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Comoros - Tips

Thu, 8 Jul 2010 00:41:48

Comoros Bureau of African Affairs
June 2007

Background Note: Comoros

Sunset at Moya beach on Anjouan
island, Comoros, December 29, 2001.
[© AP Images]

Flag of Comoros is four equal horizontal bands of yellow at top, white, red,
and blue with green isosceles triangle based on hoist; centered within
triangle is white crescent with convex side facing hoist and four white,
five-pointed stars placed vertically in line between points of crescent.


Union of the Comoros

Area: 2,171 sq. km. (838 sq. mi.); slightly less than half the size of
Delaware. Major islands--Grande Comore (1,025 sq. km.), Anjouan (424 sq.
km.), Mayotte (374 sq. km.), and Moheli (211 sq. km.).
Cities: Capital--Moroni (pop. 30,000); Mutsamudu (pop. 20,000).
Terrain: Rugged.
Climate: Tropical marine.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Comoran(s).
Population (2006 est.): 690,948. Mayotte (1990 est.)--70,000.
Annual growth rate (2006 est.): 2.87%.
Ethnic groups: Antalote, Cafre, Makoa, Oimatsaha, Sakalava.
Religions: Sunni Muslim 98%, Roman Catholic 2%.
Languages: Shikomoro (a Swahili-Arabic blend), Arabic (official), French
Education: Attendance--60% primary, 34% secondary. Literacy--56.5%.
Health: Life expectancy--62.33yrs. Infant mortality rate--72.85/1,000.
Work force (1996): 144,500. Agriculture--80%.

Type: Republic.
Independence: July 6, 1975 (Mayotte remains under French administration).
Constitution: Adopted by referendum on December 23, 2001.
Branches: Executive--national president; regional island presidents.
Legislative--National Assembly. Judicial--traditional Muslim and codified law
from French sources.
Political parties: 17 political parties.
Suffrage: Universal adult.

GDP (purchasing power parity): $419 million.
Annual growth rate: 0.5%.
Per capita income: $720.
Agriculture (40% of GDP): Products--vanilla, cloves, perfume essences, copra,
banana, cassava, coconuts.
Services (56% of GDP): Commerce, tourism.
Industry (4% of GDP): Types--perfume distillation.
Trade: Exports (1999 est.)--$7.9 million: vanilla, cloves, perfume essences,
copra. Major markets--France, Germany. Imports (1998 est.)--$35.84 million:
rice, petroleum, meat, wheat flour, cotton textiles, cement. Major
suppliers--France 38%, Pakistan 13%, Kenya 8%, South Africa 8%.

The Comorans inhabiting Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Moheli (86% of the
population) share African-Arab origins. Islam is the dominant religion, and
Koranic schools for children reinforce its influence. Although Arab culture
is firmly established throughout the archipelago, a substantial minority of
the citizens of Mayotte (the Mahorais) are Catholic and have been strongly
influenced by French culture.

The most common language is Shikomoro, a Swahili dialect. French and Arabic
also are spoken. About 57% of the population is literate.

Over the centuries, the islands were invaded by a succession of diverse
groups from the coast of Africa, the Persian Gulf, Indonesia, and Madagascar.
Portuguese explorers visited the archipelago in 1505. "Shirazi" Arab migrants
introduced Islam at about the same time. Between 1841 and 1912, France
established colonial rule over Grande Comore, Anjouan, Mayotte, and Moheli
and placed the islands under the administration of the governor general of
Madagascar. Later, French settlers, French-owned companies, and wealthy Arab
merchants established a plantation-based economy that now uses about
one-third of the land for export crops. After World War II, the islands
became a French overseas territory and were represented in France's National
Assembly. Internal political autonomy was granted in 1961. Agreement was
reached with France in 1973 for Comoros to become independent in 1978. On
July 6, 1975, however, the Comoranparliament passed a resolution declaring
unilateral independence. The deputies of Mayotte abstained. As a result, the
Comoran Government has effective control over only Grande Comore, Anjouan,
and Moheli. Mayotte remains under French administration.

The Union of Comoros is ruled by President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi. Comoros has
been plagued by political instability and civil strife following numerous
coups and secession attempts since independence from France in 1975. Former
President Azali seized power in a bloodless coup in April 1999, overthrowing
interim President Tadijiddine Ben Said Massounde, who himself had held the
office since the death of democratically elected President Mohamed Taki
Abdoulkarim in November 1998. In May 1999, Azali decreed a constitution that
gave him both executive and legislative powers. When Azali took power he had
pledged to step down in 2000 and relinquish control to a democratically
elected president. Instead, in 2001, Azali resigned from the military and ran
as a civilian candidate for the national presidency. He was elected in 2002
in flawed but fair elections.

