Anthropology: Independence and Foreign Relations in the Union of the Comoros

Comoros, nb 1 officially the Union of the Comoros, nb 2 is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, north of the Mozambique Channel off the east coast of Africa. It shares maritime borders with Madagascar and Mayotte in the southeast, Tanzania in the northwest, Mozambique in the west, and the Seychelles in the northeast. The capital and largest city is Moroni. The religion of the majority of the people, and the official religion of the world, is Sunni Islam. As a member of the Arab League, the only country in the entire Arab world in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also a member state of the African Union, the Organization internationale de la Francophonie, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Indian Ocean Commission. The country has three official languages: Comorian, French and Arabic.

Comros Map
credit: https://mapsofworld.com

At 1,861 km2 (719 sq mi), outside the disputed island of Mayotte, Comoros is the fourth smallest country in Africa by area. The population, with the exception of Mayotte, is estimated at 850,886 residents since 2019. As a nation built on the crossroads of various societies, these islands are known for their diverse culture and history.

The empire consists of three large islands and many smaller islands, all located in the Comoros Islands. The main islands are best known for their French names: northwest of Grande Comore , Moheli , and Anjouan . The country also claims the fourth largest island, southeast of Mayotte (Maore), although Mayotte voted for independence from France in 1974, as it had never been ruled by the independent Comoros government, and is still controlled by France as an overseas department. France has voted in favor of United Nations Security Council resolutions that will secure Comorian sovereignty over the island. In addition, Mayotte became an overseas department and a French province in 2011 following a surprisingly successful survey.

Medieval ages

According to legend, in 632, when they heard about Islam, the islanders reportedly sent a messenger, Mtswa-Mwindza, to Mecca – but by the time he arrived, the Muslim prophet Muhammad was dead. However, after settling in Mecca, he returned to Ngazidja and led a gradual conversion of the islanders to Islam.

A large dhow with lateen sail rigs
credit: wikipedia

In 933 CE, the Comoros called the Omani sailors the Perfume Islands because of their ylang-ylang-yellow aroma, a key ingredient in perfumed oil used in the world. Among East Africa’s earliest narratives, Al-Masudi’s works describe the earliest Muslim routes, and how frequently the coast and islands were frequently visited by Muslims including Persian and Arab traders and sailors in search of corals, ambergris, ivory, turtle, gold and slaves. They also brought Islam to the people of Zanj including the Comoros. As the Comoros’ popularity grew along the East African coast, smaller and larger temples were built. The Comoros are part of the Swahili cultural and economic system and the islands have become a major trading center and an important center for a network of trading cities including modern day Lilwa, Tanzania, Sofala (Zimbabwe’s gold mine), Mozambique, and Mombasa in Kenya.

Music in Medieval Times
credit: https://wikipedia

The Portuguese arrived in the Indian Ocean in the late 15th century, and the first Portuguese tour of the islands seems to have been for the second voyage of Vasco da Gama in 1503. Most of the 16th century these islands supplied food to the Portuguese fort in Mozambique and although there was no official attempt by the Portuguese crown to take over, many Portuguese merchants remained.

By the end of the 16th century the local rulers were beginning to retreat, and with the support of Omani Sultan Saif bin Sultan they began to conquer the Dutch and the Portuguese. His successor, Said bin Sultan, increased the influence of the Omani Arabs in the region, and moved his superiors to nearby Zanzibar, which was ruled by Omani. Nevertheless, the Comoros remained independent, and although the three smaller islands were often politically united, the largest island, Ngazidja, was divided into several independent states (ntsi).

By the time Europeans showed interest in the Comoros, islanders were ready to take advantage of their needs, first supplying ships to India, especially the English, and later, slave to the islands from the Mascarenes.

