The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its
own independent government and sovereignty, GDP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.
Comoros: East Africa archipelago paradise
The Comoros is officially the Union of the Comoros, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel off the eastern coast of Africa. It shares maritime borders with Madagascar and Mayotte to the southeast, Tanzania to the northwest, Mozam- bique to the west, and the Seychelles to the northeast. The capital and largest city is Moroni.
At 719 square miles, excluding the contested island of Mayotte, Comoros is the fourth-smallest African nation by area. The population, excluding Mayotte, is 909,315 as of February 2022. Moroni is the largest city in the Comoros boasting a population of 42,872. As a nation formed at a crossroads of different civilizations, the archipelago is noted for its diverse culture and history.
The sovereign state consists of three major islands and numerous smaller islands, all within the volcanic Comoro Islands. The major islands are commonly known by their French names: northwesternmost Grande Comore (Ngazidja), Mohéli (Mwali), and Anjouan (Ndzuani). The nation also claims a fourth major island, southeasternmost Mayotte (Maore), although Mayotte voted against independence from France in 1974. Since that referendum Mayotte has never been administered by an independent Comoros government, and continues to be administered by France as an overseas department. France vetoed UN Security Council resolutions that would affirm Comorian sovereignty over the island.
Three major islands form the Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean in the Mozambique Channel between the African coast nearest Mozambique, Tanzania, and Madagascar. The islands are Ngazidja, Mwali, and Ndzuani, and a scattering of islets admin- isted by France, called the Glorioso Islands. The capital and largest city in the archipelago located on Ngazidja, is Moroni. At just 719 square miles, the Cormoros is one of the smallest countries in the world, even though it also claims 120 square miles of territorial seas. The interiors of the islands vary from steep mountains to low hills. The 2017 census of the Comoros concluded that Ngazidja, the largest island of the Comoros, was the most recently-formed, evident by its rocky soil.
Mwali, with its capital at Fomboni, is the smallest of the four major islands. Ndzuani, whose capital is Mutsamudu, has a distinctive triangular shape caused by three mountain ranges — Shisiwani, Nioumakele and Jimilime. The Comoros archipelago was formed by volcanism. Mt. Karthala, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth located on Ngazidja, is the archipelago's highest point at 7,746 feet. It features the Comoros' largest area of rainforest. Mt. Karthala erupted in 1991, 2005, and 2006. In the April 2005 eruption, which lasted two days, 40,000 citizens were evacuated.
The Comoros claim to a series of scattered islands in the Indian Ocean — Glorioso Islands, comprised of Grande Glorieuse, Île du Lys, Wreck Rock, South Rock; and three unnamed islets, is one of France's overseas districts. The Glorioso Islands were administered by the colonial Comoros before 1975, and are therefore sometimes considered part of the Comoros Archi- pelago. Banc du Geyser, a former island in the Comoros archipelago, now submerged, is geogra-
graphically located in the Îles Éparses, but was annexed by Madagascar in 1976 as an unclaimed territory. The Comoros and France still view the Banc du Geyser as part of the Glorioso Islands and part of its particular exclusive economic zone.
The climate is generally tropical and mild, and the two major seasons are distinguishable by their precipitation. The temperature reaches an average of 84-86 degrees Fahrenheit in March, the
The brain center, and seat of government and business in the Comoros Islands is the capital city of Moroni, a bustling city of 869, 691 people. But the charm of the archipelago on the East coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean are its pristine white sand beaches.
Moroni has a network of harbors and docks for the archipelago's import-export trade. The top imports are rice,, meat, oil, cement, and cars. Exports are cloves, essential oils, vanilla, and scrap vessels.
The environment of the Com- oros archipelago supports excellent agriculture due to its fertile volcanic soil as a result of the volcanic activity thou- sands of years ago. The ara- ble soil is attributed to the deposition of volcanic mater- ials rich in minerals that are broken down or weathered by erosion or water.
Agriculture contributes 40 per- cent to the GDP, employs 80 percent of the labor force, and provides most of the exports. Agricultural resources include fishing, hunting, and forestry, and is the leading sector of Comoros' economy. The arch- ipelago is not self-sufficient in food production. The main staple, rice, accounts for the bulk of imports.
The environment supports lemurs, birds, snakes. and abundant marine life.
hottest month in the monsoon season, which extends from November to April. The average low is 66 degrees in the cool, dry season, which occurs from May to October. The Comoros also constitute an eco-region with a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 7.69/10, ranking it 33rd globally out of 172 countries.
In 1952 a specimen of the coelacanth fish was re-discovered off the Comoros coast. The 66 million-year-old spe- cies was thought to be extinct until its first recorded appearance in 1938 off the South African coast. Between 1938 and 1975, 84 specimens were caught and recorded.
History and Independence
On Dec. 22, 1974, an independence referendum was held in the Comoros. Three islands chose to become independent. In Mayotte, however, 63.8 percent of the population voted to remain part of the French Republic. On July 6, 1975, Comorian authorities unilaterally declared their independence. On Feb. 8, 1976, France organized a second referendum to determine whether Mayotte residents wished to become part of the new Comorian State. This second referendum showed even stronger support for staying in the French Republic, with 99.4 percent of the population voting affirmatively.
On July 2, 2000, 73 percent of Mayotte residents voted for the island to adopt a new status so it could become an "overseas departmental communi." Mayotte became France’s fifth overseas department, and 101st department In 2003. Then, in 2009, 95.2 percent of Mayotte residents voted for the island to become an overseas department. In 2011, Mayotte was included in the French constitution. Since 2014, Mayotte has been one of the European Union’s outermost regions.