On May 26, 2006, following a two-stage electoral process that was generally
free and fair, Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi was installed as the new
President of the Union of the Comoros. Sambi's inaugural address included a
promise to bring justice and development to the Comoros.

Principal Government Officials
President--Ahmed Abdallah Sambi
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Ahmed Ben Said Jaffar
Representative to the United States and Ambassador to the United
Nations--Mahmoud M. Aboud

Comoros maintains a mission to the United States at 336 E. 45th St., 2d
floor, New York, NY 10017 (tel. 212-750-1637).

Comoros, with an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) per capita income of
about $700, is among the world's poorest and least developed nations.
Although the quality of the land differs from island to island, most of the
widespread lava-encrusted soil formations are unsuited to agriculture. As a
result, most of the inhabitants make their living from subsistence
agriculture and fishing.

Agriculture, involving more than 80% of the population and 40% of the gross
domestic product, provides virtually all foreign exchange earnings. Services
including tourism, construction, and commercial activities constitute the
remainder of the GDP. Plantations engage a large proportion of the population
in producing the islands' major cash crops for export: vanilla, cloves,
perfume essences, and copra. Comoros is the world's leading producer of
essence of ylang-ylang, used in manufacturing perfume. It also is the world's
second-largest producer of vanilla. Principal food crops are coconuts,
bananas, and cassava. Foodstuffs constitute 32% of total imports.

The country lacks the infrastructure necessary for development. Some villages
are not linked to the main road system or at best are connected by tracks
usable only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. The islands' ports are rudimentary,
although a deepwater facility functions in Anjouan. Only small vessels can
approach the existing quays in Moroni on Grande Comore, despite improvements.
Long-distance, ocean-going ships must lie offshore and be unloaded by smaller
boats; during the cyclone season, this procedure is dangerous, and ships are
reluctant to call at the island. Most freight is sent first to Mombasa, Kenya
or the island of Reunion and transshipped from there.

France, Comoros' major trading partner, finances small projects only. The
United States receives a growing percentage of Comoros' exports but supplies
only a negligible fraction of its imports (less than 1%).

Comoros has an international airport at Hahaya on Grande Comore. Comoros has
its own currency, the Comorian Franc, which is currently valued at 557 CF =
U.S. $1.

The military resources of the Comoros consist of a small standing army and a
500-member police force, as well as a 500-member defense force. A defense
treaty with France provides naval resources for protection of territorial
waters, training of Comorian military personnel, and air surveillance. France
maintains a small maritime base and a Foreign Legion contingent on Mayotte.

In November 1975, Comoros became the 143rd member of the United Nations. The
new nation was defined as consisting of the entire archipelago, despite the
fact that France maintains control over Mayotte.

Comoros also is a member of the African Union, the European Development Fund,
the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Indian Ocean Commission,
and the African Development Bank.

The United States recognized the Comorian Government in 1977. The two
countries enjoy friendly relations. The U.S. closed its Embassy in Moroni in
1993 and is now represented by a nonresident Ambassador in neighboring

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials (all officers resident in Antananarivo,
Ambassador--James McGee
Deputy Chief of Mission--George Sibley
Management Officer--Keith Heffern
Public Affairs Officer--Ellen Irvine
Political Officer--Silvana Rodriguez
Economic-Commercial Officer--Brian Neubert
Regional Security Officer--Christopher Gillis
Consular Officer--Jay Epping

The address of the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar is 14-16 Rue Rainitovo,
Antsahavola, Antananarivo. The mailing address is B.P. 620, Antsahavola,
Antananarivo, Madagascar (tel: 261-20-22-212-57; fax: 261-20-22-345-39;
E-mail: [email protected]).

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans
traveling and residing abroad through Consular Information Sheets, Public
Announcements, and Travel Warnings. Consular Information Sheets exist for all
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regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political
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Public Announcements are issued to disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that
pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings
are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel
to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad
should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet
web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution,
Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs
Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a
safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For
additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/

The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens who traveling or residing
abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or
at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your
presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an
emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained
by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular
toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of
State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport
information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service
representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00
a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP
(877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the
most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A
booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS
publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.

Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://
www.state.gov, the Department of State web site provides timely, global
access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background
Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of
Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)
provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies
working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market
information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free
export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides
authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from
the Federal government. The site includes current and historical
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and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank. ***********************************************************
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