July 6 – Independence Day of Comoros

Posted on July 6, 2014

Hip hooray, today, in celebration of Comoros's 1975 independence from France!

You know the drill: speeches and family get-togethers, traditional music and dance, and a lot of good food.

Well, that's what the people of Comoros are busy doing today. The rest of us can take the opportunity to learn a bit about this nation.

Okay, where the heck is Comoros?

The nation of Comoros is a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean, near Africa and Madagascar. It is the third smallest African nation in size and #52 out of 58 African countries in population. But when I say this, I am leaving out a group of two islands and nearby islets; this group of islands is referred to by the largest island's name: Mayotte.

Why would I leave out Mayotte? Because Mayotte is contested....

In 1973, leaders in Comoros reached an agreement with ministers of France to gain independence in the next few years, and soon each of the four major islands had referendum (a general election to get voters' opinion on a single political question) about whether or not to become independent of France.

On Grand Comore, Moheli, and Anjouan, the people voted overwhelmingly for independence.

But on Mayotte, the people voted overwhelmingly to stick with France!

So Mayotte remains an “overseas department” of France, although some Comorans think it should be a part of their nation instead.

Would it surprise you to learn that Comoros is one of the poorest nations in the world, with a very unstable government, whereas Mayotte is relatively prosperous? So perhaps you see why the people of Mayotte are even more unlikely now to want to change their status than they were in the 1970s. For example, in a 2009 referendum on the question, more than 95% of the population voted to stick with France rather than joining Comoros.

(I'm not sure you could more than 95% of the U.S. population to agree to anything—not even, perhaps, that the Earth is round!)

More on Comoros...

Even though Comoros is a really small nation, it is the second largest producer of vanilla in the world, after Madagascar. And it is the largest producer of ylang-ylang, which is used to make fragrant oils.

Comoros offers some wonderful scuba diving and snorkeling, as the islands have fringing reefs around them.

The world's largest bat—Livingstone's Fruit Bat—lives only on Comoros. The bat has a wingspan of around six feet!

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