Capital : Moroni
Size: 860 sq m Popn: 585 000
The four main islands are Grand Comore, Anjouan, Moheli (Njazidja, Nzwani and Mwali) and Mayotte. They form an archipelago between East Africa and Madagascar and despite their small size have attracted many settlers. The Malayans and Polynesians came in the early Christian centuries and the Arabs and Africans in the C5th. The Arabs made them a slave-trading centre and Islam dominated under the control of Muslim sultans.
In 1841 a French expedition induced the sultan to sell Mayotte to France and gradually the other rulers sold their territories. France proclaimed the colony, Les Comores, in 1912 and in 1914, put the islands under the authority of the governor-generals of Madagascar, each of whom neglected and exploited the natives. In 1947, they were made a French overseas territory. They became nominally autonomous in 1961 and many political parties were formed.
In 1972, the islands' richest man, Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane, was elected President but French delaying tactics and a suspect vote of 64% against it in Mayotte (which remained under French administration) delayed independence which was unilaterally declared by Abdallah in 1975. He was deposed by FNU leader Ali Soilih and the UN admitted the Comoros. France recognised Grand Comore, Anjouan and Moheli but not Mayotte and the other three expelled French citizens in anger. Bob Denard, a white French mercenary, seized power in 1978 and Soilih was killed. Abdallah was invited to return as President of the Directorate and the islands officially became the Federal Island Republic of the Comoros but Mayotte did not join. Abdallah, protected by Denard (now called Said Mustapha M'Hadjou) and his mercenaries, implemented a fundamentalist Islamic state and several coups were brutally suppressed. He was re-elected President in 1984 and became head of government as well when the post of prime minister was abolished in 1985.
In 1989, Abdallah ordered the mercenaries out but they assassinated him and made things difficult for his successor, Said Mohammad Djohar, until France sent troops and Denard surrendered. Muhammed Taki became President and promised to introduce a western-style democracy.
Ethnic groups include Arab and French settlers among the Africans, French and Arabic are the official languages but Kiswahili is most common and 99% of the population follows the Shafi Muslim religion.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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