Comoros History and Culture

By | September 17, 2021


Reached by the Arabs perhaps in 980, in the century. XVI the Comoros islands were visited several times by the Portuguese, but no permanent European settlements were made on them until the century. XIX, when in 1804 the island of Anjouan (Nzwani) was occupied by order of Napoleon. The other islands were occupied by France much later: Mayotte in 1843, Grande Comore (Ngazidja) and Mohéli (Mwali) in 1886. Post under the governor of La Réunion in 1886 and then in 1908 by the governor of Madagascar, in 1912 they became finally a separate colony. In 1958 the Comoros opted for status of “Territory of Oltremare”. After the favorable outcome of the independence referendum of December 1974, on 6 July 1975 the National Assembly of the Comoros (absent the deputies of Mayotte, who thus chose to remain united with France) proclaimed independence: president of the new Republic was elected on pro-Western Ahmed Abdallah Abderrahman. Replaced by Ali Soilih in January 1976, Abdallah orchestrated a coup d’état two years later with the help of French mercenaries. Assassinated Soilih, Abdallah resumed the post of president and transformed the Comoros into an Islamic republic. In 1979 the Union comorienne pour le progrès (Udzima) became a single party and in 1985 Ahmed Abdallah also assumed the office of premier. Although a number of coups had already been thwarted, in November 1989 the president was killed by white mercenaries of the Presidential Guard under the command of Frenchman Bob Denard, who temporarily seized power. Bob Denard, pressured by South Africa and France, was soon forced to retire (December 1989), leaving room for a provisional government of national unity. According to getzipcodes, the presidential elections of 1990 therefore placed Said Mohamed Djohar at the head of the state, supported by Udzima (Abdallah’s party), but the political situation in the country continued to remain extremely unstable.

In 1996 Mohamed Djohar, after experiencing mixed fortunes, gave up his presidential mandate and new presidential elections were held that led to the head of state. former prime minister dismissed in July 1992, Mohamed Taki Abdoulkarim, leader of the National Union for Democracy. As the first act of his government, Abdoulkarim launched a new Constitution, approved by referendum in October 1996, which was inspired by the strict observance of the Koranic law and which strengthened the powers of the President of the Republic. In 1997, the separatist movement operating ad Anjouan (Nzwani) proclaimed the independence of the island from the federation and the following year also the island of Mohéli (Mwali) claimed its independence: in 1999 an agreement was proposed that provided for the creation of a new Comorian entity with strong autonomy of each island and the rotating presidency, but the delegates of Anjouan opposed it, unleashing unrest throughout the archipelago. On 30 April 1999, Chief of Staff Azali Assoumani dismissed Tadjine Ben Said Massounde, interim presidentafter the death of Abdoulkarim (November 1998) and, with a new coup d’etat, he took power: he dissolved the Federal Assembly, appointed a transitional executive and promulgated a new constitution, with which he was given all powers. In 2001 Mohammed Bacar took up the appointment of president on the island of Anjouan. The restoration of democratic institutions was achieved in 2002 thanks to the mediation of France and the African Union: the state from the Islamic Federal Republic of the Comoros took the name of Union of the Comoros, the aspiration of autonomy of the three main islands was safeguarded by guaranteeing each government autonomy and a federal government was created for the three islands. Assoumani declared himself president of the Union but, in a climate of administrative confusion, each of the three islands elected its own president. In 2006 Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, a moderate Muslim educated in the Middle East, was elected as the second president of the Union after the outgoing Assoumani. In December 2010, Vice President Ikililou Dhoinine won the presidential elections with 61% of the votes.


The culture of the Comoros is closely linked to the Islamic world: even in the architecture, which helps to define the so-called Indian Ocean style, there are mosques even by the sea, as well as places for gathering the elderly, outdoors, architecturally defined. The clothes also reflect Islamic culture: the men wear long white tunics (kanzus in Swahili), often accompanied by embroidered skullcaps (kofias). The women have their heads covered. Comorian literature derives from oral literature in the form of hali (traditional fairy tales) and in past centuries by tales written in Arabic by princes, sultans and nobles. Much of the literature is written in shimasiwa (Comorian dialect); the best known writers, who however write in French, are Aboubacar Said Salim (b. 1949), Said Ahmed Sast and Abdou Salam Baco (b. 1965). Music encompasses a wide variety of styles, absorbed from East Africa, the Middle East, South India and Madagascar. At the same time, Comorian artists produce traditional music that is a cross between reggae and rap, played with traditional instruments such as drums, rattles, lutes and five-stringed lutes. Dance is also part of the Islamic tradition; the most famous one has African and Malagasy origins: it is called mougodro and it is a circular dance in which men, women and children participate. The cuisine is very similar to the Malagasy one; to accompany meat, fish and vegetables instead of rice, cassava is used, called mhogo.

Comoros Culture