What Should I Know About the Comoros?

N. Madison

Located in the Indian Ocean, the Union of Comoros is an island country that is positioned off of Africa’s eastern coast. Though Comoros has no border countries, it does have neighboring nations, including Madagascar, Mozambique, the Seychelles, and Tanzania, which are located just across the ocean. Before 2002, Comoros was officially called the Islamic Federal Republic of the Comoros. Comoros is derived from the Arabic word gamar, which means moon.

Dried vanilla beans. Comoros is a major producer of vanilla.
Dried vanilla beans. Comoros is a major producer of vanilla.

The Comoros is a small country, spanning just 838 square miles (2,235 square kilometers). In fact, it is third in line among the smallest African nations. It also has one of the smallest African populations, though it has one of the highest population densities. Although the Comoros is called an island nation, it actually consists of four different islands, including Mwali, Nzwani, Mahore, and Ngazidja. It is also lays claim to several other small islands.

Comoros has a tropical climate in a marine location.
Comoros has a tropical climate in a marine location.

The Comoros was once a French colony; the French first claimed it and set up governing in 1841. However, it wasn’t until 1912 that the Comoros became an official French colony, falling under the rule of Madagascar’s French-colonial governor general. At the time, the group of islands was used as a port for merchant sailors. Then, the French moved in, including settlers and French-owned businesses, bringing Arab merchants along with them. They established plantations that produced such crops as sugar, ylang-ylang, coffee, and cocoa; vanilla was also produced and exported.

The Comoros remained firmly under French rule until 1973, when it reached an independence agreement with France. Under this agreement, Comoros would gain independence in 1978. However on 6 July 1975, the Comorian parliament declared the nation’s independence. The island of Mayotte chose to remain under French control while the rest of Comoros gained its first president, Ahmed Abdallah, on 5 September 1975.

Today, Comoros is considered a federal presidential republic. Under this framework, the president plays dual roles as both the head of state and head of government. The country has its own constitution, which was ratified on 23 December 2001. However, each of its islands enjoys a measure of independence, as each is allowed its own constitution, president, and parliament.

The nation’s legal system is a combination of Islamic law and leftover legal code from French rule. Typically, disputes are handled by village elders or civilian-court systems. However, the nation does have a supreme court, which mostly handles election and constitutional issues.

Comoros features a marine tropical climate, with just two seasons. It is humid and hotter from November until April and cooler and dry for the remaining months. Though the climate for most of the year is usually rather mild, with temperatures hovering at about 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius), the nation does experience such extremes as cyclones. It also experiences monsoon winds at times.

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