Comoros

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Introduction

Comoros, which takes its name from the Arabic for moon, is an archipelago of volcanic islands which lies between Madagascar and Mozambique. Wracked by instability, the islands have experienced more than 20 coups d’Etat since they gained independence from France in 1975. Information about human rights standards in Comoros is scarce, but UN human rights mechanisms have criticised the State for the widespread practice of early marriage and the use of children in armed conflict throughout periods of political instability.

Geography

Comoros, which takes its name from the Arabic word for moon, is an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Indian Ocean. Situated off the east coast of Africa between north-eastern Mozambique and north-western Madagascar, Comoros is one of the smallest countries in the world. It is made up of three islands: Moheli, Anjouan and Grande Comore; in addition, the island of Mayotte is geographically part of Comoros, but is politically administered by France as an overseas department, having voted against independence in 1974. The capital of Comoros is Moroni.

Population and Language

The people of Comoros, who number some 753,900,[1] comprise a mixture of descendants of Arab seafarers, Malay immigrants and other African peoples.

There are three official languages: Comorian, Arabic and French, but only French is spoken on the island of Mayotte.

History Politics

Comoros has been wracked by political instability since becoming independent from France in 1975, chalking up 21 military coups or attempted coups. These included four separate coups masterminded or executed by the same man - Colonel Robert Denard, a French mercenary. In 1997, two of the islands - Anjouan and Mohéli - declared independence and widespread violence ensued. The islands requested to become overseas administrative departments of France, a proposal which was rejected. In 2001 a reconciliation agreement was signed, leading to a new constitution allowing the islands a greater degree of autonomy.

Comoros is a federal presidential republic, in which the president is head of state and head of government. The current president is Ikililou Dhoinine, but the presidency rotates between the different constituent islands every four years; in addition, each island has a semi-autonomous government.

Economy

Comoros is one of the poorest countries in the world, and is heavily dependent on foreign aid. Some 80 cent of the working population relies on agriculture as a source of income.[2] The country's chief exports are vanilla, cloves, ylang-ylang and perfume essence; remittances from abroad are also an important source of income.

Media and Civil Society

Journalists have been imprisoned in Comoros, especially in the context of political tensions between the various islands as well as for criticising the government. In a recent case, the Interior Minister ordered the withdrawal of an edition of the monthly supplement from state newspaper Al-Watan, and the suspension of its managing editor because of a report on State corruption and waste.[3]

Human Rights and Children's Rights

Information about human rights in Comoros is scarce, and the country has only acceded to two of the core international human rights treaties: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. In the CRC's Concluding Observations on the country's only report submitted in 2000, concerns about a range of children's rights violations were raised, including the lack of clarity on the definition of the child, the widespread practice of early marriage, and the use of child soldiers - in the context of political instability during that period - on the island of Anjouan by different militias.

Footnotes:

  1. UNDP, Comoros: Human Development Indicators, 2011
  2. UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, "Comoros country profile"
  3. Reporters Without Borders, "Minister seizes newspaper supplement, suspends editor" 11 April 2012

Sources:

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