen with green breadfruits that grow year-round in the fertile volcanic soil. Comored yet this natural beauty has done little to help the Comoros develop.
Most people have not heard of it; many of those who have do not quite believe that it is a sovereign nation at all. Perhaps, they hoped, this trip would help them begin to cmores things around. The plane began its descent toward Kuwait City some six hours later. When the men disembarked, they were welcomed by a tall, bald man with a firm albalax and a Colgate smile.
His name was Bashar Kiwanand it was he who had brought the economic citizenship proposal to President Sambi. Although the proposed citizenship deal was with the United Arab Emirates, Kiwan invited the Comorians to Kuwait, a neighbouring country where he lived.
In the previous 12 months, he and the employees of his local company, Comoro Gulf Holdings, had become fixtures of the social scene in Moroni, the Comorian capital, driving around in shiny SUVs, wearing flashy watches, and gaudy polo shirts. Kiwan himself had been visiting the Comoros about once a month since aroundcoming and going as he pleased from government buildings and throwing parties at the upscale by local standards Itsandra Beach hotel.
That Kiwan and the average Comorian live under the same moon and stars is a testament to how unevenly the global economy distributes its gifts. Kiwan is a son of globalisation, a free agent, a man without a compres. Before Kiwan turned his attention to the Comoros, he had made his fortune with Al Waseet International, a tangle of media and advertising companies that employs around 4, people in a dozen countries across the Middle East and eastern Europe.
He did not just make friends with powerful people; he went into business with them. He gave Kiwan instant credibility. On the one hand, he had it all: The couple had one son, Jad. On the other hand, Kiwan was an expat living in Kuwait, and he had no plans to become a naturalised citizen. There were no such rules in the Comoros. By the mids, the Comoros had become a peaceful democracy, and inthen-president Azali Assoumani invited Kiwan and other businessmen back to the Comoros in the hope of encouraging them to invest.
This time, Kiwan sensed an opportunity.
He began to make regular trips to the islands, until his visits became a near-monthly occurrence. During the presidential election, Kiwan surveyed the likely candidates looking for a potential ally, and found his comorez in Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, a relative newcomer to politics.
Sambi was a religious man who had studied Islamic political theory but expressed no interest in turning the islands into a theocracy. He spoke of peace, cooperation, and national unity. Comodes was also devastatingly charismatic. With his glowing bronze complexion and a beatific calm, he carried himself — and, observers in Comorian political circles say, considered himself — more like a prophet than a politician. Sambi won the election, and almost overnight, Kiwan became a fixture in the presidential palace.
Kiwan stepped forward to take up that role.
Kiwan had big ambitions for the Comoros. It was a albalzd of the times — before the collapse of the global financial system, or the Arab revolutions — that it did not seem entirely unlikely that a well-connected global citizen could transform a destitute archipelago into a Hawaii for Arabs. InKiwan was named albald consul of the Comoros to Kuwait. Between meetings, he mapped out a Comorian business empire, drawing up elaborate plans for tourism, development, commerce, and trade, and pitching the projects to investors through a company called Comoro Gulf Holding CGH.
He even started a popular newspaper, Al Balad. One former manager who spoke on condition of anonymity suggests that the sum was less and that most of the comorez came from Kiwan, not from outside investors.
Kiwan would not respond to questions or requests for comment after our initial meeting in November As much as Kiwan wanted to contribute to the Comoros, coomres country in such bad shape needs far more help than private comorws alone can offer.
So Kiwan gave the Comorians advice on how build ties with Arab countries to raise more funds. One way they could show their commitment to interstate cooperation, he told them, was to give their would-be benefactors something only a Gulf monarchy could possibly demand, and that only a small, remote state like the Comoros could provide.
Before Kiwan arrived on the scene, there was already a market for second citizenship — but it was targeted at the super-rich.
Comoro Islands – Wikipedia
By the s, a small handful of Caribbean islands — notably St Kitts and Nevis and the Commonwealth of Dominica — were readily and legally selling their citizenship to wealthy outsiders, and many major western countries, including the US and Canada, offered fast-tracked residence and citizenship via investor visas, which grant residency in exchange for the purchase of real estate, government bonds, or for putting money into regional businesses.
The very existence of this business marks an enormous departure from traditional ideas about nationality, allegiance, and belonging. Perhaps the biggest triumph of the modern nation state has been to convince large groups of people that a status conferred to them arbitrarily upon birth was, in fact, not for sale, and indeed, worth defending unto death. The emergence of the passport industry suggests that comradeship has given way to commerce, and that citizenship is becoming a commodity to be bought and sold.
Like ships flying flags of convenience, these days people can carry nationalities of convenience. The passport industry had thus far only served those who could afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain a second citizenship.
But as Kiwan began to take note of its existence, he realised there was another group in the Gulf that needed to acquire citizenship — because they had none to begin with.
Human rights organisations had urged Kuwait and the UAE to take measures to resolve their situation; some of the Bidoon, furthermore, had begun to demand political representation. As an intermediary, Kiwan would win big, too. He told me that he found willing partners in the Emirati interior minister, Saif bin Zayed al Nahyan, and his secretary-general, police chief Major General Dr Nasser al Nuaimi. The actual number of citizenships sold has not been revealed.
Kiwan had convinced key players on both sides to join him. But for the scheme to run smoothly, he had to convince the most reluctant Comorian parliamentarians to make it official — and the best way to do that was to take very good care of them during the trip in October After Kiwan picked the Comorians up at the airport, the men were shuttled away in limousines to a high-end Kuwait City hotel to rest up.
Over the next three days of meetings, dinners, sightseeing, Kuwaiti business representatives gave the Comorian delegation promises of wealth, investment, and development. After dinner, the delegates reportedly received laptops and watches as gifts. But there was one more thing left to do: The Comorians had never met one of their future compatriots. Who were these people without a nation?
How could one be at once native and without a land? In a conference room, the delegates were introduced to several stateless men and women from Kuwait. Through an interpreter, the Bidoon gave a full account of their situation: After three days in Kuwait, and satisfied with the information they had gathered, the Comorians packed their bags full of gifts and headed home. Back in the Comoros that November, the men gathered in the national assembly to debate and vote on the economic citizenship bill.
The discussion grew so heated that the president of the parliament stormed out in frustration. He was soon joined by 15 others. But those in favour carried the day. On November 27,amidst continuing public discontent, the bill was signed into law by President Sambi.
On December 31,Comoro Gulf Holding rang in the new year with an open house party at the newly renovated Itsandra Beach hotel. In theory at least, all the pieces were in place to begin turning the Comoros into the new Dubai. On a given day, a dozen cars with CGH logos may be spotted around Moroni. CGH had also been granted a licence to open a telecommunications company and a bank.
Along the road to the airport, the company erected large panels that advertised a development named Corniche Grande Comore. The billboards showed what seemed more like the set of a science fiction movie than feasible plans for what were essentially miles of volcanic rock.
Introduction – Union of the Comoros – Economic management guidelines
CGH wanted to create 16, square metres of offices, 14, square metres of retail space, 7, square metres of apartments and a luxury hotel with a business centre and a marina. And that was unimaginable, to us. But for the Arabs, it was possible. The former senior CGH manager told me: However, Kiwan wanted to attract investors by presenting the islands at a pair of conferences in Kuwait City and Doha in early The projects were a hard sell.
Just as his Comorian projects were coming together, the financial crisis had hit the Gulf. Investors in the region were growing increasingly cautious, so it was harder to find capital for such a risky plan.