Coordinates: 12°10′S 44°15′E / 12.167°S 44.250°E /
Union of the Comoros
الاتحاد القمري (Arabic)
Union des Comores (French)
Udzima wa Komori (Swahili)
وحدة، تضامن، تنمية (Arabic)
"Unité – Solidarité – Développement" (French)
"Unity – Solidarity – Development"
Anthem: Udzima wa ya Masiwa (Comorian)
The Unity of the Great Islands
Location of the Comoros (dark blue)
– in Africa (light blue & dark grey)
– in the African Union (light blue)
and largest city
11°41′S 43°16′E / 11.683°S 43.267°E / -11.683; 43.267
Federal presidential republic
Abdallah Said Sarouma
Djaffar Ahmed Said
Assembly of the Union
• Discovery by Portuguese explorers
• Ngazidja, Ndzuwani, Mwali under French rule
• Protectorate of the Comoros
5 September 1887
• Territory under French Madagascar
9 April 1908
• Overseas territory
27 October 1946
• State of Comoros
22 December 1961
Independence from France
6 July 1975
• Federal and Islamic
Republic of Comoros
24 May 1978
• Union of the Comoros
23 December 2001
• Current constitution
17 May 2009
1,862 km2 (719 sq mi) (170tha)
• Water (%)
• 839 426 http://countrymeters.info/fr/Comoros estimate
392/km2 (1,015.3/sq mi) (25th)
$1.329 billion (179th)
• Per capita
$657 million (185th)
• Per capita
low · 160th
Comorian franc (KMF)
Drives on the
ISO 3166 code
Excluding Mayotte, an overseas department of France.
Comoros (/ˈkɒməroʊz/ ( listen); Arabic: جزر
القمر, Juzur al-Qumur / Qamar), officially the Union of
Comoros (Comorian: Udzima wa Komori, French: Union des Comores,
Arabic: الاتحاد القمري al-Ittiḥād al-Qumurī /
Qamarī), is a sovereign archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean
located at the northern end of the
Mozambique Channel off the eastern
Africa between northeastern
Mozambique and northwestern
Madagascar. Other countries near the
Tanzania to the
northwest and the
Seychelles to the northeast. Its capital is Moroni,
on Grande Comore. The Union of the
Comoros has three official
languages – Comorian, Arabic and French. The religion of the
majority of the population is Islam.
At 1,660 km2 (640 sq mi), excluding the contested
island of Mayotte, the
Comoros is the third-smallest African nation by
area. The population, excluding Mayotte, is estimated at 795,601.
As a nation formed at a crossroads of different civilisations, the
archipelago is noted for its diverse culture and history. The
archipelago was first inhabited by Bantu speakers who came from East
Africa, supplemented by
Arab and Austronesian immigration.
The country consists of three major islands and numerous smaller
islands, all in the volcanic Comoro Islands. The major islands are
commonly known by their French names: northwestern-most Grande Comore
Mohéli (Mwali); and
Anjouan (Nzwani). In addition, the
country has a claim on a fourth major island, southeastern-most
Mayotte (Maore), though
Mayotte voted against independence from France
in 1974, has never been administered by an independent Comoros
government, and continues to be administered by
France (currently as
an overseas department).
France has vetoed
United Nations Security
Council resolutions that would affirm Comorian sovereignty over the
island. In addition,
Mayotte became an overseas department
and a region of
France in 2011 following a referendum passed
It became part of the
French colonial empire
French colonial empire in the 19th century
before becoming independent in 1975. Since declaring independence, the
country has experienced more than 20 coups d'état or attempted coups,
with various heads of state assassinated. Along with this constant
political instability, the population of the
Comoros lives with the
worst income inequality of any nation, with a
Gini coefficient over
60%, while also ranking in the worst quartile on the Human Development
Index. As of 2008[update] about half the population lived below the
international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. The
Comoros is a
member state of the African Union, Francophonie, Organisation of
Arab League (of which it is the southernmost
state, being the only member state of the
Arab League with a tropical
climate and also entirely within the Southern Hemisphere) and the
Indian Ocean Commission.
