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Cablegate: Comoros Protests French Country Code Change in Mayotte

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAN #0396 1141129
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241129Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY ANTANANARIVO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4677
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0874
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0065
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0062

UNCLAS ANTANANARIVO 000396

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SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/E AND AF/FO
GENEVA FOR ITU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ECON ECPS ITU FR MF CN
SUBJECT: Comoros Protests French Country Code Change In Mayotte

1. (U) Comoran Ambassador to Paris Soulaimana Mohamed Ahmed will
reportedly travel to Geneva as soon as possible to submit an
official protest to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
after France unilaterally changed the telephone country code for its
territory Mayotte from 269 (like the rest of the Comoran
archipelago) to 262 (like the other French holding in the region,
Reunion). President Sambi publicly protested the country code
change, calling it a violation of international law and an insult to
Comorans, who still claim Mayotte.

2. (SBU) The Union of the Comoros maintains a claim on Mayotte
despite the fact that France has administered the territory since
independence in 1975. They claim that the plebiscite for or against
independence was intended to be all-or-nothing and, when only
Mayotte voted against, the French changed the terms to make it
island-by-island. In any case, the Comoran flag includes four
colored stripes, one for each of the four islands with Mayotte's
"temporarily" white to signify it is not yet in the independent
Union. While in practical terms the Comoros cannot enforce its
claim on Mayotte, political leaders and public opinion are unanimous
in their distrust of France and the symbolic importance of retaining
their claim on Mayotte.

3. (SBU) COMMENT: Hundreds of Comorans illegally immigrate to
Mayotte every year seeking economic opportunities and better health
care; dozens die in the attempt to cross the sea. While the
Comoros' moribund economy is among the poorest in the world, heavily
subsidized Mayotte is like a lower-middle class French suburb. That
the Union of the Comoros and Mayotte have followed such divergent
paths in the last 30 years is painfully obvious to Comorans. Many
common Comorans secretly curse their ancestors for voting for
independence, wondering how much better off they might be had they
remained a French territory like Mayotte. The country code issue,
while mundane and perhaps technically appropriate to the French,
raises all of these deep-seated feelings for the Comorans. END
COMMENT.

MCGEE

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