Consider the French island of Mayotte, part of the archipelago off the coast of southern Africa that includes the Comoros. Some 55,000 of Mayotte's 160,000 people are illegal immigrants. About 97 percent are Muslim. The dominant language is a variety of Swahili. But social benefits and laws of citizenship that --apply in Paris apply in Mayotte, too, making its allure almost irresistible. Any child born on French territory, including Mayotte, can potentially claim French--and European--citizenship.
The hogging of power by Grande Comore, the largest island, led Mohéli and Anjouan to declare independence in 1997. The country was saved only by bringing in a new constitution, giving each island its own president and administration—all for 840,000 impoverished citizens.
More trouble erupted last year when Anjouan's president, Mohamed Bacar, refused to step down after his five-year term; he held an illegal election and claimed a landslide victory
Hundreds of soldiers from the African Union and Comoros seized rebel-held Anjouan, one of the three islands that make up the archipelago nation, and the government said its renegade leader, Col. Mohamed Bacar, had fled dressed as a woman.
The forces attacked at dawn to topple Colonel Bacar, a French-trained former gendarme who seized power in 2001.
The three Indian Ocean islands have experienced more than 20 coups or attempted coups, beginning just weeks after independence from France in 1975 when President Ahmed Abdallah was toppled in a coup assisted by French mercenary Colonel Bob Denard. Colonel Denard featured in several power struggles over the years.
Presidential elections in the Comoros islands have been won by current Vice-President Ikililou Dhoinine, the electoral commission has announced.
Mr Dhoinine, from the island of Moheli, won with 61% of the vote.
But the opposition say Sunday's poll was marred by massive fraud.
About 700,000 people live in the Coromos, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar. Some 300,000 reside in Anjouan, one of three main islands that make up the Coromos. The islands declared independence from France in 1975, and the country has since faced numerous problems arising from tensions between the islands and a central government.
Despite endemic corruption and a score of coups, failed and successful, since independence in 1975, the Comoros have little crime. Most of the 800,000-odd islanders are easy-going Sunni Muslims. Public execution is on the statute book but rarely carried out. Alcohol is easy to get. Few women are veiled; they squeeze into shared taxis with men, buttock to buttock.
The government - which is hampered by internal political disputes - is struggling to upgrade education and technical training, to privatize commercial and industrial enterprises, to improve health services, to diversify exports, to promote tourism, and to reduce the high population growth rate. Increased foreign support is essential if the goal of 4% annual GDP growth is to be met.
Comoros is an LDC (one of the world's least developed countries) with an estimated GDP per capita of $520, low productivity and low economic diversification. In 2005 it was ranked 132nd out of 177 countries in a human development index (2005). Politically, the national reconciliation process, begun in 2001, has led to new constitution, and the presidential elections in mid-2006 brought a change of regime.
The Comoro Islands off the East coast of Africa are noted for their exquisite beaches, their turtle migration, and their violence. Since gaining independence from France in 1975, the tiny three-island archipelago with a population of 710,000 has suffered 19 coups or attempted coups, while also producing Africa's most wanted terrorist, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed — accused of masterminding the killing of 224 people as leader of the Somalia-based al-Qaeda allied group that bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.