2.1 Precolonial peoples
2.2 Medieval Comoros
2.3 European contact and French colonisation
3.2 Ecology and environment
4.1 Legal system
4.2 Political culture
4.3 Foreign relations
6.1 Ethnic groups
9.2 Kinship and social structure
10 See also
13 External links
The name "Comoros" derives from the Arabic word قمر qamar
Main article: History of the Comoros
A large dhow with lateen sail rigs
A vanilla plantation
The first human inhabitants of the
Comoro Islands are thought to have
been Polynesian and Melanesian settlers, Malays and Indonesians,
travelling by boat. These people arrived no later than the sixth
century AD, the date of the earliest known archaeological site, found
on Nzwani, although settlement beginning as early as the first century
has been postulated.
The islands of the
Comoros were populated by a succession of peoples
from the coast of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf,
the Malay Archipelago, and Madagascar. Bantu-speaking settlers reached
the islands as a part of the greater
Bantu expansion that took place
Africa throughout the first millennium.
According to pre-Islamic mythology, a jinni (spirit) dropped a jewel,
which formed a great circular inferno. This became the Karthala
volcano, which created the island of Grande Comoro.
Development of the
Comoros was divided into phases. The earliest
reliably recorded phase is the Dembeni phase (ninth to tenth
centuries), during which each island maintained a single, central
village. From the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries, trade with
the island of
Madagascar and merchants from the Middle East
flourished, smaller villages emerged, and existing towns expanded.
Many Comorians can trace their genealogies to ancestors from Yemen,
mainly Hadhramaut, and Oman.
According to legend, in 632, upon hearing of Islam, islanders are said
to have dispatched an emissary, Mtswa-Mwindza, to Mecca—but by the
time he arrived there, the Islamic prophet
Muhammad had died.
Nonetheless, after a stay in Mecca, he returned to Ngazidja and led
the gradual conversion of his islanders to Islam.
Among the earliest accounts of East Africa, the works of Al-Masudi
describe early Islamic trade routes, and how the coast and islands
were frequently visited by Muslims including Persian and Arab
merchants and sailors in search of coral, ambergris, ivory,
tortoiseshell, gold and slaves. They also brought
Islam to the people
Zanj including the Comoros. As the importance of the Comoros
grew along the East African coast, both small and large mosques were
constructed. Despite its distance from the coast, the
situated along the
Swahili Coast in East Africa. It was a major hub of
trade and an important location in a network of trading towns that
included Kilwa, in present-day Tanzania, Sofala (an outlet for
Zimbabwean gold), in Mozambique, and
Mombasa in Kenya.
After the arrival of the Portuguese in the early 15th century and
subsequent collapse of the East African sultanates, the powerful Omani
Saif bin Sultan
Saif bin Sultan began to defeat the Dutch and the Portuguese.
His successor Said bin Sultan increased Omani
Arab influence in
region, moving his administration to nearby Zanzibar, which came under
Omani rule. Nevertheless, the
Comoros remained independent, and
although the three smaller islands were usually politically unified,
the largest island, Ngazidja, was divided into a number of autonomous
By the time Europeans showed interest in the Comoros, the islanders
were well placed to take advantage of their needs, initially supplying
ships of the route to
India and, later, slaves to the plantation
islands in the Mascarenes.
European contact and French colonisation
French map of the Comores, 1747
Portuguese explorers first visited the archipelago in 1503. The
islands provided provisions to the Portuguese fort at Mozambique
throughout the 16th century.
In 1793, Malagasy warriors from
Madagascar first started raiding the
islands for slaves. On the Comoros, it was estimated in 1865 that as
much as 40% of the population consisted of slaves.
established colonial rule in the
Comoros in 1841. The first French
colonists landed in Mayotte, and Andriantsoly (also known as Andrian
Tsouli, the Sakalava Dia-Ntsoli, the Sakalava of Boina, and the
Malagasy King of Mayotte) signed the Treaty of April 1841, which
ceded the island to the French authorities.
Comoros served as a way station for merchants sailing to the Far
India until the opening of the
Suez Canal significantly
reduced traffic passing through the
Mozambique Channel. The native
commodities exported by the
Comoros were coconuts, cattle and
tortoiseshell. 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 its annexation, France
Mayotte into a sugar plantation colony. The other islands
were soon transformed as well, and the major crops of ylang-ylang,
vanilla, coffee, cocoa beans, and sisal were introduced.
