A Glimpse into the History of the Comoros Islands
There is evidence that the Comoros Islands were inhabited since the 6th century AD. The first people that lived on that territory were mostly Malayo-Polynesian sailors, but later Arabs and Africans settled there.
For several centuries the Comoros Islands used to be an important centre of trade for slaves and spices. Between the 10th and 15th centuries, Islamic people arrived to the islands from the areas around the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. They brought with them Islamic traditions and beliefs and set up competing sultanates that failed to form a uniform state and achieve political stability. The only thing sultanates had in common was Islamic religion that had a great impact on the islands' social life. Today the culture of the Comoros is very much identical to that of the Swahili people on the African coast from Somalia to Mozambique.
Constant conflicts between sultanates on the islands allowed France to establish a presence in the area in the nineteenth century and in the early 20th century France officially proclaimed the Comoros Islands its colonies.
During the first half of the 20th century the Comoros islands remained isolated from the world as France didn't encourage political organization and local press. But the locals persistently demanded changes and in December 1961 France permitted setting up a system of internal autonomy. Following the violent students' strike in 1968 the first political parties were formed in the country.
While some parties called for immediate independence from France others favored more gradual break. There was one party that even opposed independence from France. The islands suffered from great political unrest from 1971 to 1973. In December 1972 a coalition of pro-independence parties won 34 seats, while the MPM won only five. On 15 July 1973 Comorian leaders managed to obtain a document endorsed in Paris under which independence was to be granted after a delay of five years and only after a referendum on each island.
After a referendum in December 1974with a 94.6% vote for independence Ahmed Abdallah, the leader of one political party proclaimed a unilateral declaration of independence. Despite the rejection of five deputies from Mahoré (Mayotte) on 7 July, Ahmed Abdallah was elected head of state and on 18 July, the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) accepted the Comoros' membership. However, he was soon deposed by Ali Solih, the leader of an opposing political party. Ali Solih ruled the country until a coup supported by white mercenaries and led by Bob Denard that restored Ahmed Abdallah to power in 1978.
President Ahmed Abdallah was not popular within his party and outside it. On 27 November 1989 he was killed by the military man of his armed forces. His successor was Said Mohammed Djohar who was elected president in March 1990 for a six-year term.
In 1997 Anjouan seceded from the Comoros and this was followed by turmoil and fierce fighting on the island.
On 23 April 1999, the leaders of Anjouan refused to sign an agreement by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which guaranteed broad autonomy for the three islands under a central administration. The conflict got escalated even more and violence reached the main island and the capital Moroni.
In the attempt to stop the spreading violence, Col. Assoumani Azzali staged a coup and ousted President Mohamed Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde and the government of his Prime Minister Abbas Djoussouf on 30 April 1999. Col. Assoumani Azzali intended to rule the country for one year only, and promised to organize elections within that period of time.