Seychelles, officially the Republic of Seychelles (French: République des Seychelles; Creole: Repiblik Sesel), is an island country spanning an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, some 1,500 kilometres (932 mi) east of mainland Africa, northeast of the island of Madagascar.
Other nearby island countries and territories include Zanzibar to the west(SONY PCGA-BP1N battery), Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agaléga and Réunion to the south, and Comoros and Mayotte to the southwest. Seychelles, with an estimated population of 86,525, has the smallest population of any African state. It also has the highest Human Development Index in Africa, but also the highest income inequality in the world, as measured by the Gini index(SONY PCG-5G2L battery).
Scholars assume that Austronesian seafarers, and later Maldivian and Arab traders were the first to visit the uninhabited Seychelles. Remains of Maldivian mariner presence from the 12th century were found in Silhouette Island. The earliest recorded sighting by Europeans took place in 1502 by the Portuguese Admiral Vasco da Gama, who passed through the Amirantes and named them after himself (islands of the Admiral) (SONY PCG-5G3L battery).
A transit point for trade between Africa and Asia, the islands were occasionally used by pirates until the French began to take control starting in 1756 when a Stone of Possession was laid by Captain Nicholas Morphey. The islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV’s Minister of Finance. (SONY PCG-F305 battery)
The British contested control over the islands between 1794 and 1810. Jean Baptiste Quéau de Quincy, French administrator of Seychelles during the years of war with the United Kingdom, declined to resist when armed enemy warships arrived. Instead, he successfully negotiated the status of capitulation to Britain which gave the settlers a privileged position of neutrality(SONY PCG-5J1L battery).
Britain eventually assumed full control upon the surrender of Mauritius in 1810, formalised in 1814 at the Treaty of Paris. Seychelles became a crown colony separate from Mauritius in 1903. Elections were held in 1966 and 1970. Independence was granted in 1976 as a republic within the Commonwealth. In 1977, a coup d'état ousted the first president of the republic, James Mancham, who was replaced by France Albert René. (SONY PCG-5J2L battery) The 1979 constitution declared a socialist one-party state, which lasted until 1991. The first draft of a new constitution failed to receive the requisite 60% of voters in 1992, but an amended version was approved in 1993.
State House, Victoria—the seat of the President
The Seychelles president, who is both head of state and head of government, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term of office. The previous president, France Albert René, first came to power after his supporters overthrew the first president in 1977 (SONY PCG-5K2L battery)and installed him as president, one year after independence. He was reelected thereafter during each election cycle. He stepped down in 2004 in favour of his vice-president, James Michel, who was re-elected in 2006. Michel was reelected in 2011 in an election declared to be free and fair  by over 100 international observers representing Southern African Development Community, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Indian Ocean Commission, although the opposition parties claim that there was vote-buying. (SONY PCG-5L1L battery)
The cabinet is presided over and appointed by the president, subject to the approval of a majority of the legislature.
The unicameral Seychellois parliament, the National Assembly or Assemblée Nationale, consists of 34 members, of whom 25 are elected directly by popular vote, while the remaining nine seats are appointed proportionally according to the percentage of votes received by each party. All members serve five-year terms(SONY PCG-6S2L battery).
The main rival parties are the ruling socialist Seychelles People's Progressive Front (SPPF), as of 2009 the SPPF became the People's Party (PP) or Parti Lepep (LP), and the liberal democrat Seychelles National Party (SNP). Politics has been an integral part of the lives of the Seychellois since its inception in the early sixties. The range of opinion spans socialist and liberal democratic ideology(SONY PCG-6S3L battery).
President James Michel in his office in Victoria, Seychelles in 2009
Seychelles is part of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), La Francophonie and the Commonwealth of Nations.
Seychelles performed excellently on the 2010 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, ranking 2nd out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries, with an overall score of 79 out of 100, second only to Mauritius, which received a score of 83. Particularly good were its scores in Safety and Security(SONY PCG-6V1L battery), Participation and Human Rights, and Human Development. The Ibrahim Index is a comprehensive measure of African governance, based on a number of different variables which reflect the success with which governments deliver essential political goods to its citizens.
