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Rumblings on the Islands of the Moon

Coen van Wyk

Posted on October 28, 2018 12:31

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Forgotten in the Indian Ocean these strategic islands live up to their history of unrest, revolt, political violence and unpredictability, while Ylang-ylang blossoms perfume the air and the Karthala volcano slumbers uneasily.

The great pirates told of the island Johanna where they rested, under the protection of the female sultan, Alimah. In return they protected her subjects from Malagasy slavers. Earlier still Arab traders and explorers came to what they called the Islands of the Moon, from where they could visit Madagascar and the East African coast. Fighting off Dutch and Portuguese naval powers, the Comoros enjoyed a degree of peace, which allowed the people to indulge in their national sport: political insurrection.

Tranquility. Africa-backpackers


Falling under French colonial government, the Comoros was governed from Madagascar, but achieved independence in 1978. Well, sort of.

Three of the islands voted for independence, the fourth, Mayotte, voted to remain part of France, and has since achieved the status of an insular Department and integral region of France, a fact which remains a thorn in the flesh of the other three islands, and the African Union.

The post-colonial rule of the Comoros has been a succession of Coups, mercenary-supported overthrows of Government and regular rebellion against one leader after another. An expensive, cumbersome Constitution created a Federalist structure between the three islands. This has failed to prevent political aspirations from boiling over. The famous Bob Denard and his mainly French mercenaries twice invaded and overthrew sitting Presidents. The non-military leaders can be counted on one hand and leave fingers free.

Flower of flowers: Ylang-ylang blossom


The Mozambique Canal which washes the shores produce an abundance of fish, despite a lack of control of international fleets and unchecked pollution by passing tankers. Vanilla is growing in importance as the Malagasy production buckles under rampant criminality, while the erstwhile cash crop of Ylang-ylang flower essence seems to be in decline. The people are of the poorest in the world, with an estimated per capita income of $1 600.

Vanilla - botanical gold

The current President, Azali Assoumani, a trained paratrooper, was serving as Chief of Staff when in 1999, he overthrew what he denounced as a corrupt regime that would allow the breakup of the three island federation. In 2002 he won multi-party elections, and remained in power until 2008. Karthala erupted during his Presidency, a bad augury. Despite this, Azali Assoumani was elected again in 2016. Recently he supported an amendment to the Constitution that might see him extend his Presidency until 2029.

The latest development is that the population of Anjouan, wealthiest of the three islands, have rebelled, again. This time the Governor, Abdou Salami Abdou, was arrested for complicity.

The 2019 elections will tell if the electorate seeks a strong man. Depending on who does the counting. The stakes are high. China and India are extending their power into the region, France seems to tire of its regional role. The Comoros are in a strategic position. Who will control the entrance to the Mozambique channel?

Safe harbor? World bank photo
Coen van Wyk

Posted on October 28, 2018 12:31

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Source: Entrepreneur

It's following a similar strategy to the 2016 presidential election.

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