Programme Paper

Project: Africa Programme

Simon Massey and Bruce Baker
  • Comoros, comprised of the three islands Ngazidja, Nzwani and Mwali, has been coup-prone and politically chaotic since independence in 1975.
  • The African Union launched a successful naval and military intervention into the Comoros in March 2007. Little noticed internationally, this intervention was a highly significant development for the African Union, and contrasted with more controversial AU interventions into Somalia and Sudan.
  • The fourth island in the archipelago, Maore (Mayotte), remains under French control and voted on 29 March 2009 to become a full overseas department of the former colonial power, despite the objections of the Union government, the AU, the Arab League and the United Nations.
  • The current constitution, introduced in 2001, was designed to unite the three islands of the Union of the Comoros, but it failed to prevent the authoritarian president of Nzwani, Mohamed Bacar, from refusing to leave office in 2007. This led to his eventual ousting by a joint Comorian-AU military intervention in March 2008. The referendum on 17 May 2009 validated the constitutional amendment to concentrate power in the Union government and extend the presidential term from four to five years.
  • While relations with France remain crucial, the government of President Ahmed Sambi has sought to widen Comoros' diplomatic and commercial ties. This has resulted in an exceptionally diverse foreign policy for such a small state, engendering opportunities but also possible risks.