Seychelles is divided into twenty-five administrative regions that comprise all of the inner islands. Eight of the districts make up the capital of Seychelles and are referred to as Greater Victoria(SONY PCG-6W1L battery). Another 14 districts are considered the rural part of the main island of Mahé with two districts on Praslin and one on La Digue which also includes respective satellite islands. The rest of the Outer Islands are not considered part of any district.
Until the mid-19th century, little formal education was available in Seychelles; both the Catholic and Anglican churches opened mission schools in 1851. The Catholic mission later operated boys' and girls' secondary schools with religious Brothers (SONY PCG-7111L battery)and nuns from abroad even after the government became responsible for them in 1944. A teacher training college opened in 1959, when the supply of locally trained teachers began to grow, and in short time many new schools were established. Since 1981 a system of free education has been in effect requiring attendance by all children in grades one to nine, beginning at age five. Ninety percent of all children also attend nursery school at age four(SONY PCG-71511M battery).
The literacy rate for school-aged children rose to more than 90% by the late 1980s. Many older Seychellois had not been taught to read or write in their childhood, but adult education classes helped raise adult literacy from 60% to a claimed 85% in 1991.
Currently the public school system consists of 23 crèches, 25 primary schools and 13 secondary schools. The schools are located on Mahé, Praslin, La Digue and Silhouette. There are also three private schools: École Française, International School and the Independent school(SONY PCG-6W3L battery). All three private schools are located on Mahé, but the International School has a branch on Praslin. There are seven post secondary (non-tertiary) schools. They are the Seychelles Polytechnic, School of Advanced Level Studies, National Institute of Education, Seychelles Institute of Technology, Maritime Training Centre, Seychelles Agricultural and Horticultural Training Centre and the National Institute for Health and Social Studies(SONY PCG-7113L battery).
The current administration has advanced plans to open a university on the islands in an attempt to slow down the brain drain that has occurred in the past. University of Seychelles, initiated in conjunction with the University of London, is launching education programmes which will include teaching and lead to the award of the recognised qualifications from the University of London.
Dense forests of Mahé Island(SONY PCG-7133L battery)
An island nation, Seychelles is located to the northeast of Madagascar and about 1,600 km (994 mi) east of Kenya. The number of islands in the archipelago is often given as 115 but the Constitution of the Republic of Seychelles lists 155. The islands as per the Constitution are divided into various groups as follows(SONY PCG-7Z1L battery).
There are 42 granitic islands, in descending order of size: Mahé, Praslin, Silhouette Island, La Digue, Curieuse, Felicite, Frégate, Ste-Anne, North, Cerf, Marianne, Grand Sœur, Thérèse, Aride, Conception, Petite Sœur, Cousin, Cousine, Long, Récif, Round (Praslin), Anonyme, Mamelles, Moyenne, Île aux Vaches Marines, L'Islette, Beacon (Île Sèche), Cachée, Cocos, Round (Mahé), L'Ilot Frégate, Booby, Chauve Souris (Mahé), Chauve Souris (Praslin), Île La Fouche, Hodoul, L'Ilot, Rat, Souris, St. Pierre (Praslin), Zavé, Harrison Rocks (Grand Rocher) (SONY PCG-7Z2L battery).
The beach of Anse Source d'Argent on La Digue
There are two coral sand cays north of the granitics: Denis and Bird.
There are two coral islands south of the granitics: Coëtivy and Platte.
There are 29 coral islands in the Amirantes group, west of the granitics: Desroches, Poivre Atoll (comprising three islands—Poivre, Florentin and South Island), Alphonse, D'Arros, St. Joseph Atoll (comprising 14 islands—St. Joseph Île aux Fouquets, Resource, Petit Carcassaye, Grand Carcassaye, Benjamin, Bancs Ferrari, Chiens, Pélicans, Vars, Île Paul, Banc de Sable(SONY PCG-8Y1L battery), Banc aux Cocos and Île aux Poules), Marie Louise, Desnoeufs, African Banks (comprising two islands—African Banks and South Island), Rémire, St. François, Boudeuse, Etoile, Bijoutier.
There are 13 coral islands in the Farquhar Group, south-southwest of the Amirantes: Farquhar Atoll (comprising 10 islands—Bancs de Sable Déposés Île aux Goëlettes Lapins Île du Milieu North Manaha South Manaha Middle Manaha North Island and South Island), Providence Atoll (comprising two islands—Providence and Bancs Providence) and St Pierre(SONY PCG-8Y2L battery).
