The Comoros have suffered from endless coups and inter-island tensions
The Comoros consist of three volcanic islands in the Indian Ocean. The largest is Grande Comore (also called Ngazidja), which includes Mount Karthala, an active volcano. To the south-east is the island of Anjouan, and between them is the smallest island, Mohéli. The terrain includes steep hills and some fertile valleys, but the land has been over-exploited and the soil has been eroded.
Comorans are descended from immigrants from Africa, Asia, and beyond, so the population is very diverse. The majority speak Comoran, which is a Bantu language, though the official languages are French and Arabic. Comorans are as poor as the poorest people in other African countries, and their country's limited resources offer a narrow range of opportunities.
Around two-thirds of workers make their living from agriculture which accounts for 40% of GDP. They do grow food but not enough, so much has to be imported. They also grow cash crops, notably vanilla, cloves, and ylang-ylang (a perfume essence), but the country remains reliant on foreign aid. Population density and land shortage are forcing migration to the towns, or overseas; around 150,000 now live abroad. Economic activity is dominated by the government.
The islands were a French colony grouped with the nearby island of Mayotte. Following a referendum in 1974, the three islands voted for independence while Mayotte chose to remain with France. Even so, France has remained a significant influence—and French and other foreign mercenaries have regularly provided the personnel for a series of coups and counter-coups, of which there have been 21 since independence.
In 1997, eyeing the subsidies and aid showered on Mayotte, the islands of Anjouan and Mohéli seceded demanding to be returned to French control. France declined the offer.
In April 1999 the army took over ‘to preserve national unity’ and subsequently reached an agreement with the separatists in the ‘Fomboni Accord’ which established a federal structure. In April 2002, the army chief, Colonel Azali Assoumane, was elected federal president.
The 2006 presidential election, which was largely peaceful, was won by Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, leader of an Islamist party, the Front National de la Justice. In 2008 he had to invade Anjouan where an unauthorized presidential election had taken place.
www.beit-salam.km/ President's site, in French
www.ksu.edu/sasw/comoros/ Comoros Islands - Site at Kansas State University
Land area:2,000 sq. km.
Population:0.6 million—urban 28%
Capital city:Moroni, 47,000
People:Antalote, Cafre, Makoa, Oimatsaha, Sakalava
Language:Arabic, French, Comoran
Religion:Sunni Muslim 98%, other 2%
Life expectancy:65 years
GDP per capita:$PPP 1,143
Major exports:Cloves, vanilla, ylang-ylang
Subjects: African Studies — World History.