The Comoros (Arabic جزر القمر), officially Union of the Comoros since 2001, form a federal island state in the Indian Ocean at the northern exit of the Mozambique Channel between Mozambique and Madagascar. They comprise three of the four main islands of the Comoros archipelago. These are Grande Comore (Njazidja), Anjouan (Nzwani), Mohéli (Mwali) and some smaller islands. The fourth main island Mayotte (Mahoré) is an overseas department of France and is also claimed by the Union.

The Comoros became independent from France in 1975 and have since experienced a checkered history with coups and attempts at secession. Its residents are of mixed predominantly East African and Arab descent and mostly Muslim. The country's name is derived from the Arabic Dschuzur al-Qamar (جزر القمر), which means "moon islands".



Natural space

he Comoros archipelago rises on a submarine ridge. All islands are of volcanic origin and have a mountainous relief. The landscape is characterized by volcanic mountains with deeply furrowed slopes, plateaus, chains of hills and mostly only narrow coastal strips. The coasts of the islands are mostly rocky and bordered by coral reefs. In the center of the main island of Grande Comore lies the 2361 meter high active volcano Karthala. The last major eruption happened in 1977, during which an entire village was overrun by the lava. In early 2005 there was a smaller eruption that proceeded with no explosion or lava flow. Only ash covered a considerable part of the volcano after the eruption. In late May 2006, the volcano blanketed the capital, Moroni, with a cloud of dust and smoke, prompting local evacuations.



The tropical-maritime climate shows only slight temperature fluctuations over the course of the year. The average temperature of the coolest months (July/August) is 22 °C, that of the warmest months (February/March) 27 °C. The dry south-east trade winds prevail between May and October, and the rain-bringing north-west monsoon from November to April. The wettest month is January. Depending on the altitude, annual precipitation is between 1000 and 4000 mm. In the hot season, tropical cyclones often hit the islands.


Flora and fauna

The original vegetation - dense tropical rain forest with valuable types of wood - has been pushed back and is almost only preserved at higher altitudes. Plantations and savannahs characterize the landscape today. Coconut palms, bananas and mango trees are the most common in the lowlands. The coasts are partially overgrown by mangroves. The land fauna is relatively species-poor and shows similarities with that of Madagascar. There are rare species of birds and turtles, as well as a species of wet-nosed monkey, the mongoose, found only here. The coastal waters including the coral reefs, on the other hand, are rich in many aquatic animals. A special feature is the coelacanth; In 1938, a representative of this genus, which until then had only been known as a fossil, was caught off the Comoros for the first time.

See also: nature reserves in the Comoros.



In 2021, 30 percent of Comoros residents lived in cities. According to the census, the largest cities are:
Moroni (75,000 pop., 2017)
Mutsamudu (pop. 23,594, 2021)
Fomboni (17,000 pop., 2017)
Domoni (14,509 pop., 2021)
Mirontsi (12,000 pop., 2017)
See also: List of cities in Comoros




The Comoros had 870,000 inhabitants in 2020. Annual population growth was +2.2%. An excess of births (birth rate: 30.9 per 1000 inhabitants vs. death rate: 7.1 per 1000 inhabitants) contributed to population growth. The number of births per woman was statistically 4.1 in 2020, although this value was still around 7 children in the mid-1970s. The median age of the population in 2020 was 20.4 years.


Population structure and official languages

Anjouan is the most densely populated island in the archipelago. In 2004, 64% of the population still lived in the countryside.

The descendants of the princes and sultans trace their genealogies to Arab immigrants who intermarried into a matrilineal family of local chiefs. According to this tradition, inheritance is transmitted matrilineally, name and title are passed on patrilineally.

Official languages are Comorian (related to Swahili), Arabic and French. The Comorians (97% of the total population) are descended from Arabs, Malagasy, Bantu, Indians, Shirazis and Indo-Melanesians. In addition, several hundred Europeans live on the islands. Population growth and high unemployment lead to emigration, mainly to Mayotte and Madagascar.

The Comoros are among the poorest countries in the world.



The country's state religion is Sunni Islam of the Shafi'i school of law. About 99% of the population belong to it. In addition, there is a small minority of Indian Ismailis (Shia) in the Comoros, as well as Catholic-charitable missionary work; about 1% of the population professes Christianity.



After gaining independence and the departure of French teachers, the education system was of poor quality, with moderately trained teachers. Since the education reform of 1975, schooling has been compulsory for a period of eight years, including the two-year Koran school for pre-school children. The illiteracy rate is estimated at 50%.