There are 67 raised coral islands in the Aldabra Group, west of the Farquhar Group: Aldabra Atoll (comprising 46 islands—Grande Terre, Picard, Polymnie, Malabar, Île Michel, Île Esprit, Île aux Moustiques, Ilot Parc, Ilot Emile, Ilot Yangue, Ilot Magnan, Île Lanier, Champignon des Os, Euphrate, Grand Mentor, Grand Ilot, Gros Ilot Gionnet, Gros Ilot Sésame, Heron Rock, Hide Island, Île aux Aigrettes, Île aux Cèdres, Îles Chalands, Île Fangame, Île Héron, Île Michel(SONY PCG-8Z2L battery), Île Squacco, Île Sylvestre, Île Verte, Ilot Déder, Ilot du Sud, Ilot du Milieu, Ilot du Nord, Ilot Dubois, Ilot Macoa, Ilot Marquoix, Ilots Niçois, Ilot Salade, Middle Row Island, Noddy Rock, North Row Island, Petit Mentor, Petit Mentor Endans, Petits Ilots, Pink Rock and Table Ronde), Assumption Island, Astove and Cosmoledo Atoll (comprising 19 islands—Menai, Île du Nord (West North), Île Nord-Est (East North), Île du Trou, Goëlettes, Grand Polyte, Petit Polyte, Grand Île (Wizard) (SONY PCG-8Z1L battery), Pagode, Île du Sud-Ouest (South), Île aux Moustiques, Île Baleine, Île aux Chauve-Souris, Île aux Macaques, Île aux Rats, Île du Nord-Ouest, Île Observation, Île Sud-Est and Ilot la Croix).
According to the president of Nauru, the Seychelles has been ranked the ninth most endangered nation due to flooding from climate change.
The climate is equable although quite humid, as the islands are small. The temperature varies little throughout the year. Temperatures on Mahé vary from 24 to 30 °C (75 to 86 °F), and rainfall ranges from 2,900 mm (114 in) annually at Victoria to 3,600 mm (142 in) on the mountain slopes(SONY PCG-7112L battery). Precipitation is somewhat less on the other islands. During the coolest months, July and August, the average low is about 24 °C (75 °F). The southeast trade winds blow regularly from May to November, and this is the most pleasant time of the year. The hot months are from December to April, with higher humidity (80%). March and April are the hottest months, but the temperature seldom exceeds 31 °C (88 °F). Most of the islands lie outside the cyclone belt, so high winds are rare(SONY PCG-6W2L battery).
During the plantation era, cinnamon, vanilla, and copra were the chief exports. In the 1960s, about 33% of the working population worked at plantations, and 20% worked in the public or government sector. In 1971, with the opening of Seychelles International Airport, tourism became a serious industry, basically dividing the economy into plantations and tourism. The tourism sector paid better, and the plantation economy could only expand so far(SONY PCG-5K1L battery). The plantation sector of the economy declined in prominence, and tourism became the primary industry of Seychelles.
Coconut oil making in the early 1970s
Since independence in 1976, per capita output has expanded to roughly seven times the old near-subsistence level. Growth has been led by the tourist sector, which employs about 30% of the labour force, compared to agriculture which today employs about 3% of the labour force. Despite the growth of tourism(SONY VGP-BPS8 battery), farming and fishing continue to employ some people, as do industries that process coconuts and vanilla. The prime agricultural products currently produced in the Seychelles include sweet potatoes, vanilla, coconuts, and cinnamon. These products provide much of the economic support of the locals. Frozen and canned fish, copra, cinnamon, and vanilla are the main export commodities of the islands(SONY VGP-BPS8A battery).
Graphical depiction of Seychelles's product exports in 28 color coded categories.
In recent years the government has encouraged foreign investment in order to upgrade hotels and other services. These incentives have given rise to an enormous amount of investment in real estate projects and new resort properties, such as project TIME, distributed by the World Bank, along with its predecessor project MAGIC. Despite its growth(SONY VGP-BPL8 battery), the vulnerability of the tourist sector was illustrated by the sharp drop in 1991–1992 due largely to the Gulf War. Since then the government has moved to reduce the dependence on tourism by promoting the development of farming, fishing, small-scale manufacturing and most recently the offshore financial sector, through the establishment of the Seychelles International Business Authority (SIBA) and the enactment of several pieces of legislation (such as the International Corporate Service Providers Act, the International Business Companies Act, the Securities Act, the Mutual Funds and Hedge Fund Act, amongst others) (SONY VGP-BPS9 battery).