Mohéli was placed under French protection by its Sultan
Mardjani Abdou Cheikh. That same year, despite having no authority to
do so, Sultan Said Ali of Bambao, one of the sultanates on Ngazidja,
placed the island under French protection in exchange for French
support of his claim to the entire island, which he retained until his
abdication in 1910. In 1908 the islands were unified under a single
administration (Colonie de
Mayotte et dépendances) and placed under
the authority of the French colonial governor general of Madagascar.
In 1909, Sultan Said Muhamed of
Anjouan abdicated in favour of French
rule. In 1912 the colony and the protectorates were abolished and the
islands became a province of the colony of Madagascar.
Agreement was reached with
France in 1973 for the
Comoros to become
independent in 1978. The deputies of
Mayotte abstained. Referendums
were held on all four of the islands. Three voted for independence by
large margins, while
Mayotte voted against, and remains under French
administration. On 6 July 1975, however, the Comorian parliament
passed a unilateral resolution declaring independence. Ahmed Abdallah
proclaimed the independence of the Comorian State (État comorien;
دولة القمر) and became its first president.
An 1808 map refers to the islands as "Camora".
Queen of Mohéli, 1863
Sultan Said Ali bin Said Omar of
Grande Comore (1897)
Assembly Square, Moroni, 1908
Port of Moroni, 1908
Sultan Saïd Mohamed of Anjouan, 1920s
Flag of the Comoros
Flag of the Comoros (1963 to 1975)
Flag of the Comoros
Flag of the Comoros (1975 to 1978)
President of Comoros
President of Comoros from 2011 to 2016
The next 30 years were a period of political turmoil. On 3 August
Ahmed Abdallah was removed from office in an armed
coup and replaced with United National Front of the
member Prince Said Mohamed Jaffar. Months later, in January 1976,
Jaffar was ousted in favour of his Minister of Defense Ali Soilih.
At this time, the population of
Mayotte voted against independence
France in two referenda. The first, held on 22 December 1974, won
63.8% support for maintaining ties with France, while the second, held
in February 1976, confirmed that vote with an overwhelming 99.4%. The
three remaining islands, ruled by President Soilih, instituted a
number of socialist and isolationist policies that soon strained
relations with France. On 13 May 1978,
Bob Denard returned to
overthrow President Soilih and reinstate Abdallah with the support of
the French, Rhodesian and South African governments. During Soilih's
brief rule, he faced seven additional coup attempts until he was
finally forced from office and killed.
In contrast to Soilih, Abdallah's presidency was marked by
authoritarian rule and increased adherence to traditional Islam
and the country was renamed the Federal Islamic
Republic of the
Comoros (République Fédérale Islamique des Comores; جمهورية
القمر الإتحادية الإسلامية). Abdallah continued
as president until 1989 when, fearing a probable coup d'état, he
signed a decree ordering the Presidential Guard, led by Bob Denard, to
disarm the armed forces. Shortly after the signing of the decree,
Abdallah was allegedly shot dead in his office by a disgruntled
military officer, though later sources claim an antitank missile was
launched into his bedroom and killed him. Although Denard was also
injured, it is suspected that Abdallah's killer was a soldier under
A few days later,
Bob Denard was evacuated to South
Africa by French
paratroopers. Said Mohamed Djohar, Soilih's older half-brother, then
became president, and served until September 1995, when Bob Denard
returned and attempted another coup. This time
France intervened with
paratroopers and forced Denard to surrender. The French
removed Djohar to Reunion, and the Paris-backed Mohamed Taki
Abdoulkarim became president by election. He led the country from
1996, during a time of labour crises, government suppression, and
secessionist conflicts, until his death November 1998. He was
succeeded by Interim President Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde.
The islands of
Mohéli declared their independence from
Comoros in 1997, in an attempt to restore French rule. But France
rejected their request, leading to bloody confrontations between
federal troops and rebels. In April 1999, Colonel Azali Assoumani,
Army Chief of Staff, seized power in a bloodless coup, overthrowing
the Interim President Massounde, citing weak leadership in the face of
the crisis. This was the Comoros' 18th coup, or attempted coup d'état
since independence in 1975.
