The Comoros – The “moon islands” off the east coast of Africa
The Union of the Comoros is an independent Islamic island state located northwest of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa. The Comoros archipelago consists of four main islands of volcanic origin surrounded by coral reefs and covered with lush tropical vegetation. The volcano Le Karthala rises on Grande Comore, the highest still active volcano on earth. Its last outbreak occurred in 2005.
The islands of Anjouan and Mohéli also belong to the Islamic Federal Republic of the Comoros, but not Mayotte, which has remained a French overseas territory. The name of the Comoros goes back to the Arabic expression Juzur al-Qamar, which can be translated as “moon islands”.
The Comoros, which are one of the poorest countries in the world and have attempted or “successful” coups since their independence from France in 1975, suffer in particular from poor infrastructure, a rapidly growing population and a lack of natural resources.
On June 30, 2009, a devastating aircraft disaster occurred near the Comoros when the Yemenia’s Airbus 310 crashed into the sea while approaching the island group with 153 people on board. Miraculously, a 14-year-old girl survived the crash. On July 2nd, 2009, Bahiya Bakari was greeted by her father Kassim in Paris with the words “Did you have a good trip?” welcomed.
|Name of the country||Union of Comoros|
|Form of government||Islamic Federal RepublicPresidential Regime|
|Geographical location||The archipelago is located in the Indian Ocean between the East African coast and Madagascar.|
|National anthem||“Udzima wa ya Masiwa” (The Union of the Big Islands)|
|National holiday||July 6 (independence July 6, 1975)|
|Population||approx. 870,000 (Credit: Countryaah: Comoros Population)|
|Ethnicities||approx. 98% Comorians (mixed people of Arabs, Madagascans and Bantu)|
|Religions||About 95% profess the Sunni Islam of the Shafiite school of law, which is also the state religion on the Comoros.There is also an Indian minority (Ismailis) and a Catholic charitable missionary activity.
About 1% of the population profess Christianity
|Languages||Comorian, French and Arabic are the official languages.Shikomorian or Shimasiwa, a Swahili dialect, is also spoken.|
|Capital||Moroni with about 70,000 residents|
|Highest mountain||Karthala (2,361 m), a still active volcano that has the world’s largest crater|
|International license plate||COM|
|National currency||1 Comorian Franc = 100 Centimes|
|Time difference to CET||+ 2 h|
|International phone code||00269|
|Mains voltage, frequency||230 volts, 50 hertz|
|Internet TLD (Top Level Domain)||.km|
Until the 15th century
The earliest settlement of the archipelago took place in the middle of the 1st millennium by East African Bantu. Later, Indonesians and Madagascans of Indonesian origin also immigrated. From 800 onwards, Arab and Persian seafarers reached the Comoros. Despite the onset of Islamization, the island’s culture remained African for centuries.
In the 16th and 17th centuries
According to Abbreviationfinder website, Portuguese sailors landed on the Great Comoros for the first time in 1500. In 1510, the Shafiites (Shirazi) expelled from the Persian Shiraz settled on the four main islands and founded their sultanates mainly in the coastal regions. The local population was pushed into the interior of the islands. The Comoros, like the cities of the African east coast and the Sultanate of Zanzibar, now belonged to the East African Swahili culture, whose upper class consisted of Persian and Arab families.
In the 18th and 19th centuries
In the late 18th century there were more and more attacks by pirates and members of the Malagasy people of the Sakalava, who carried out the slave trade and finally also took control of the smaller Comoros islands of Moheli and Mayotte. Moheli, which until then belonged to the Sultanate of Anjouan, was ruled by his dynasty between 1832 and 1885 after the invasion of the Madagascan Ramanetaka (Abderemane). The Sultan of Anjouan, Abdallah the First, fled to the French island of Bourbon (now Réunion) in 1816.
The great Comoros was split into 12 sultanates, which, however, elected a common head. For the European seafarers, the Comoros only served as a stopover on the way to India or the Far East until the early 19th century; they did not set up any permanent bases on them. In 1841 the island of Moare (Mayotte), largely depopulated by Malagasy raids and slave hunts, was occupied by France, which in 1887 also declared the other three Comoros islands a French protectorate.
In the 20th and 21st centuries
The entire archipelago received the status of a French colony in 1912 under the administration of the Governor General of Madagascar. Forced laborers cultivated coffee, cocoa, coconut palms, sisal, ylang-ylang, vanilla and cloves on the plantations. During the Second World War, the Comoros were briefly occupied by the British.
As a result of the independence movements that began in the 1960s, a referendum was held in December 1974, in which the majority of the population of Mayotte chose to remain as French overseas territory. The other three Comoros Islands declared their independence under President Ahmed Abdallah in 1975, but without giving up their claim to the island of Mayotte. Abdallah, who had come to power with the help of the French mercenary leader Bob Denard and with whom he systematically exploited the country, was expelled in 1976 by Ali Soilih. In 1978 Abdallah again overthrew the Soilih regime with the help of Bob Denard, and in the same year declared the Comoros a Federal Islamic Republic. Abdallah and his Unity Party, founded in 1982, won the 1978 and 1984 elections with over 99% of the vote each. In addition to French mercenaries and the conservative Arab oil states, the regime received support from South Africa, which at the time was conducting arms deals across the islands and thus circumventing the international embargo, and the ANC offices in Lusaka and Dar es Salaam were also monitored by a listening station in the Comoros supervised. In 1989, with the participation of Bob Denard’s mercenary troops, President Abdallah was assassinated. Said Mohamed Djohar took over the post until a fourth Denard coup took place in 1995, which the French army then put down. A transitional government was formed.
In 1997 the islands of Anjouan and Mohéli declared their independence from the Comoros republic, and further coups followed. A new constitution gave the individual islands more rights and in the end each island got its own president. The Great Comoros has been ruled by Azali Assoumani since 1999, who, despite several coup attempts, succeeded in re-establishing a loose “Union of the Comoros”. In the presidential elections of May 2006, the Islamist Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi won.
Plane crash on June 30, 2009
On June 30, 2009, a devastating air disaster occurred near the Comoros when the Yemenia Airbus 310 crashed into the sea while approaching the island group with 153 people on board. Miraculously, a 14-year-old girl survived the crash. This was not the first plane crash near the Comoros, because on November 23, 1996, the Ethiopian Airlines flight 961 crashed into an emergency landing in the north of the island of Grande Comore. At that time, 125 of the 175 passengers died.