Other issues facing the government are the curbing of the budget deficit, including the containment of social welfare costs, and further privatisation of public enterprises. The government has a pervasive presence in economic activity, with public enterprises active in petroleum product distribution, insurance (has now been privatized), banking (is being privatized very soon), imports of basic products (now being privatized), (SONY VGP-BPS9/S battery) telecommunications (four private ISP/telecom companies), and a wide range of other businesses.
The national currency of the Seychelles is the Seychellois rupee. Initially tied to a basket of international currencies it was depegged and allowed to be devalued and float freely in 2008 on the presumed hopes of attracting further foreign investment in the Seychelles Economy.
When the British gained control of the islands during the Napoleonic Wars, they allowed the French upper class to retain their land. Both the French and British (SONY VGP-BPS9A battery)settlers used enslaved Africans and although the British prohibited slavery in 1835, African workers continued to come. Thus the Gran'bla ("big whites") of French origin dominated economic and political life. The British administration employed Indians on indentured servitude from India to the same degree as in Mauritius resulting in a small Indian population. The Indians, like a similar minority of Chinese(SONY VGP-BPS9A/B battery), were confined to a merchant class. Today the descendents of the Indian, Chinese, and Gran'bla form distinct ethnic communities, although most people are of 'black' African origin, often mixed with 'white' European or Asian heritage.
As the islands of Seychelles had no indigenous population, the current Seychellois are composed of people who have emigrated to the island. The largest ethnic groups are those of African, French, Indian, and Chinese descent. French and English are official languages along with Seychellois Creole, which is primarily based upon French(SONY VGP-BPS9/B battery).
According to the 2002 census, most Seychellois are Christians: 82.3% are Roman Catholic, 6.4% are Anglican, and 4.5% are of other Christian denominations. There are also small minorities that practice Hinduism (2.1%) and Islam (1.1%). Other non-Christian faiths account for 1.5% of the population while a further 2.1% were non-religious or did not specify a religion. The total median age of Seychellois is 32 years. (SONY VGP-BPS9A/S battery)
See also: Religion in Seychelles, Women in Seychelles, and Music of Seychelles
Seychellois society is essentially matriarchal. Mothers tend to be dominant in the household, controlling most current expenditures and looking after the interests of the children. Unwed mothers are the societal norm, and the law requires fathers to support their children. Men are important for their earning ability, but their domestic role is relatively peripheral. Older women can usually count on financial support from family members living at home or contributions from the earnings of grown children(SONY VGP-BPL9 battery).
The district clock tower in the centre of Victoria, capital of Seychelles
The music of Seychelles is diverse. The folk music of the islands incorporates multiple influences in a syncretic fashion, including African rhythms, aesthetic and instrumentation—such as the zez and the bom (known in Brazil as berimbau), European contredanse, polka and mazurka, French folk and pop, sega from Mauritius and Réunion, taarab, soukous and other pan-African genres, and Polynesian, Indian and Arcadian music. (SONY VGP-BPS10 battery) A complex form of percussion music called contombley is popular, as is Moutya, a fusion of native folk rhythms with Kenyan benga.
Traditionally, despite a greater connection with Great Britain (e.g., in education, which follows the International General Certificate of Education (IGCSE), and on many aspects of the law) many foreign observers[who?] have stated that "the culture remains emphatically French" and about 70% of the population have a family name of French origin, compared with only about 20% family names of English origin. (SONY VGP-BPL10 battery) The two are often mixed, such that inhabitants receive an English first name and a French family name or vice-versa (e.g., Jean-Pierre Kingsmith).
Environmental legislation is very strict, and every tourism project must undergo an environmental review and a lengthy process of consultations with the public and conservationists. The Seychelles is a world leader in sustainable tourism(SONY VGP-BPS11 battery). The end result of this sustainable development is an intact and stable natural environment, which attracts financially strong visitors (150,000 in 2007) rather than short-term mass tourism. Since 1993 a law guarantees the citizens the right to a clean environment and at the same time obliges them to protect this environment. The country holds a record for the highest percentage of land under natural conservation—nearly 50% of the total land area of the Seychelles(SONY VGP-BPL11 battery).
