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Comoros

Comoros

The Comoros officially the Union of the Comoros is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel between northern Madagascar and northeastern Mozambique.

Background History

Comoros has endured more than 20 coups or attempted coups since gaining independence from France in 1975. In 1997, the islands of Anjouan and Moheli declared independence from Comoros. In 1999, military chief Col. Azali seized power in a bloodless coup, and helped negotiate the 2000 Fomboni Accords power-sharing agreement in which the federal presidency rotates among the three islands, and each island maintains its own local government. Azali won the 2002 presidential election, and each island in the archipelago elected its own president. Azali stepped down in 2006 and President Sambi was elected to office. In 2007, Mohamed Bacar effected Anjouan's de-facto secession from the Union, refusing to step down in favor of fresh Anjouanais elections when Comoros' other islands held legitimate elections in July. The African Union (AU) initially attempted to resolve the political crisis by applying sanctions and a naval blockade on Anjouan, but in March 2008, AU and Comoran soldiers seized the island. The move was generally welcomed by the island's inhabitants.

Government

Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Union of the Comoros
  • conventional short form: Comoros
  • local long form: Udzima wa Komori (Comorian); Union des Comores (French); Jumhuriyat al Qamar al Muttahidah (Arabic)
  • local short form: Komori (Comorian); Comores (French); Juzur al Qamar (Arabic)

Capital:

  • name: Moroni
  • population: 49,000
  • geographic coordinates: 11 42 S, 43 14 E
  • time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Independence:

  • 6 July 1975 (from France)

Government Type:

  • republic

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Ikililou Dhoinine (since 26 May 2011)
  • head of government: President Ikililou Dhoinine (since 26 May 2011)
  • elections: as defined by the 2001 constitution, the presidency rotates every four years among the elected presidents from the three main islands in the Union; election last held on 7 November and 26 December 2010 (next to be held in 2014)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral Assembly of the Union

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court

People & Society

Population:

  • 737,284 (global rank: 164)
  • growth rate: 2.063% (global rank: 44)

Nationality:

  • noun: Comoran(s)
  • adjective: Comoran

Major Cities:

  • Moroni(capital) 49,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • Antalote, Cafre, Makoa, Oimatsaha, Sakalava

Religions:

  • Sunni Muslim 98%, Roman Catholic 2%

Languages:

  • Arabic (official), French (official), Shikomoro (a blend of Swahili and Arabic)

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 62.74 years (global rank: 181)
  • male: 60.54 years
  • female: 65.01 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 68.97 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 21)
  • male: 80.12 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 57.5 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS (2009 est.):

  • adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (global rank: 118)
  • people living with AIDS: fewer than 500 (global rank: 153)

Literacy:

  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 56.5%
  • male: 63.6%
  • female: 49.3%

Economy

One of the world's poorest countries, Comoros is made up of three islands that have inadequate transportation links, a young and rapidly increasing population, and few natural resources. The low educational level of the labor force contributes to a subsistence level of economic activity, high unemployment, and a heavy dependence on foreign grants and technical assistance. Agriculture, including fishing, hunting, and forestry, contributes 40% to GDP, employs 80% of the labor force, and provides most of the exports. Export income is heavily reliant on the three main crops of vanilla, cloves, and ylang-ylang and Comoros' export earnings are easily disrupted by disasters such as fires. The country is not self-sufficient in food production; rice, the main staple, accounts for the bulk of imports. The government - which is hampered by internal political disputes - lacks a comprehensive strategy to attract foreign investment and is struggling to upgrade education and technical training, privatize commercial and industrial enterprises, improve health services, diversify exports, promote tourism, and reduce the high population growth rate. Political problems have inhibited growth, which averaged only about 1% in 2006-09, but more than 2% per year in 2010-11. Remittances from 150,000 Comorans abroad help supplement GDP. In September 2009 the IMF approved Comoros for a three-year $21 million loan, but the government has struggled to meet program targets, such as restricting spending on wages, strengthening domestic revenue collection, and moving forward on structural reforms.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $816 million (global rank: 206)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $1,200 (global rank: 207)
  • real growth rate: 2.2% (global rank: 148)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 41.8%, industry: 8.6%, services: 49.6%

Currency:

  • currency: Comoran Franc (KMF)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 349.7

Poverty:

  • population below poverty line: 60%
  • unemployment rate: 20%

Agricultural Products:

  • vanilla, cloves, ylang-ylang (perfume essence), copra, coconuts, bananas, cassava (tapioca)

Industries:

  • fishing, tourism, perfume distillation

Export Commodities:

  • vanilla, ylang-ylang (perfume essence), cloves, copra

Import Commodities:

  • rice and other foodstuffs, consumer goods, petroleum products, cement, transport equipment

Geography

Location:

  • Southern Africa, group of islands at the northern mouth of the Mozambique Channel, about two-thirds of the way between northern Madagascar and northern Mozambique

Area:

  • total: 2,235 sq km (global rank: 180)
  • land: 2,235 sq km
  • water: 0 sq km

Climate:

  • tropical marine; rainy season (November to May)

Land Use:

  • arable land: 35.87%
  • permanent crops: 23.32%
  • other: 40.81%

Current Environmental Issues:

  • soil degradation and erosion results from crop cultivation on slopes without proper terracing; deforestation

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: claims French-administered Mayotte and challenges France's and Madagascar's claims to Banc du Geyser, a drying reef in the Mozambique Channel; in May 2008, African Union forces are called in to assist the Comoros military recapture Anjouan Island from rebels who seized it in 2001
  • human trafficking: Comoros is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; children are subjected to forced labor within the country in domestic service, roadside and market vending, baking, and agriculture

For more info please contact:
African Studies
(310) 825-3686
africa@international@ucla.edu

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