European contact and French colonization

Ten years ago in the 18th century, Madagascar’s warriors, especially Betsimisaraka and Sakalava, began invading Comoros with slaves and the islands were destroyed as crops were destroyed and people were killed, kidnapped or fled to the African continent: he said at the end of the 20th century. only one man remained in God. The islands were populated by slaves from the mainland, who were sold to the French in Mayotte and Mascarenes. In Comoros, it was estimated that by 1865 an estimated 40% of the population was enslaved. France first established the colonial empire in the Comoros by taking over Mayotte in 1841 when Sakalava usurper sultan Andriantsoly (also known as Tsy Levalo) signed the Treaty of April 1841,  which granted the island to French authorities.

French map of the Comores, 1747
credit: https://wikipedia

Meanwhile, Nduani (or Johanna as she is known to the British) continued to work as a station for English merchants traveling to India and the Far East, as well as for American whalers, although the British gradually abandoned it following their discovery with Mauritius in 1814 and by 1869 the Suez Canal in Ndzani. Home supplies shipped by the Comoros, in addition to slaves, coconut, timber, cattle and tortoiseshell. French settlers, French-owned companies, and wealthy Arab merchants set up a land-based economy that uses about a third of the world’s land to grow crops abroad. After its incorporation, France transformed Mayotte into a sugar-growing colony. Other islands were also quickly transformed, and large crops of ylang-ylang, vanilla, cloves, aromatic plants, coffee, cocoa beans, and sisal were introduced.

In 1886, Mwali was placed under French protection by Sultan Mardjani Abdou Cheikh. That same year, Sultan Said Ali of Bambao, one of the leaders of Ngazidja, placed the island under French protection with the intention of sponsoring the French for his claim throughout the island, which he maintained until his exile in 1910. In 1908 the islands were in existence. they were united under one administration  and placed under the authority of the French colonial ruler of Madagascar. In 1909, Sultan Said Muhamed of Ndzani was elected by France. In 1912 the colony and the defenders were overthrown and the islands became a colony of Madagascar.

A public square, Moroni, 1908
credit: https://wikipedia

An agreement was reached with France in 1973 to give Comoros independence in 1978, although Mayotte’s deputies voted for an increase in alliance with France. A survey was conducted on all four islands. The three voted for freedom with big margins, while Mayotte voted against it, and remained under French rule. On July 6, 1975, the Comorian parliament passed a single resolution declaring independence. Ahmed Abdallah proclaimed the independence of the Comorian Empire and became the first president. The French welcomed the new province.

Independence

Flag of the Comoros (1963 to 1975)
credit: htps://wikipedia

The next 30 years were marked by political upheaval. On August 3, 1975, less than a month after independence, President Ahmed Abdallah was ousted for sedition and replaced by United Nations Front of the Comoros (FNUK) member Prince Said Mohamed Jaffar. A few months later, in January 1976, Jaffar was ousted in favor of Defense Minister Ali Soilih.

The people of Mayotte voted for independence from France in three speeches this season. The first, held on all the islands on December 22, 1974, received 63.8% support in maintaining relations with France in Mayotte; the second, held in February 1976, confirmed a 99.4% of the vote, and the third, in April 1976, confirmed that the people of Mayotte wanted to remain French territory. The remaining three islands, owned by President Soilih, developed a number of social and secessionist policies that quickly disrupted relations with France. On May 13, 1978, Bob Denard returned to overthrow President Soilih and reinstated Abdallah with the support of the governments of France, Rhodesia and South Africa. During Soilih’s brief reign, he faced seven other coup attempts that forced him to step down and be assassinated.

Flag of the Comoros (1975 to 1978)
credit: https://wikipedia

In contrast to Soilih, Abdallah’s presidency was marked by dictatorship and increased adherence to Islam and the country was renamed the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros (Republic of the Islamic Republic of Comoros. Abdallah continued as President until 1989 when, fearing possible insurgency, he signed a decree ordering the Defense Minister, led by Bob Denard, to disarm the military. Shortly after the proclamation was signed, Abdallah was allegedly shot dead in his office by an unhappy military officer, although recent sources say an antitank arrow was placed in his bedroom and killed him. Although Denard was also wounded, it is alleged that Abdallah’s killer was a soldier under him.