Anse Source d' Argent on La Digue
Like many fragile island ecosystems, the Seychelles saw the loss of biodiversity during early human history, including the disappearance of most of the giant tortoises from the granitic islands, the felling of coastal and mid-level forests, and the extinction of species such as the chestnut flanked white eye, the Seychelles Parakeet, the Seychelles Black Terrapin and the saltwater crocodile(SONY VGP-BPL12 battery). However, extinctions were far fewer than on islands such as Mauritius or Hawaii, partly due to a shorter period of human occupation (since 1770). The Seychelles today is known for success stories in protecting its flora and fauna. The rare Seychelles Black Parrot, the national bird of the country, is now protected.
The granitic islands of Seychelles are home to about 75 endemic plant species, with a further 25 or so species in the Aldabra group. Particularly well-known is the Coco de Mer(SONY VGP-BPS12 battery), a species of palm that grows only on the islands of Praslin and neighbouring Curieuse. Sometimes nicknamed the "love nut" because of the shape of its fruit which, with the husk removed, presents a "double" coconut resembling a woman's buttocks, the coco-de-mer produces the world's heaviest seed pods. The jellyfish tree is to be found in only a few locations on Mahe. This strange and ancient plant in a genus of its own (Medusagynaceae) has resisted all efforts to propagate it(SONY VGP-BPS13 battery). Other unique plant species include the Wright's Gardenia Rothmannia annae found only on Aride Island Special Reserve.
The freshwater crab genus Seychellum is endemic to the granitic Seychelles, and a further 26 species of crabs and 5 species of hermit crabs live on the islands.
Giant Tortoise (Dipsochelys hololissa)
The Aldabra Giant Tortoise now populates many of the islands of the Seychelles. The Aldabra population is the largest in the world. These unique reptiles can be found even in captive herds. It has been reported that the granitic islands of Seychelles supported distinct species of Seychelles giant tortoises; the status of the different populations is currently unclear(SONY VGP-BPS13Q battery).
There are several unique varieties of orchids on the Islands.
Seychelles hosts some of the largest seabird colonies in the world. In the outer islands Aldabra and Cosmoledo are home to the largest numbers. In granitic Seychelles the largest numbers are on Aride Island including the world's largest numbers of two species.
The marine life around the islands, especially the more remote coral islands, can be spectacular. More than 1,000 species of fish have been recorded(SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q battery). Since the use of spearguns and dynamite for fishing was banned through efforts of local conservationists in the 1960s, the wildlife is unafraid of snorkelers and divers. Coral bleaching in 1998 has unfortunately damaged most reefs, but some reefs show healthy recovery (e.g. Silhouette Island).
Although multinational oil companies have explored the waters around the islands, no oil or gas has been found(SONY VGP-BPS13B/Q battery). In 2005, a deal was signed with US firm Petroquest, giving it exploration rights to about 30,000 km2 around Constant, Topaz, Farquhar and Coëtivy islands until 2014. Seychelles imports oil from the Gulf in the form of refined petroleum derivatives at the rate of about 5,700 barrels per day (910 m3/d). In recent years oil has been imported from Kuwait and also from Bahrain(SONY VGP-BPS13/B battery). Seychelles imports three times more oil than is needed for internal uses because it re-exports the surplus oil in the form of bunker for ships and aircraft calling at Mahé. There are no refining capacities on the islands. Oil and gas imports, distribution and re-export are the responsibility of Seychelles Petroleum (Sepec), while oil exploration is the responsibility of the Seychelles National Oil Company (SNOC) (SONY VGP-BPS13B/B battery).
The main natural resources of the Seychelles are fish, copra, cinnamon, coconuts, salt and iron.
The Comoros i/ˈkɒməroʊz/ (Arabic: جزر القمر, Ǧuzur al-Qumur / Qamar), officially the Union of the 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 coast of Africa(SONY VGP-BPS13A/S battery), between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar. Other countries near the Comoros are Tanzania to the northwest and the Seychelles to the northeast. Its capital is Moroni, on Grande Comore.
