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Comoros - History

Over the centuries, the islands were chanced upon or invaded by a succession of diverse groups from the coast of Africa, the Persian Gulf, Indonesia, and Madagascar. Portuguese explorers visited the archipelago in 1505. "Shirazi" Arab migrants introduced Islam at about the same time. Between 1841 and 1912, France established colonial rule over Grande Comore, Anjouan, Mayotte, and Moheli and placed the islands under the administration of the governor general of Madagascar. Later, French settlers, French-owned companies, and wealthy Arab merchants established a plantation-based economy that used about one-third of the land for export crops.

After World War II, the islands became a French overseas territory and were represented in France's National Assembly. Internal political autonomy was granted in 1961. Agreement was reached with France in 1973 for Comoros to become independent in 1978. On July 6, 1975, however, the Comoran parliament passed a resolution declaring unilateral independence. The deputies of Mayotte abstained, preferring to maintain strong ties to France. As a result, the Comoran Government had control only over Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Moheli. Mayotte remained under French administration.

The archipelago of the Comoros in the Indian Ocean, composed of the islands of Mayotte, Anjouan, Moheli, and Grand Comore declared independence from France on 6 July 1975. France did not recognize the independence of Mayotte, which remains under French administration. Since independence, Comoros has endured political instability through realized and attempted coups.

Until recently, Comoran politics were plagued by political instability and civil strife, with numerous coups and secession attempts since independence from France in 1975. In 1997, the islands of Anjouan and Moheli declared independence from Comoros. The most recent secession attempt was on the island of Anjouan in 1997-1999, wherein rival factions on the island of Anjouan both wanted to secede but could not agree on whether to declare independence or to join France. This disagreement erupted into violence, which eventually spread to the other islands as well.

It was partially in response to this that then-Colonel Assoumani Azali took over the national government in 1999 in a bloodless coup detat. In May 1999, Azali decreed a constitution that gave him both executive and legislative powers. When Azali took power, he had pledged to step down in 2000 and relinquish control to a democratically elected president. Military chief Col. AZALI Assoumani initiated the 2000 Fomboni Accords, a power-sharing agreement in which the federal presidency rotated among the three islands, and each island maintains its local government.

In 2001, Azali resigned from the military and ran as a civilian candidate for the national presidency. He was elected in 2002 in flawed but fair elections. AZALI won the 2002 federal presidential election as president of the Union of the Comoros from Grand Comore Island, which held the first five-year term.

AZALI stepped down in 2006 and President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed SAMBI was elected to office as president from Anjouan. In June 2007, individual island elections on Grande Comore and Moheli were held on schedule, but on Anjouan, island governor Mohamed Bacar refused to step down, held a sham election, and declared himself Island Governor for another term.

In 2007, Mohamed BACAR effected Anjouan's de-facto secession from the Union of the Comoros, refusing to step down when Comoros' other islands held legitimate elections in July. The African Union (AU) initially attempted to resolve the political crisis by applying sanctions and a naval blockade to Anjouan, but in March 2008 the AU and Comoran soldiers seized the island. Comoran and African Union (AU) forces restored constitutional rule on Anjouan. The island's inhabitants generally welcomed the move.

A new election for island governor was held peacefully in June 2008. In May 2011, Ikililou DHOININE won the presidency in peaceful elections widely deemed to be free and fair. In closely-contested elections in 2016, former President AZALI Assoumani won a second term, when the rotating presidency returned to Grande Comore.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2017 18:27:50 ZULU