BBC Country Profile, Wednesday 9 May 2001, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
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.
President: Azali Assoumani
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.