At 1,862 km2 (719 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 798,000. The name "Comoros" derives from the Arabic word قمر qamar ("moon").(SONY VGP-BPS21A/B battery) As a nation formed at a crossroads of many civilizations, the archipelago is noted for its diverse culture and history. The Union of the Comoros has three official languages – Comorian, Arabic and French – though French is the sole official language on Mayotte.
Officially, in addition to many smaller islands, the country consists of the four major islands in the volcanic Comoros archipelago: northwesternmost Grande Comore (Ngazidja); Mohéli (Mwali); Anjouan (Nzwani); and southeasternmost Mayotte (Maore) (SONY VGP-BPS21B battery). Mayotte, however, has never been administered by the Comoros government (or, before independence, its predecessors). Instead, Mayotte continues to be administered by France (currently as an overseas department) as it was the only island in the archipelago that voted against independence in 1974. France has since vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions that would affirm Comorian sovereignty over the island(SONY VGP-BPS21 battery). In addition, a referendum on the question of Mayotte becoming an overseas department of France in 2011 was held held on 29 March 2009 and passed overwhelmingly.
The Comoros is the only state to be a member of all of the following: the African Union, Francophonie, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Arab League (of which it is the southernmost state) and the Indian Ocean Commission. Since independence in 1975, the country has experienced numerous coups d'état and, as of 2008, about half the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. (SONY VGP-BPS21/S battery)
The first human inhabitants of the Comoros Islands are thought to have been African and Austronesian settlers who traveled to the islands 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 Comoros became populated by a succession of diverse groups from the coast of Africa(SONY VGP-BPS13S battery), the Persian Gulf, the Malay Archipelago, and Madagascar. Swahili settlers first reached the islands as a part of the greater Bantu expansion that took place in Africa throughout the first millennium.
According to a famous pre-Islamic mythology: A jinni (possibly Spirit) dropped a jewel, which formed a great circular inferno. This became the Kartala volcano which, created the island of Comoros. The early inhabitants of the islands worshiped nature and most probably the moon which they believed controlled the tides, these beliefs unified the islands(SONY VGP-BPS13B/S battery).
Development of the Comoros is divided into phases, beginning with Swahili influence and settlement in 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. The citizens and historians(SONY VGP-BPS13B/G battery)of the Comoros state that early Arab settlements date to even before their known arrival to the archipelago, and Swahili historians frequently trace genealogies back to Arab ancestors who had traveled from Yemen mainly Hadhramawt and Oman.
In the year 933 Al-Masudi mentions Omani sailors, who call the Comoros islands "The Perfume Islands" and sing of waves that break rhythmically along broad, pearl-sand beaches, the light breezes scented with ylang-ylang, a component in many perfumes(SONY VGP-BPS14 battery).
In 1154, Arab geographer al-Idrisi depicted the Comoros on a map and mentioned how its sailors sold metal tools for gold and ivory in East Africa; he considered the island more stable and individually prosperous than the busy coastal ports of Mombasa, Zanzibar, Kilwa and Kitao. In the 15th century, the Arab seafarer Ahmad ibn Majid drew the individual routes among these islands.
Medieval Comoros(SONY VGP-BPL14 battery)
According to legend, in 632, upon hearing of Islam, islanders are said to have dispatched an emissary, the navigator Qumralu, to Mecca—but by the time he arrived there, the Prophet Muhammad had died. Nonetheless, after a stay in Mecca, he returned to Qanbalu and led the gradual conversion of his islanders to Islam(SONY VGP-BPS14/B battery).
Some of the earliest accounts on the island of Comoros were derived from the works of Al-Masudi, that mentions the importance of the Comoro Islands, like other coastal areas in the region, along early Islamic trade routes and how the islands were frequently visited by Muslims including Persian and Arab merchants and sailors from Basra in search of coral, ylang-ylang, ivory, beads, spices, gold, they also brought Islam to the people of the Zanj including Comoros(SONY VGP-BPS14/S battery). As the importance of Comoros grew along the East African coast, both small and large mosques were constructed. Despite its distance from the coast, Comoros is situated along the Swahili Coast in East Africa. It was a major hub of trade and an important location in the sea route between Kilwa (an outlet for Zimbabwean gold) in Mozambique and Mombasa in Kenya. (SONY VGP-BPS14B battery)
After the arrival of the Portuguese and the collapse of East African sultanates, the powerful Omani Sultan Saif bin Sultan began to defeat the Dutch and the Portuguese. His successor Said bin Sultan increased Omani Arab influence in region especially when nearby Zanzibar came under Omani rule, and Comorian culture, especially architecture and religion also inhibited features that were unique to the plurality of the region. Sultans on the Comoros a large community of rival rulers controlled much of the islands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (SONY VGP-BPS22 battery)
By the time Europeans showed interest in the Comoros, the traditional Muslim, Swahili and Arab heritage islands began to adopt to the changes introduced by European colonization. More recent western scholarship by Thomas Spear and Randall Pouwells emphasizes black African historical predominance over the diffusionist perspective. (SONY VGP-BPS22 battery)
European contact and French colonization
Sultan Said Ali bin Said Omar of Grande Comore (1897)
Portuguese explorers first visited the archipelago in 1505.