Azali failed to consolidate power and reestablish control over the
islands, which was the subject of international criticism. The African
Union, under the auspices of President
Thabo Mbeki of South Africa,
imposed sanctions on
Anjouan to help broker negotiations and effect
reconciliation. The official name of the country was changed
to the Union of the
Comoros and a new system of political autonomy was
instituted for each island, plus a union government for the three
islands was added.
Azali stepped down in 2002 to run in the democratic election of the
President of the Comoros, which he won. Under ongoing international
pressure, as a military ruler who had originally come to power by
force, and was not always democratic while in office, Azali led the
Comoros through constitutional changes that enabled new elections.
A Loi des compétences law was passed in early 2005 that defines the
responsibilities of each governmental body, and is in the process of
implementation. The elections in 2006 were won by Ahmed Abdallah
Mohamed Sambi, a Sunni
Muslim cleric nicknamed the "Ayatollah" for his
time spent studying
Islam in Iran. Azali honoured the election
results, thus allowing the first peaceful and democratic exchange of
power for the archipelago.
Colonel Mohammed Bacar, a French-trained former gendarme, seized power
as President in
Anjouan in 2001. He staged a vote in June 2007 to
confirm his leadership that was rejected as illegal by the Comoros
federal government and the African Union. On 25 March 2008 hundreds of
soldiers from the
African Union and the
Comoros seized rebel-held
Anjouan, generally welcomed by the population: there have been reports
of hundreds, if not thousands, of people tortured during Bacar's
tenure. Some rebels were killed and injured, but there are no
official figures. At least 11 civilians were wounded. Some officials
were imprisoned. Bacar fled in a speedboat to the French Indian Ocean
Mayotte to seek asylum. Anti-French protests followed in
Comoros (see 2008 invasion of Anjouan).
Since independence from France, the
Comoros experienced more than 20
coups or attempted coups.
Following elections in late 2010, former Vice-President Ikililou
Dhoinine was inaugurated as President on 26 May 2011. A member of the
ruling party, Dhoinine was supported in the election by the incumbent
Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi. Dhoinine, a pharmacist by
training, is the first
President of the Comoros
President of the Comoros from the island of
Mohéli. Following the 2016 elections,
Azali Assoumani became
president for a third term.
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Main article: Geography of the Comoros
A map of the Comoros
Comoros is formed by Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli) and
Nzwani (Anjouan), three major islands in the
Comoros Archipelago, as
well as many minor islets. The islands are officially known by their
Comorian language names, though international sources still use their
French names (given in parentheses above). The capital and largest
city, Moroni, is located on Ngazidja. The archipelago is situated in
the Indian Ocean, in the
Mozambique Channel, between the African coast
Mozambique and Tanzania) and Madagascar, with no land
At 2,034 km2 (785 sq mi), it is one of the smallest
countries in the world. The
Comoros also has claim to 320 km2
(120 sq mi) of territorial seas. The interiors of the
islands vary from steep mountains to low hills.
Ngazidja is the largest of the
Comoros Archipelago, approximately
equal in area to the other islands combined. It is also the most
recent island, and therefore has rocky soil. The island's two
volcanoes, Karthala (active) and
La Grille (dormant), and the lack of
good harbours are distinctive characteristics of its terrain. Mwali,
with its capital at Fomboni, is the smallest of the four major
islands. Nzwani, whose capital is Mutsamudu, has a distinctive
triangular shape caused by three mountain chains – Sima,
Jimilimé – emanating from a central peak, Mount
N'Tingui (1,575 m or 5,167 ft).