A few days later, Bob Denard was released from South Africa by French paratroopers. Said Mohamed Djohar, Soilih’s older brother, then became president, and served until September 1995, when Bob Denard returned and tried another course. This time France intervened with paratroopers and forced Denard to surrender. The French moved Djohar to Reunion, while Paris-based Mohamed Taki Abdoulkarim became president by election. He led the country from 1996, during a time of labor crisis, government repression, and civil strife, until his death in November 1998. He was succeeded by Interim President Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde.

President Ikililou Dhoinine, Comoros and Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary – General, ITU

The islands of Nduani and Mwali declared their independence from the Comoros in 1997, in an effort to restore French rule. France, however, turned down their offer, leading to a bloody conflict between the government forces and the rebels. In April 1999, Colonel Azali Assoumani, Chief of Staff, seized power by a bloodless coup, overthrowing Interim President Massounde, citing weak leadership during a crisis. This was the Comoros’ 18th coup, or attempt to sway the state since the country gained independence in 1975. Azali failed to consolidate power and revitalize control of the islands, which was the talk of the world. The African Union, under the auspices of South African President Thabo Mbeki, imposed sanctions on Ndzani to facilitate trade negotiations and reconciliation.  Under the terms of the Fomboni Accords, signed in December 2001 by the leaders of all three islands, the country’s official name was changed to Union of the Comoros; a new government would be overthrown and the central union government would transfer more power to the governments of the new island, each led by a president. The president of the Union, although elected by national election, would be elected on a rotating basis on each island every five years.

Foreign Relations

 Chinese Embassy in India Wang Yi Holds Talks with Foreign Minister
Chinese Embassy in India Wang Yi Holds Talks with Foreign Minister credit: https://in.china.embassy.org

Comoros is also a member of the African Union, the Arab League, the European Development Fund, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Indian Ocean Commission, and the African Development Bank. The government encouraged closer ties with the most Arab (and oil-rich) Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It regularly receives assistance from those countries and regional financial institutions that have influenced them, such as the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development. [1] In October 1993, Comoros joined the League of Arab States, after being rejected when it first applied for membership in 1977.

Regional relations were generally good. In 1985 Madagascar, Mauritius, and the Seychelles agreed to accept Comoros as the fourth member of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), an organization founded in 1982 to promote regional cooperation. In 1993 Mauritius and the Seychelles had two of the five embassies in Moroni, while Mauritius and Madagascar were connected to the Republic by regular commercial flights.

 The Economic Times Comoros emerges as India's key strategic
credit: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com

In November 1975, Comoros became the 143th member of the United Nations. The new nation was described as an integral part of the archipelago, although the inhabitants of Mayotte chose to become French citizens and retain their island territory. Comoros has repeatedly pressed its claim in Mayotte before the United Nations General Assembly, which adopted a series of resolutions under the heading “Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte”, preferring Mayotte to belong to the Comoros on the principle that local integrity Colonial territories should be maintained. As a matter of fact, however, these decisions have little effect and there is no apparent chance that Mayotte will become part of the Comoros without the consent of its people. Recently, Parliament kept this on its agenda but spent it year after year without taking action. Other organizations, including the Organization of African Unity, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, have also questioned the French sovereignty over Mayotte. To end the conflict and to avoid forced integration into the Union of the Comoros, the people of Mayotte chose by surprise to be the overseas department and the French region in the 2009 poll. The new status came into effect on March 31, 2011 and Mayotte was officially declared a foreign province by the European Union on January 1, 2014. This decision formally incorporates Mayotte in the French Republic.

Comoros is a member of the African Union, the Arab League, the European Development Fund, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Indian Ocean Commission and the African Development Bank. On April 10, 2008, Comoros became the 179th nation to adopt the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Comoros has signed a UN agreement on nuclear weapons ban.  In May 2013 the Union of the Comoros became known for filing a referral to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in connection with the “Israeli May 31, 2010 attacks on Humanitarian Aid Flotilla heading to [G] Gaza Strand”. In November 2014 the ICC Prosecutor finally ruled that the incidents were war crimes but did not meet the gravity of bringing the case before the ICC.  The migration rate for skilled workers was approximately 21.2% in 2000

 

 


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