The Comoros Secessions

The Comoros Secessions

Our Series on Secessions takes us to the Comoros Islands, whose modern history is one of major rivalry and conflict between its four islands.

The Comoros is an archipelago located in the Indian Ocean, about half way between the African coast and the island of Madagascar. Their history is one of mixed influences and ethnicities, having been populated mostly by Bantu tribes coming from the mainland, and under the control of Arabs for a long period of time. France took possession of the islands in the 19th Century, starting from the East, with Mayotte, then taking control of the other three islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan and Mohéli.

A referendum on independence in 1974 gave wildly different results on the islands, with Mayotte strongly opposing independence when the other three islands showed almost unanimous support. This led to a partition of the group, Mayotte retaining some vaguely defined status of a French dependency until it was formalized as an overseas department in 2009.

Meanwhile, the government of the independent Comoros was claiming sovereignty on Mayotte, but proved extremely unstable, enduring a series of coups that were sometimes bloody. Mohéli and Anjouan, the lesser two islands of the independent nation declared independence in 1997 and requested the protection of France. A compromise was found, with a new constitution granting much stronger autonomy to the islands. Today, the status quo prevails, as Mayotte remains separated but claimed by the Comoros.

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