The islands of the
Archipelago were formed by volcanic
activity. Mount Karthala, an active shield volcano located on
Ngazidja, is the country's highest point, at 2,361 metres (7,746
feet). It contains the Comoros' largest patch of disappearing
rainforest. Karthala is currently one of the most active volcanoes in
the world, with a minor eruption in May 2006, and prior eruptions as
recently as April 2005 and 1991. In the 2005 eruption, which lasted
from 17 to 19 April, 40,000 citizens were evacuated, and the crater
lake in the volcano's 3 by 4 kilometres (1.9 by 2.5 miles) caldera was
Comoros also lays claim to the Îles Éparses or Îles éparses de
l'océan indien (Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean) – Glorioso
Islands, comprising Grande Glorieuse, Île du Lys, Wreck Rock, South
Rock, Verte Rocks (three islets) and three unnamed islets – one of
France's overseas districts. The
Glorioso Islands were administered by
Comoros before 1975, and are therefore sometimes
considered part of the
Comoros Archipelago. Banc du Geyser, a former
island in the
Comoros Archipelago, now submerged, is geographically
located in the Îles Éparses, but was annexed by
Madagascar in 1976
as an unclaimed territory. The
France each still view the
Banc du Geyser
Banc du Geyser as part of the
Glorioso Islands and, thus, part of its
particular exclusive economic zone.
Moroni, Comoros § Geography and climate
The climate is generally tropical and mild, and the two major seasons
are distinguishable by their raininess. The temperature reaches an
average of 29–30 °C (84–86 °F) in March, the hottest
month in the rainy season (called kashkazi/kaskazi [meaning north
monsoon], which runs from December to April), and an average low of
19 °C (66 °F) in the cool, dry season (kusi (meaning south
monsoon), which proceeds from May to November). The islands are
rarely subject to cyclones.
Ecology and environment
See also: Moheli Marine Park
Comoros constitute an ecoregion in their own right, Comoros
Main article: Politics of the Comoros
Moroni, capital of the Comoros, with Harbor Bay and Central Mosque
Politics of the Comoros
Politics of the Comoros takes place in a framework of a federal
presidential republic, whereby the
President of the Comoros
President of the Comoros is both
head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. The
Constitution of the Union of the
Comoros was ratified by referendum on
23 December 2001, and the islands' constitutions and executives were
elected in the following months. It had previously been considered a
military dictatorship, and the transfer of power from Azali Assoumani
Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi in May 2006 was a watershed moment as
it was the first peaceful transfer in Comorian history.
Executive power is exercised by the government. Federal legislative
power is vested in both the government and parliament. The preamble of
the constitution guarantees an Islamic inspiration in governance, a
commitment to human rights, and several specific enumerated rights,
democracy, "a common destiny" for all Comorians. Each of the
islands (according to Title II of the Constitution) has a great amount
of autonomy in the Union, including having their own constitutions (or
Fundamental Law), president, and Parliament. The presidency and
Assembly of the Union are distinct from each of the islands'
governments. The presidency of the Union rotates between the
Mohéli holds the current presidency rotation, and so
Ikililou Dhoinine is President of the Union; Grand Comore and Anjouan
follow in four-year terms.
The Comorian legal system rests on Islamic law, an inherited French
(Napoleonic Code) legal code, and customary law (mila na ntsi).
Village elders, kadis or civilian courts settle most disputes. The
judiciary is independent of the legislative and the executive. The
Supreme Court acts as a Constitutional Council in resolving
constitutional questions and supervising presidential elections. As
High Court of Justice, the Supreme Court also arbitrates in cases
where the government is accused of malpractice. The Supreme Court
consists of two members selected by the president, two elected by the
Federal Assembly, and one by the council of each island.
Around 80 percent of the central government's annual budget is spent
on the country's complex electoral system which provides for a
semi-autonomous government and president for each of the three islands
and a rotating presidency for the overarching Union government. A
referendum took place on 16 May 2009 to decide whether to cut down the
government's unwieldy political bureaucracy. 52.7% of those eligible
voted, and 93.8% of votes were cast in approval of the referendum. The
referendum would cause each island's president to become a governor
and the ministers to become councillors.
Main article: Foreign relations of the Comoros
In November 1975, the
Comoros became the 143rd member of the United
Nations. The new nation was defined as comprising the entire
archipelago, although the citizens of
Mayotte chose to become French
citizens and keep their island as a French territory.
Comoros has repeatedly pressed its claim to
Mayotte before the
United Nations General Assembly, which adopted a series of resolutions
under the caption "Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte",
Mayotte belongs to the
Comoros under the principle that
the territorial integrity of colonial territories should be preserved
upon independence. As a practical matter, however, these resolutions
have little effect and there is no foreseeable likelihood that Mayotte
will become de facto part of the
Comoros without its people's consent.
