Islanders beg Paris to take them back

After 21 years of independence, the tiny Indian Ocean island of Anjouan, has had enough. It wants, once again, to be part of France and, especially, part of the French welfare system.

More than 7,000 people marched through the capital at the weekend carrying the tricolour and a portrait of President Jacques Chirac. After throwing a few stones at the gendarmerie headquarters, their leaders declared independence from the Comoros group and begged Paris to "hear their cries of distress".

The Comoros government dismissed their pleas; but so did France. Paris maintains excellent relations with most of its former colonies and does not want to encourage the disintegration of former colonial boundaries. It is unlikely to want to take over responsibility for an impoverished, overcrowded island (250,000 people in an area the size of the Isle of Wight, with a annual average income per head of about pounds 300).

The inhabitants - Les Anjouanais - look enviously at the similar-sized island of Mayotte, 60 miles to the south-east, which refused independence in a referendum in 1974. Mayotte, as part of France, has a higher standard of living, free education, a minimum wage, family allowances and social security. The separatists say Anjouan has been "ignored and humiliated" in the last two decades by successive regimes in the capital Moroni, on the Grand Comoro island, to the north-west.

The dispute sounds like the plot for an Evelyn Waugh novel. But it has its darker side. Although the weekend protest passed off without injury, Comoran soldiers fired on a similar demonstration in March, killing one person and injuring a dozen. There were also violent confrontations, leading to two deaths, when thousands of Anjouanais poured onto the streets on 14 July to celebrate the French national day. Inhabitants of the third, and smallest inhabited island in the group, Moheli, have also started to agitate to be returned to France.

The French foreign ministry has made it clear that it has no interest in regaining these scraps of empire, formerly separate Arab-controlled emirates, annexed by France in 1912. France, the ministry said, remains committed to the "territorial integrity of the Islamic Republic of the Comoros. It hopes that, in this internal Comoran affair, a spirit of negotiation will prevail".

The President of the Comoros, Mohamed Taki Abdoulkarim, has recently taken a conciliatory line, offering the smaller islands greater autonomy and an opportunity to draw up a short-list from which their governors would be chosen. But the Andoujan revolt, led by Abdallah Ibrahim, 71, has gathered considerable popular support in the last four months.

In the referendums held on the islands in December 1974, Andoujan voted overwhelmingly for independence as part of the Comoros Republic. The count was 99.92 per cent in favour of separation from France, with only 44 voters against. Mayotte, with a population of only 94,000, voted 64 per cent to remain as a French territory. Since then, Mr Ibrahim claims, the smaller islands have been starved of whatever economic developments have occurred in the coup-haunted Comoros.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Operations Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently recruiting for an Operati...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, Security Cleared

£100 - £110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Ham...

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Junior Developer- CSS, HMTL, Bootstrap

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz