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The Union of the Comoros (until 2002 the Islamic Federal Republic of the Comoros) is a country in the Indian Ocean, situated at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel between northern Madagascar and northern Mozambique. The country consists of three of the four main islands in the volcanic Comoros archipelago: Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjouan. The fourth island in the island group, Mayotte, is not part of the country. Mayotte has voted against independence from France, but is claimed by Comoros. The country's territory also encompasses many smaller islands. Its name was adopted from the word al-Khamar, meaning 'island of small moon,' as seen depicted on its flag.
Union des Comores
Udzima wa Komori
اتحاد القمر
Flag of Comoros Coat of arms of Comoros
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Unité - Justice - Progrès
( French, "Unity, justice, progress")
Anthem: Udzima wa ya Masiwa
Location of Comoros
Capital Moroni
11°41′ S 43°16′ E
Largest city Moroni
Official language(s) Shikomor, Arabic, French
Federal republic
Col. Azali Assoumani
From France
• Total

• Water (%)

2,170 km² ( 167th)
{{{areami²}}} mi²

• 2002 est.
• [[As of |]] census

• Density

596,202 ( 158th)

275/km² ( 275)
• Total
• Per capita
2004 estimate
,049,000,000 ( 171st)
,660 ( 156th)
HDI ( 2003) 0.547 ( 132nd) – medium
Currency Comorian franc ( KMF)
Time zone
• Summer ( DST)
( UTC+3)
observed? ( UTC?)
Internet TLD .km
Calling code +269

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History - Contents

Over the centuries, the islands of Comoros were 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.Between 1841 and 1912, France established colonial rule 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 now uses about one-third of the land for export crops. Agreement was reached with France in 1973 for Comoros to become independent in 1978. On July 6, 1975, however, the Comorian parliament passed a resolution declaring independence. The deputies of Mayotte, which stayed under French control, abstained. In two referendums, in December 1974 and February 1976, the population of Mayotte voted against independence from France (by 63.8% and 99.4% respectively).In 1997, the islands of Anjouan and Moheli declared their independence from Comoros. A subsequent attempt by the government to reestablish control over the rebellious islands by force failed, and subsequently the African Union, under the auspices of President Mbeki of South Africa, has brokered negotiations to effect a reconciliation. This involves a system of governmental autonomy for each island, plus a Union government for the three islands. A "Loi des compétences" (a law that defines the responsibilities of each governmental body) was passed in early 2005 and is in the process of implementation.

Politics - Contents

The political situation in Comoros has been extremely fluid since the country's independence in 1975, subject to the volatility of coups and political insurrection.Colonel Azali Assoumani seized power in a bloodless coup in April 1999, overthrowing Interim President Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde, who himself had held the office since the strange death of democratically elected President Mohamed Taki Abdoulkarim in November, 1998.In May 1999, Azali decreed a constitution that gave him both executive and legislative powers. Bowing somewhat to international criticism, Azali appointed a civilian Prime Minister, Bainrifi Tarmidi, in December 1999; however, Azali retained the mantle of Head of State and army Commander. In December 2000, Azali named a new civilian Prime Minister, Hamada Madi, and formed a new civilian Cabinet.On February 17, 2000, representatives of the government, the Anjouan separatists, the political opposition, and civil society organizations signed a "Framework Accord for Reconciliation in Comoros," brokered by the Organization for African Unity (OAU). The accord called to develop a "New Comorian Entity" with a new constitution.The constitution gives Moheli, Anjouan and Grande Comore the right to govern most of their own affairs with their own presidents. In addition, a federal president and parliament sit on the largest island, Grande Comore. This federal presidency is rotated between the islands' presidents. General elections were held in 2004, in which federal president Azali suffered a major setback by only winning 6 of the 18 seats in the National assembly, the other going to the supporters of the presidents of the semi-autonomous islands. The Comoros are also part of the Indian Ocean Commission, along with all of the other islands in the Western Indian Ocean

Geography - Contents

Map of Comoros
Map of Comoros
Comoros is formed by three of the four main islands in the Comoros Archipelago; the fourth is the French territory of Mayotte. The archipelago is situated in the Indian Ocean, between the African coast and Madagascar. The interior of the volcanic islands varies from steep mountains to low hills. Le Karthala (2316 m) on Grand Comore is an active volcano.

Economy - Contents

Comoros is one of the poorest countries in the world. Agriculture, including fishing, hunting, and forestry, is the leading sector of the economy.Comoros has inadequate transportation system, a young and rapidly increasing population, and few natural resources. The low educational level of the labor force contributes to a subsistence level of economic activity, high unemployment, and a heavy dependence on foreign grants and technical assistance. Agriculture contributes 40% to GDP, employs 80% of the labor force, and provides most of the exports.The government is struggling to upgrade education and technical training, to privatize commercial and industrial enterprises, to improve health services, to diversify exports, to promote tourism, and to reduce the high population growth rate.

Demographics - Contents

The Comorians inhabiting Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Moheli (86% of the population) share African-Arab origins. Islam is the dominant religion. Although Arab culture is firmly established throughout the archipelago, a substantial minority of the citizens of Mayotte (the Mahorais) are Catholic and have been strongly influenced by French culture.The most common language is Shikomor, a Swahili dialect. French, Arabic and Malagasy also are spoken. About 57% of the population is literate in the Latin alphabet, more with the Arabic alphabet.
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