More recently, the Assembly has maintained this item on its agenda but
deferred it from year to year without taking action. Other bodies,
including the Organization of African Unity, the Movement of
Non-Aligned Countries and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation,
have similarly questioned French sovereignty over Mayotte. To
close the debate and to avoid being integrated by force in the Union
of the Comoros, the population of
Mayotte overwhelmingly chose to
become an overseas department and a region of
France in a 2009
referendum. The new status was effective on 31 March 2011 and Mayotte
has been recognised as an outermost region by
European Union on 1
January 2014. This decision integrates
Mayotte in the French Republic
legally « one and indivisible ».
Comoros is a member of the African Union, the
Arab League, the
European Development Fund, the World Bank, the International Monetary
Indian Ocean Commission and the African Development Bank. On
10 April 2008, the
Comoros became the 179th nation to accept the Kyoto
Protocol to the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
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) regarding the events of "the 31 May 2010 Israeli raid on
the Humanitarian Aid Flotilla bound for [the] Gaza Strip." In November
2014 the ICC Prosecutor eventually decided that the events did
constitute war crimes but did not meet the gravity standards of
bringing the case before ICC. The emigration rate of skilled
workers was about 21.2% in 2000.
Main article: Military of the Comoros
The military resources of the
Comoros consist of a small standing army
and a 500-member police force, as well as a 500-member defence force.
A defence treaty with
France provides naval resources for protection
of territorial waters, training of Comorian military personnel, and
France maintains a few senior officers presence in
Comoros at government request.
France maintains a small maritime
base and a Foreign Legion Detachment (DLEM) on Mayotte.
Once the new government was installed in May–June 2011, an expert
mission from UNREC (Lomé) came to the
Comoros and produced guidelines
for the elaboration of a national security policy, which were
discussed by different actors, notably the national defence
authorities and civil society. By the end of the programme in end
March 2012, a normative framework agreed upon by all entities involved
in SSR will have been established. This will then have to be adopted
by Parliament and implemented by the authorities.
Main article: Economy of the Comoros
A proportional representation of the Comoros's exports
Comoros is one of the world's poorest countries. Economic growth
and poverty reduction are major priorities for the government. With a
rate of 14.3%, unemployment is considered very high. Agriculture,
including fishing, hunting, and forestry, is the leading sector of the
economy, and 38.4% of the working population is employed in the
High population densities, as much as 1000 per square kilometre in the
densest agricultural zones, for what is still a mostly rural,
agricultural economy may lead to an environmental crisis in the near
future, especially considering the high rate of population growth. In
2004 the Comoros' real GDP growth was a low 1.9% and real GDP per
capita continued to decline. These declines are explained by factors
including declining investment, drops in consumption, rising
inflation, and an increase in trade imbalance due in part to lowered
cash crop prices, especially vanilla.
Fiscal policy is constrained by erratic fiscal revenues, a bloated
civil service wage bill, and an external debt that is far above the
HIPC threshold. Membership in the franc zone, the main anchor of
stability, has nevertheless helped contain pressures on domestic
Comoros has an inadequate transportation system, a young and
rapidly increasing population, and few natural resources. The low
educational level of the labour force contributes to a subsistence
level of economic activity, high unemployment, and a heavy dependence
on foreign grants and technical assistance.
40% to GDP, employs 80% of the labour force, and provides most of the
Comoros is the world's largest producer of ylang-ylang,
and a large producer of vanilla.
The government is struggling to upgrade education and technical
training, to privatise commercial and industrial enterprises, to
improve health services, to diversify exports, to promote tourism, and
to reduce the high population growth rate.
Comoros claims the
Banc du Geyser
Banc du Geyser and the
Glorioso Islands as part
of its exclusive economic zone.
Comoros is a member of the Organization for the Harmonization of
Business Law in
Main article: Demographics of the Comoros
With fewer than a million people, the
Comoros is one of the least
populous countries in the world, but is also one of the most densely
populated, with an average of 275 inhabitants per square kilometre
(710/sq mi). In 2001, 34% of the population was considered urban,
but that is expected to grow, since rural population growth is
negative, while overall population growth is still relatively
Almost half the population of the
Comoros is under the age of 15.
