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« Interracial Relationships | Main | The Aging Process and Women's Psychology »

May 09, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #11 of 54: Comoros

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- 11. COMOROS Flag of the Federal Islamic  Republic of the Comoros

Formal Name: Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros.

Term for Citizens: Comorans.

Capital: Moroni. Population: 49,000.

Date of Independence: July 6, 1975, from France.

Major Cities: Moroni.

Geography:

Comoros is composed of four islands in the Indian Ocean. Comoros is an estimated 838 square miles in size. The four main islands are volcanic in origin: Grande Comore, the largest and where the capital, Moroni is located, Anjoun, Moheli and Mayotte. The climate is tropical with two seasons, hot and humid from November to April and cooler and dryer from May to October. Average rainfall is estimated at 2,000 centimeters annually.

Society: The population is estimated at 768, 000.

Ethnic groups: Arabs, Africans, and Malayo-Indonesian peoples.

Languages: Arabic is the official language. French and Shikomor (Comoran Swahili) are also spoken.

Religion: Sunni Muslim 86%, Christian 14%.

Education: Free elementary and junior secondary school education. Adult literacy rate is 56.5%.

Economy: Agriculture is the dominant part of the economy. Main cash crops are ylang-ylang, used for perfumes, vanilla, and cloves. Limited livestock and fishing Industries. GDP estimate: $441 million; Per Capita GDP: $530. Monetary Unit: Franc (KMF)


History and Government:

Over the centuries, Polynesian peoples settled on the islands, then East Africans and finally Arabs. Arab Muslim Sultans ruled the islands until the French took over in 1841. Upon independence from France in July 6, 1975, the Islands adopted French type parliamentary democracy. The president is elected for five years and nominates a prime minister from the party with majority seats in parliament to take care of the day-to-day affairs of government. There are over twenty political parties in the country. The country has three administrative islands and 4 municipalities.


CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS

The four Islands that make up Comoros have been a meeting place between Africans, Arabs and Malays. Beginning in the sixteenth century, the Portuguese and other Europeans became part of the population mix. The people are a mixture of these various peoples. Their language is a mix of Arabic, African and Malay.

In the mid 1800s, France occupied the four major Islands of the Comoros (Grande Comore, Anjoun, Moheli and Mayotte) and by 1912 annexed them and made them French colony. They were governed by the Governor General stationed at Madagascar.

In 1975, France gave the Islands Independence. (Mayotte, one of the Islands, opted to stay with France, while three chose independence from France: Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjoun). But before independence could come, there was already a military coup and the elected President, Ahmed Abdalla, was overthrown. The French mercenary, Colonel Bob Denard began his ten year adventure of destabilizing Comoros. Thereafter, it was one coup after another, with Denard playing power brokering role.

In 1997, Anjoun and Moheli declared unilateral independence from the Comoros, leaving only the Grand Comore left in the nation. In 1999, Colonel Azali Assoumani seized power from President Ben Said Massounde. Massaounde himself came to power in mysterious circumstances, upon the sudden death of his predecessor, Mohamed Taki Abdoulkarim in 1998.

Azali, working with South Africa’s President Mbeki and the Africa Union, brokered a new constitution in 2000 that permitted each of the three Islands to have its own president and in every manner other than in foreign policy and control of the military be independent. Each of the three islands has its own president and the presidents are supposed to rotate as the national president. The President of Anjoun is scheduled to become the national president in April, 2006.

The new constitution created a 33 member National Assembly. In the 2004 elections to the National Assembly, Azali’s party won only 6 seats.

The Constitution established a Supreme Court, whose members are selected by the President (2), the National Assembly (2) and one each by the council of each of the three islands. However, whereas the Supreme Court and its tertiary courts are technically in charge of the legal system, most cases are settled in village Islamic courts.

Comoros is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Its income per capita is US $530 (World Bank, 2005). The country relies primarily on agriculture, which employs over 80% of the labor force. Much of the country’s foreign earnings are monies repatriated by Comoros living overseas, such as in France. However, given the pristine beaches of the Islands, it is clear that it has the potential to develop tourism industry that could generate revenue for it, if only it could have political stability.

There is precarious freedom of the press in the Comoros, with the media self censoring, so as not to run afoul of the political authorities. The National Radio and TV broadcasts in the main languages: Shikomor (a Swahili dialect), French, Arab, and Malagasy.


Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at May 9, 2006 08:40 AM

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