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BBC Country Profile, Wednesday 9 May 2001, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK

    [Map of Comoros]
Potentially a holiday paradise whose picture-postcard beaches could support an economy-boosting tourist industry, the Comoros islands have fallen victim to a vicious circle of coups in which European mercenaries figure prominently. This has left Comoros desperately poor and teetering on the brink of disintegration.


The long succession of coups began just a year after independence when in 1976 President Ahmed Abdallah was toppled by Ali Soilih. In 1978 he was ousted by European mercenaries, who re-installed Abdallah.

Eleven years and three coup attempts later Soilih was assassinated by European mercenaries, but they were ejected by French troops. Their intervention was followed by a multiparty ballot in which Mohamed Djohar was elected president.

However, in 1995 Djohar was killed in a coup spearheaded by the same mercenaries who had assassinated his predecessor. Again, France intervened and a new president, Mohamed Taki, was elected.

By this time the plague of coups had taken its toll. In 1997 the islands of Anjouan and Moheni declared unilateral independence, complaining of economic neglect. After attempts at mediation by the Organization of African Unity failed, violence erupted in the Comoran capital, Moroni, targeting people of Anjouan origin, who form the bulk of the Comoran army.

In April 1999 the army deposed President Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde, who had replaced Taki after his death, and installed Azali Assoumani, who has pledged to give greater autonomy to Anjouan.


Population: 600,000
Capital: Moroni
Major languages: Arabic, French, Comoran (a blend of Swahili and Arabic)
Major religion: Islam
Form of government: Republic
Monetary unit: 1 Comoran franc = 100 centimes
Main exports: Vanilla, ylang-ylang, cloves, perfume oil, copra
Internet domain: .km
Time zone: GMT+3
International dialling code: +269


President: Azali Assoumani

    [President Azali Assoumani]
President Assoumani
Born in the island of Grande Comore in 1959, Colonel Azali Assoumani assumed power in a coup in April 1999 in the wake of a violent backlash against people originating from the breakaway island of Anjouan. A former chief of staff, he pledged to stamp out political corruption and resolve the secessionist crisis.

  • Prime minister: Hamada Madi Bolero
  • Foreign minister: Souef el Amine
  • Interior minister: Ahmed Ali Djalim
  • Justice and Islamic affairs minister: Yahya Mohamed Iliasse
  • Finance and budget minister: Assoumani Aboudou


There is no single national newspaper. The two leading newspapers, the semi-official weekly Al-Watwan (published on Grand Comore) and Kwezi (published on Mayotte), are not available on the other two islands. Other press is even more fragmented and localised.

There is a national radio station, Radio Comoros, but no national TV.

Although several independent newspapers criticise the government, self-censorship is reportedly common.

About 20 regional radio stations and five local private television stations operate without overt government interference. However, Radio Ushababi on the island of Anjouan, opposed to the independence movement, was forced to suspend broadcasting in August 2000 after its journalists had suffered persistent harassment by the authorities and separatist militiamen.

The press

  • Al-Watwan - weekly newspaper
  • La Gazette de Comores - independent weekly
  • L'Archipel - private monthly
  • WEWU - internet-based Anjouan newspaper


  • Radio Comoro - national station
  • Radio Dziyalandze - FM station on the island of Anjouan, relays
  • Radio France Internationale