Government, legal system
Politics of the Comoros operates in the framework of a federal presidential republic. The president the head of a multi-party system of government. The constitution of the Union of the Comoros was ratified by referendum on Dec. 23 2001. It had previously been considered a military dictatorship, and the transfer of power in May 2006 was a watershed moment — 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 democracy, human rights, and several specific enumerated rights for all Comorians. Each island, according to Title II of the Constitution, has a great amount of autonomy in the Union, including having their own constitution, president, and parliament. The presidency of the Union rotates between the islands.
The Comorian legal system rests on Islamic law, an inherited French legal code, and customary law. 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 the 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.
Foreign relations, military
The Comoros is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, the Arab League, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Indian Ocean Commission and the African Development Bank. On April 10, 2008, the Comoros became the 179th nation to accept the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The military resources of the Comoros comprised of a small standing army and a 500-member police force. A defense treaty with France provides naval resources for protection of territorial waters, training of Comorian military personnel, and air surveillance. France maintains the presence of a few senior officers in the Comoros at the government request, as well as a small maritime base and a Foreign Legion Detachment on Mayotte.
In the long-term, the Comoros GDP is projected to trend about $1.30 billionUS in 2022, according to econometric models. The economy of the Comoros was hit hard by the adverse effects of the COVID–19 in 2020 after being hit hard in 2019 by Cyclone Kenneth. The country chose a non-containment strategy but closed its borders and instituted a curfew. The archipelago’s economic isolation led to a decline in real GDP of –0.9 percent, compared with 2 percent growth in 2019, due to a drop in exports of cash crops and tourism.
The service sector, which represents more than 50 percent of GDP, was strongly affected because of restricted international travel. On the demand side, the growth in the investment rate fell to 1.8 percent in 2020 from 10.5 percent in 2019, while consumption generally stagnated. Comoros has a high propensity to import, so pegging the Comorian franc against the euro made it possible to stabilize inflation at 3.1 percent in 2020, compared with 3.7 percent in 2019—despite a 1.4 percent increase in money supply between December 2019 and June 2020.
The Comoros managed to maintain a high level of foreign exchange reserves, enough to cover 6.2 months of imports. The budget deficit amounted to 3.6 percent of GDP in 2020, compared with 2.1 percent in 2019, due to lower tax revenues and increased public spending linked to the COVID–19 crisis. The Comorian economy should grow 4.5 percent in 2022 if the pandemic subsides enough to permit the reopening of borders, remittances continue strong, the prices of export products recover and the support of development partners continues.
The country intends to continue its monetary policy under its membership of the Franc Zone, which should reduce the inflation rate to 1.9 percent in 2022. A recovery should allow consolidating public finances to reduce budget deficits to 2.3 percent of GDP in 2022. The expected return of external resources and financing should gradually reduce the current account deficit to 2.8 percent in 2022.
The religion of the majority of the population, and the official state religion, is Sunni Islam. As a member of the Arab League, it is the only country in the Arab world which is entirely in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also a member state of the African Union, the Organization internationale de la Francophonie, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Indian Ocean Commission.
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 mile. In 2001, 34 percent of the population was considered urban, and is expected to grow since rural population growth is negative, while overall population growth is still relatively high. Nearly half the population of the Comoros is under the age of 15. Major urban centers include Moroni, Mitsamihuli, Fumbuni, Mutsamudu, Domoni, and Fomboni. The Comorian diaspora extends to France, where between 200,000 and 350,000 Comorians live.
The islands of the Comoros share mostly African-Arab origins. Minorities include Malagasy (Christian) and Indian (mostly Ismaili). Recent immigrants include Chinese in Grande Comore (especially Moroni), and though most French left after independence in 1975, a small Creole community descended from France, Madagascar, and Réunion. The most common languages in the Comoros are the Comorian languages, collectively known as Shikomori. They are related to Swahili, and its four different variants — Shingazidja, Shimwali, Shindzuani, and Shimaore are spoken on all four islands.
Arabic and Latin scripts are both used, Arabic being the more widely used. An official orthography was recently 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 most non-Quranic formal education.
Almost all children attend Quranic schools, usually before, although increasingly in tandem with regular schooling. Children are taught about the Qur'an, and memorize it, and learn the Arabic script. Most parents prefer their children to attend Islamic schools before moving on to the French-based schooling system. Although the state sector is plagued by a lack of resources and low-paid teachers, there are numerous private and community schools of relatively good standard. The national curriculum, apart from a few years during post-independence, has been largely based on the French system because resources are French and most Comorians hope to go on to further education in France.
There have recently been moves to Comorianise the syllabus and integrate the two systems—the formal and the Quran schools—into one, thus moving away from the secular educational system inherited from France. 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, 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. The education system has also undergone a democratization and options exist for those other than the elite. Enrollment has also grown. 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 57 percent of the population is literate in the Latin script while more than 90 percent are literate in the Arabic script.
Traditionally, women on Ndzuani wear red and white patterned garments called shiromani, while on Ngazidja and Mwali colorful shawls called leso are worn. Many women apply a paste of ground sandalwood and coral called msinzano to their faces. Traditional male clothing is a long white shirt known as a nkandu, and a bonnet called a kofia. 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.
Twarab music, imported from Zanzibar in the early 20th century, remains the most influential genre on the islands and is popular at ada marriages. It is historically linked to both East Africa and France, and now has a strong Malagasy influence. Zanzibar's taarab music, however, remains the most influential genre on the islands, and a Comorian version called twarab is popular.
Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License