Social welfare and health care have significant gaps. Malnutrition is one of the reasons for the high infant mortality rate (2004: 5.2%). Malaria is widespread. In 2018, 2.6 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants practiced in the Comoros. The infant mortality rate was 52 per 1000 live births in 2019, and the infant mortality rate was 68 per 1000. The life expectancy of Comoros residents from birth was 64.5 years in 2020 (women: 66.3, men: 62.8).




It is not known exactly when and where the earliest inhabitants of the archipelago came from; Archaeologists have found traces of a 6th-century settlement on Anjouan. It is believed that Austronesian immigrants who came by sea from Indonesia and landed in Madagascar in the 1st millennium AD also settled in the Comoros. In addition, Bantu came from East Africa (especially Mozambique).



Arabs and Persians also visited the islands; from the 15th century they increasingly settled on the four main islands, introduced Islam, founded sultanates mainly in the coastal area and pushed the old population into the interior of the islands. In the 16th century, Comoros was a regional trading center, exporting rice, spices, ambergris and slaves to East African and Middle Eastern port cities.


Dominance of Arab sultanates

The first European visitors were Portuguese, who landed on Grande Comore in 1505. In 1527 the Comoros appear for the first time on a Portuguese map. For a long time, however, the Europeans were unable to exert any formative influence. The settlements founded by the Portuguese, Dutch and French in the 16th century were soon dissolved. Arab-Islamic influence remained dominant until the mid-19th century. The Shirazi sultans appropriated larger lands, which they farmed from local workers, but often also from slaves imported from East Africa. In 1865 an estimated 40% of the population were slaves. From the late 18th century, the Sakalava of Madagascar carried out slave hunts in the Comoros and nearly depopulated Mayotte; these raids ended after the Merina conquered the Sakalava kingdoms. Thereafter, groups of Sakalava and Betsimisaraka settled on Mayotte and Mohéli.


French protectorate (from 1841), then overseas territory (from 1946)

In the first half of the 19th century, rivalry between France and Great Britain over the western Indian Ocean islands began. France prevailed in the Comoros region, taking Mayotte in 1841; In 1886 the remaining three islands also came under French protectorate. In 1912 the last sultan abdicated and the Comoros came under colonial administration with the main town of Dzaoudzi on Mayotte. Under colonial rule, slavery was abolished; the economy was geared towards the cultivation of vanilla, ylang-ylang and other products, with the profits hardly being reinvested in the Comoros.

During World War II, the islands, which had declared themselves in favor of Marshal Philippe Pétain's Vichy government, were temporarily occupied by British troops. In 1946, the Comoros, no longer administered from Madagascar, were given the status of a French overseas territory with administrative autonomy. According to the Loi Lamine Guèye of 1946, all citizens had the right to vote in elections to the French parliament and also in local elections. This introduced limited women's suffrage. The right to stand as a candidate was not expressly mentioned in the law, but it was not excluded either. There was a two-class suffrage system that favored citizens of French origin.

On June 23, 1956, the loi-cadre Defferre was introduced. With this, France guaranteed the right to vote and the transition to full internal autonomy, which, however, was not finally granted until January 1968. In a referendum in 1958, the voters decided with a clear majority to remain with France. The two mainstream political parties in the 1960s - the Parti Vert led by Saïd Mohamed Cheikh and the Parti Blanc led by Prince Saïd Ibrahim Ben Ali - were both pro-French, conservative and dominated by the sultans' descendants.

The Mouvement de la Liberation Nationale des Comores (Molinaco) independence movement was founded by Comorians in Tanzania in 1962 and from 1967 began to extend its influence to the Comoros itself. The widespread feeling of being neglected by France, combined with the independence of nearby Tanganyika and Zanzibar and the beginning of independence movements in Mozambique, increased support for independence, especially among younger Comorians. Under the government of Ahmed Abdallah, in office since 1972, another referendum on independence was held in 1974, in which around 95% voted for independence, but around 63% voted to stay with France in Mayotte.


Independence (since 1975)

Comoros unilaterally declared independence on July 6, 1975. Universal suffrage was confirmed.

The first President Ahmed Abdallah was overthrown in a coup on August 3, 1975 and reinstated in another coup against his successor Ali Soilih in 1978, and was assassinated in a third coup in 1989. All three coups were largely aided by French mercenary Bob Denard, who took control of the Comoros economy and was considered the unofficial king of the island nation at the time. At first he asserted French interests, later he also opposed France. After a fourth coup in 1995, he was arrested and taken to France by a French expeditionary force that reinstated the government.

After the 1989 coup, Said Mohamed Djohar, previously President of the Supreme Court, automatically became President of the country. Despite accusations against him of orchestrating the assassination of his predecessor, he narrowly won elections in 1990, becoming his country's first democratically elected president.

From 1975 to 2008 there were a total of 20 armed coups and attempts at secession in the Comoros.