Major urban centres include Moroni, Mutsamudu, Domoni, Fomboni, and
Tsémbéhou. There are between 200,000 and 350,000 Comorians in
The islands of the
Comoros share mostly African-
Arab origins. One of
the largest ethnic groups on the various islands of
Comoros remain the
Shirazi people. Minorities include Malagasy (Christian) and Indian
(mostly Ismaili), as well as other minorities mostly descended from
early French settlers.
Chinese people are also present in parts of
Grande Comore (especially Moroni). A small white minority of French
with other European (i.e. Dutch, British and Portuguese) ancestry
lives in the Comoros. Most French left after independence in
Further information: Languages of the Comoros
The most common language in the
Comoros is Comorian, or Shikomori. It
is a language related to Swahili, with four different variants
(Shingazidja, Shimwali, Shinzwani and Shimaore) being spoken on each
of the four islands. Arabic and Latin scripts are both used, Arabic
being the more widely used, and an official orthography has recently
been developed for the Latin script.
Arabic and French are also official languages, along with Comorian.
Arabic is widely known as a second language, being the language of
Quranic teaching. French is the administrative language and the
language of all non-Quranic formal education.
Further information: Religion in the Comoros
A view of a coastal town in
Anjouan including mosque
Sunni Islam is the dominant religion, representing as much as 99% of
the population. A minority of the population of the Comoros, mostly
immigrants from metropolitan France, are Roman Catholic.
Further information: Health in the Comoros
There are 15 physicians per 100,000 people. The fertility rate was 4.7
per adult woman in 2004.
Life expectancy at birth is 67 for females
and 62 for males.
Further information: Education in the Comoros
Almost all of the educated populace of the
Comoros have attended
Quranic schools at some point in their lives, often before regular
schooling. Here, boys and girls are taught about the Qur'an, and
memorise it. Some parents specifically choose this early schooling to
offset French schools children usually attend later. Since
independence and the ejection of French teachers, the education system
has been plagued by poor teacher training and poor results, though
recent stability may allow for substantial improvements.
Pre-colonization education systems in
Comoros focused on necessary
skills such as agriculture, caring for livestock and completing
household tasks. Religious education also taught children the virtues
of Islam. The education system underwent a transformation during
colonization in the early 1900s which brought secular education based
on the French system. This was mainly for children of the elite. After
Comoros gained independence in 1975, the education system changed
again. Funding for teachers' salaries was lost, and many went on
strike. Thus, the public education system was not functioning between
1997 and 2001. Since gaining independence, the education system has
also undergone a democratization and options exist for those other
than the elite. Enrollment has also grown.
In 2000, 44.2% of children ages 5 to 14 years were attending school.
There is a general lack of facilities, equipment, qualified teachers,
textbooks and other resources.
Salaries for teachers are often so far
in arrears that many refuse to work.
Prior to 2000, students seeking a university education had to attend
school outside of the country, however in the early 2000s a university
was created in the country. This served to help economic growth and to
fight the "flight" of many educated people who were not returning to
the islands to work.
About fifty-seven percent of the population is literate in the Latin
script while more than 90% are literate in the Arabic script; total
literacy is estimated at 77.8%.[clarification needed] Comorian has
no native script, but both Arabic and Latin scripts are used.
See also: Public holidays in the Comoros
Traditional Comorian women wear colourful sari-like dresses called
shiromani, and apply a paste of ground sandalwood and coral called
msinzano to their faces. Traditional male clothing is a colourful
long skirt and a long white shirt.
There are two types of marriages in Comoros, the Mna dabo (little
marriage) and the ada (grand marriage). The little marriage is a
simple legal marriage. It is small, intimate, and inexpensive. The
bride price is nominal. The little marriage, however, is just a
placeholder until the couple can afford the ada, or grand marriage.
The hallmarks of the grand marriage are dazzling gold jewelry, two
weeks of celebration and an enormous bride price. The groom must pay
most of the expenses for this event, and the bride’s family
typically pays only a third of that of the groom’s. The grand
wedding can cost up to £55,000. Many men cannot afford this until
their late 40's, if ever.