By the year 1506 the Portuguese landed on the islands and began to challenge the Bajas (Bantu Muslim chiefs) and Fanis (lesser chiefs). In the years that followed the islands were sacked by the forces of Afonso de Albuquerque in the year 1514 by the Portuguese. The ruler of the Comoran Muslims barely survived after hiding in an extinct volcanic crater and despite the inadequacy of their cover(SONY VGP-BPS18 battery), the Portuguese miraculously never found them. In the year 1648 the islands were raided by the Malagasy pirates, they sacked Iconi, a coastal trading hub near Ngazidja after defeating the weak Sultan.
In 1793, Malagasy warriors from Madagascar first started raiding the islands for slaves, and later settled and seized control in many locations. On Comoros, it was estimated in 1865 that as much as 40% of the population consisted of slaves. France first established colonial rule in the Comoros in 1841(SONY VGP-BPS22/A battery). The first French colonists landed in Mayotte, and Andrian Tsouli, the Malagasy King of Mayotte, signed the Treaty of April 1841, which ceded the island to the French authorities.
In 1886, Mohéli was placed under French protection by its Queen Salima Machimba. That same year, after consolidating his authority over all of Grande Comore, Sultan Said Ali agreed to French protection of his island, though he retained sovereignty until 1909. Also in 1909, Sultan Said Muhamed of Anjouan abdicated in favor of French rule(SONY VGP-BPS22A battery). The Comoros (or Les Comores) was officially made a French colony in 1912, and the islands were placed under the administration of the French colonial governor general of Madagascar in 1914.
The Comoros served as a way station for merchants sailing to the Far East and 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(SONY Vaio VGN-CR11H/B battery), and wealthy Arab merchants established a plantation-based economy that now uses about one-third of the land for export crops. After its annexation, France converted Mayotte into a sugar plantation colony. The other islands were soon transformed as well, and the major crops of ylang-ylang, vanilla, coffee, cocoa bean, and sisal were introduced. (SONY Vaio VGN-CR116E battery)
Agreement was reached with France in 1973 for 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(SONY Vaio VGN-CR116 battery).
The next 30 years were a period of political turmoil. On 3 August 1975, mercenary Bob Denard, with clandestine support from Jacques Foccart and the French government, removed president Ahmed Abdallah from office in an armed coup and replaced him with United National Front of the Comoros (UNF) member Prince Said Mohammed Jaffar. Months later, in January 1976, Jaffar was ousted in favor of his Minister of Defense Ali Soilih. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11S battery)
At this time, the population of Mayotte voted against independence from France in two referenda. The first, held in 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ15T battery). 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 Comoros (République Fédérale Islamique des Comores; جمهورية القمر الإتحادية الإسلامية ) (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ15G battery). 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 his command. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ4000 battery)
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 Abdulkarim became president by election(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ460E battery). He led the country from 1996, during a time of labor crises, government suppression, and secessionist conflicts, until his death November 1998. He was succeeded by Interim President Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde.
The islands of Anjouan and Mohéli declared their independence from the Comoros in 1997, in an attempt to restore French rule. But France rejected their request, leading to bloody confrontations between federal troops and rebels. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ140E battery) 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 d'état since independence in 1975. Azali, however, failed to consolidate power and reestablish control over the islands, which was the subject of international criticism(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11L battery). 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11Z battery).
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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11M battery), a Sunni Muslim cleric nicknamed the "Ayatollah" for his time spent studying Islam in Iran. Azali honored 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18M battery). On 25 March 2008 hundreds of soldiers from the African Union and 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 territory of Mayotte to seek asylum. Anti-French protests followed in Comoros (see 2008 invasion of Anjouan) (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18 battery).
