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History of Comoros

Early inhabitants

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. "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.

Until the opening of the Suez Canal, the islands used to be an important refueling and provisioning stop for ships from Europe to the Indian Ocean.

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. 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 Comorian parliament passed a resolution declaring unilateral independence. The deputies of Mayotte abstained. As a result, the Comorian Government has effective control over only Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Moheli. Mayotte remains under French administration.

Coups d'Etat

Unstable Comoros has endured 19 coups or attempted coups since gaining independence from France in 1975. Many of these coups were orchestrated by France which still maintained substantial interests in the area. Bob Denard overthrew the government four times.

The second time was in 1978, when president Ali Solih, who had a firm anti-French attitude, was killed and Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane came to power. Under the reign of Abdallah, Denard was commander of the Presidential Guard (PG) and defacto ruler of the country, trained, supported and funded by the white regimes in South Africa (SA) and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in return to the permission to set up a secret listening station on the islands. South-African agents had to keep an ear on the important ANC bases in Lusaka and Dar es Salaam and to watch the war in Mozambique, in which SA played an active role. The Comoros were also used for evading arms sanctions.

When in 1981 François Mitterrand was elected president Denard lost the support of the French intelligence service, but he managed to strengthen the link between SA and the Comoros. Besides the Guard, Denard established his own company SOGECOM, in both the security and building business. He seemed to be pretty rich. In period 1985-87 the relationship of the PG with the local Comorians became worse.

At the end of the 1980s the South Africans didn't want to continue to support a mercenary regime and France also wanted to get rid of the mercenaries. Finally, also President Abdallah wanted the mercenaries to leave. Their response was a (third) coup and the death of President Abdallah in which Denard and his men were probably involved. The SA and the French government subsequentially forced Denard and his mercenaries to leave the islands in 1989. Said Joher became president. His time in office was turbulent, including an impeachment attempt in 1991 and a coup attempt in 1992.

On September 28, 1995 Bob Denard and a group of mercenaries took over the Comoros islands in a coup (named operation Kaskari by the mercanaries) against President Djohar. France immediately severly denounced the coup, and backed by the 1978 defense agreement with the Comoros, President Jacques Chirac ordered his special forces to retake the island. Bob Denard began to take meassures to stop the coming invasion. A new presidential guard was created. Strong points armed with heavy machine guns were set up around the island, particularly around the islands two airports.

On October 3, 1995, 11 PM, the French deployed 600 men against a force of 33 mercenaries and a 300 man dissident force. Denard however ordered his mercenaries not to fight. Within 7 hours the airports at Iconi and Hahaya and the French Embassy in Moroni are secured. By 3:00 pm the next day Bob Denard and his Mercenaries had surrendered. This operation, codename Azalee, was remarkable, because there were no casualties, and just in seven days, plans were drawn up and soldiers were deployed. Prime minister Kumba El-Yachortu became acting president until Joher returned from exile in January 1996. In March of 1996, following presidential elections, Taki Abdoulkarim, a member of the civilian government that Dennard had tried to set up in October 1995, became president.

Secession of Anjouan and Mohelli

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 presently the African Union is brokering negotiations to effect a reconciliation. This process is largely complete, at least in theory. According to some sources, Moheli did return to government control in 1998. In 1999, Anjouan started to fall apart internally, on August 1 of that year, the 80-year-old first president Foundi Abdullah Ibrahim resigned, and gave power to a national coordinator, Said Abeed. The government was overthrown in a coup by army and navy officers on August 9, 2001. Muhammad Bacar soon rose to leadership of the junta that took over and by the end of the month he was the leader of the country. Despite two coup attempts in the following three months, including one by Abeed, Charif's government stayed in power, and was apparently more willing to negotiate with Comoros. Presidential elections have been held on Comoros, and presidents have been chosen for all three islands as well, which are now in a confederation. Grand Comor had experienced troubles of its own in the late 1990s, as President Taki died on November 6, 1998. Colonel Azali Assoumani became president following a military coup in 1999. There have been several coup attempts since, but he is now in firm control of the country after winning a presidential election.

External links

See also : Comoros