The grand marriage is a symbol of social status on the Comoros
islands. The completion of an ada marriage also greatly increases a
man’s standing in the Comoran hierarchy. A Comoran man can only wear
certain elements of the national dress or stand in the first line at
the mosque if he has had a grand marriage. Also, one is not fully
considered a man until he has had an ada marriage.
The continuation of the grand marriage tradition is criticized because
of its great expense and Comoros’s intense poverty. 
Kinship and social structure
Comorian society has a bilateral descent system. Lineage membership
and inheritance of immovable goods (land, housing) is matrilineal,
passed in the maternal line, similar to many
Bantu peoples who are
also matrilineal, while other goods and patronymics are passed in the
male line. However, there are differences between the islands, the
matrilineal element being stronger on Ngazidja.
Further information: Music of the Comoro Islands
Zanzibar's taarab music remains the most influential genre on the
Further information: Media of the Comoros
There is a government-owned national newspaper in Comoros,
Al-Watwan, published in Moroni. Radio
Comoros is the national
radio service and
Comoros National TV is the television service.
Index of Comoros-related articles
Flag of the Comoros
Heads of state of the Comoros
Telecommunications in the Comoros
Transport in the Comoros
This article incorporates text from the
Library of Congress
Library of Congress Country
Studies, which is in the public domain.
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^ a b The first UN General Assembly Resolution regarding the matter,
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Mayotte (PDF)", United Nations
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France of the Comorian island of
Mayotte constitutes a
flagrant encroachment on the national unity of the Comorian State, a
Member of the United Nations," rejecting the French-administered
referendums and condemning French presence in Mayotte.
^ As defined by the Organization of African Unity, the Movement of
Non-Aligned Countries, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and
United Nations General Assembly: the most recent UN General
Assembly Resolution regarding the matter, "Question of the Comorian
island of Mayotte,"
United Nations General Assembly Resolution
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of 22 December 1974 were to be considered on a global basis and not
island by island,...Reaffirms the sovereignty of the Islamic Federal
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Squalor and Dependency: Chronic Political Instability and Economic
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^ Christopher S. Wren (8 December 1989). "Mercenary Holding Island
Nation Seeks Deal". New York Times.
^ Judith Matloff (6 October 1995). "Mercenaries seek fun and profit in
Africa". 87 (219). Christian Science Monitor.
^ Marlise Simons (5 October 1995). "1,000 French Troops Invade Comoros
to Put Down Coup". New York Times. Section A; Page 10; Column 3.
^ "French Mercenary Gives Up in
Comoros Coup". New York Times.
Associated Press. 6 October 1995. Section A; Page 7; Column 1.
^ Kamal Eddine Saindou (6 November 1998). "
Comoros president dies from
heart attack". Associated Press. pp. International News.
^ Moyiga Nduru (17 September 1997). "COMORO ISLANDS: Tension Rising in
Indian Ocean Archipelago". IPS-Inter Press Service/Global
^ "COMOROS: COUP LEADER GIVES REASONS FOR COUP". BBC Monitoring Africa
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^ Rodrique Ngowi (3 August 2000). "Breakaway island's ruler says no
civilian rule until secession crisis resolved". Associated
^ "Mbeki flies in to
Comoros islands summit in bid to resolve
political crisis". Agence
France Presse. 20 December 2003.
Comoros said "calm" after
Azali Assoumani declared elected as
federal president". BBC Monitoring Africa. 10 May 2002.
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^ Ottenheimer, pp. 20, 72
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Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
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^ AFRICAN ELECTIONS DATABASE, Elections in the Comoros.
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^ "Comoros: Referendum Approves Downscaling of Government". AllAfrica
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^ Security Council S/PV. 1888 para 247 S/11967   Archived 17
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^ Office of the Prosecutor, Situation on Registered Vessels of
Cambodia Article 53(1) Report, Report of 6th
^ Statement of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court,
Fatou Bensouda, on concluding the preliminary examination of the
situation referred by the Union of the Comoros: “Rome Statute legal
requirements have not been met”,Statement of 6th November 2014
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