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 President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi. Dhoinine, a pharmacist by training, is the first President of Comoros from the island of Mohéli(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ210CE battery).
The Comoros is formed by Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli), Nzwani (Anjouan), and Maore (Mayotte), the 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31S battery), in the Mozambique Channel, between the African coast (nearest to Mozambique and Tanzania) and Madagascar, with no land borders.
At 2,235 km2 (863 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. The climate is generally tropical and mild, and the two major seasons are distinguishable by their relative raininess(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31Z battery). The temperature reaches an average of 29–30 °C (84–86 °F) in March, the hottest month in the rainy season (called kashkazi, December to April), and an average low of 19 °C (66 °F) in the cool, dry season (kusi, May to November). The islands are rarely subject to cyclones.
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) (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31E battery), and the lack of good harbors 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, Nioumakele, and Jimilime, emanating from a central peak, Ntringi (1,575 m or 5,167 ft) (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31J battery).
The oldest of the islands, Maore has the richest soil as well as good harbors and local fish populations, due to its ring of coral reefs. Dzaoudzi, the previous capital of all the colonial Comoros, is located on Pamanzi, (French: Petite-Terre), the largest islet of Maore. Maore's current capital is at Mamoudzou. The term Mayotte (or Maore) may also refer to the group of islands, of which the largest is known as Maore (French: Grande-Terre), and it includes Maore's surrounding islands, most notably Pamanzi (Petite-Terre) (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31M battery).
Satellite view of Mount Karthala after a November 2005 eruption. Ash obscures the islands (outlined).
The islands of the Comoros Archipelago were formed by volcanic activity. Mount Karthala, an active shield volcano located on Ngazidja, is the country's highest point, at 2,361 m or 7,748 ft (2,362 m) It contains the Comoros' largest patch of its disappearing rainforest. Karthala is currently one of the most active volcanoes in the world, with a minor eruption in May 2006(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31B battery), 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 km (1.9 by 2.5 mi) caldera was destroyed.
The Comoros also lays claim to the Glorioso Islands, comprising Grande Glorieuse, Île du Lys, Wreck Rock, South Rock, Verte Rocks (three islets), and three unnamed islets, one of France's Îles Éparses or Îles éparses de l'océan indien (Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean) possessions(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ32 battery). The Glorioso Islands were administered by the colonial 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 Comoros now claims it as part of its exclusive economic zone.
The Comoros constitute an ecoregion in their own right, Comoros forests(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21 battery).
Main article: Politics of Comoros
Politics of the Comoros takes place in a framework of a federal presidential republic, whereby the 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(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21S battery), and the transfer of power from Azali Assoumani to Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi in May 2006 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. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21M battery)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 islands. Mohéli holds the current presidency rotation, and so Ikililou Dhoinine is President of the Union(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ38M battery); 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(Sony VGN-NR11S/S Battery). 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. (Sony VGN-NR11M/S Battery) 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 councilors.
As of 2008, Comoros and Mauritania are considered by US-based organization Freedom House as the only real “electoral democracies” of the Arab World. (Sony VGN-NR11Z/S Battery)
Also in 2008, the Comoros were ranked 14th out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. The Ibrahim Index is a comprehensive measure of African governance, based on a number of different variables which reflect the success with which governments deliver essential political goods to its citizens. (Sony VGN-NR11Z/T Battery)
Main article: Military of 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 defense force. A defense treaty with France provides naval resources for protection of territorial waters, training of Comorian military personnel, and air surveillance. France maintains few senior officers presence in Comoros at government request. France maintains a small maritime base and a Foreign Legion Detachment (DLEM) on Mayotte(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21E battery).
Main article: Foreign relations of Comoros
In November 1975, Comoros became the 143rd member of the United Nations. The new nation was defined as comprising the entire archipelago, although France continues to maintain control over the island of Mayotte as an overseas department. Comoros has repeatedly pressed its claim to the island before the United Nations General Assembly, which adopted a series of resolutions under the caption "Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte"(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21Z battery), opining that Mayotte belongs to 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 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 UN General Assembly(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21J battery), the Organization of African Unity, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, have similarly questioned French sovereignty over Mayotte.