The story of the Comoros starts with uncertainty as there is no evidence of who the earliest people that settled in these islands were.
700 BCE – 1300 CE
Austronesian sailors from Southeast Asia, who had earlier settled nearby Madagascar. They are the source for the earliest archeological evidence of farming in the islands. Crops from archeological sites in Sima are predominantly rice strains of both indica and japonica varieties from Southeast Asia, as well as various other Asian crops like mung bean and cotton. Only a minority of the examined crops were African-derived, like finger millet, African sorghum, and cowpea. The Comoros are believed to be the first site of contact and subsequent admixture between African and Asian populations (earlier than Madagascar). Comorians today still display at most 20% Austronesian admixture. (1)
From around the 15th century AD, Shirazi slave traders established trading ports and brought in slaves from the mainland. In the 16th century, social changes on the East African coast probably linked to the arrival of the Portuguese saw the arrival of a number of Arabs of Hadrami who established alliances with the Shirazis and founded several royal clans. (1)
Portuguese first visit the archipelago. (1)
Portuguese cartographer Diego Ribero depicts the Comoros islands on a European map for the first time. (2). He is attributed for creating the first scientific map of the world “the Padrón Real.” the following is one of the sixth copies he made and is in the Vatican Library:
Sir James is the first English to try to break into the spice trade, which was dominated by the Portuguese. Only one of his four ships made it back from the Indies on that voyage, and that one with a decimated crew of 5 men and a boy. Lancaster himself was marooned by a cyclone on the Comoros. Many of his crew were speared to death by angry islanders although Lancaster found his way home in 1594. (1)
France’s presence in the western Indian Ocean dates to the early seventeenth century. The French established a settlement in southern Madagascar in 1634 and occupied the islands of Reunion and Rodrigues; in 1715 France claimed Mauritius (Ile de France), and in 1756 Seychelles.
The governor of Reunion, Admiral de Hell, negotiated with Andrian Souli, the Malagasy ruler of Mayotte, to cede Mayotte to France. Mahore offered a suitable site for port facilities, and its acquisition was justified by de Hell on the grounds that if France did not act, Britain would occupy the island. Although France had established a foothold in Comoros, the acquisition of the other islands proceeded fitfully. At times the French were spurred on by the threat of British intervention, especially on Nzwani, and at other times, by the constant anarchy resulting from the sultans’ wars upon each other.
Comoros become a French protectorate.
Comoros formally become a French colony administered from Madagascar.
British forces invade the Comoros and Madagascar, toppling the pro-Vichy administration and handing the territories over to the Free French government of Charles de Gaulle.
Comoros become an overseas territory of France and are given representation in the French parliament.
Comoros is given autonomy through a constitution providing for internal self-government was promulgated in 1961, following a 1958 referendum.
The Comoros brakes all ties with France and establishes itself as an independent republic. From the very beginning Mayotte refuses to join the new republic and alignes itself even more firmly to the French Republic, but the other islands remained committed to independence. The first president of the Comoros, Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane, did not last long before being ousted in a coup d’état by Ali Soilih, an atheist with an Islamic background. He tries to turn the country into a secular, socialist republic.
Ali Soilih is killed by European mercenaries who restore Abdallah to power. Under the reign of Abdallah, Bob Denard (Gilbert Bourgeaud) was the head of the Presidential Guard (PG) and de facto ruler of the country. He was trained, supported and funded by the white regimes in South Africa (SA) and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in return for permission to set up a secret listening post on the islands. South-African agents kept an ear on the important ANC bases in Lusaka and Dar es Salaam and watched the war in Mozambique, in which SA played an active role. The Comoros were also used for the evasion of arms sanctions. (1)
South Africans did not wish to continue to support the mercenary regime and France was in agreement. Also President Abdallah wanted the mercenaries to leave. Their response was a (third) coup resulting his death. (1) On November 26th, Ahmed Abdallah is assassinated in his presidential palace in Moroni. (3)
Mohamed Djohar is elected president.
Bob Denard and accomplices overthrew Comoran President Mohammed Djohar, and put opposition leaders Mohammed Taki and Said-Ali Kemal in power in the Indian Ocean state. The French army intervened in October under bilateral accords with the Comoros islands, a former French colony, and captured the mercenaries. In 2006, Denard was found guilty for his part in the coup and given a suspended five-year prison sentence. His 26 accomplices were found guilty but were given suspended sentences or were not penalized.
In March, following presidential elections, Mohamed Taki Abdoulkarim, a member of the civilian government that Denard had tried to set up in October 1995, became president. (1) A new constitution was ratified and attempts were made to curtail government expenditures and increase revenues. In addition, he extends the authority of the president and establishes Islam as the basis of law.
1997 CE Secessionist movements
By August of 1997 secessionist movements on the islands of Anjouan and Mohéli had become strong enough that their leaders declared each island independent of the republic.(4) Anjouan complained that it was not receiving a fair share of export revenues mainly from the sale of ylang-ylang flowers, used to make perfume. (3)
President Taki dies of heart attack and is replaced by an interim president, Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde, pending elections. They were never held because he was ousted in April 1999 by a military coup led by the army chief of staff, Col. Azali Assoumani, who took control of the government. The new government was not recognized by the international community, but in July Assoumani negotiated an accord with the secessionists on the island of Anjouan. The secessionists signed an agreement that established a presidential term that would rotate among the three islands.
The rotating presidential term was approved by all three islands in December, as was a new draft constitution that provided each island with partial autonomy and their own local president and legislative assembly.
The first federal elections under the terms of the new constitution are held and Assoumani, from Grande Comore, was elected president.
The presidential term rotated to the island of Anjouan. Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi was declared the winner of the federal presidential election in May and assumed control of the federal government in a peaceful transfer of power. (4)
The fragile peace was threatened in 2007 when the federal government, in response to violence and evidence of voter intimidation, ordered the Anjouan government to postpone the island’s local presidential election and called for Anjouan’s president, Col. Mohamed Bacar, to step down and allow for an interim president. Bacar ignored the order and in June 2007 held an election in which he was declared the winner. The results were not recognized by the federal government or the African Union (AU): both demanded new elections, which Bacar refused to hold.
An invasion of Anjouan takes place to force Bacar to leave. It was code-named Operation Democracy in Comoros on 25 March 2008, was an amphibious assault led by the Comoros, backed by African Union (AU) forces, including troops from Sudan, Tanzania, Senegal, along with logistical support from Libya and France.
Mar 29, The mostly Muslim Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, a territory of the Comoros archipelago, overwhelmingly voted to integrate fully with France, becoming the 101st department of France. The move will bring financial benefits to residents but also outlaw practices like polygamy and early marriages.
In 2010 the presidential term rotated to the island of Mohéli, and Ikililou Dhoinine, one of Sambi’s vice presidents, garnered the most votes in the first round of voting, held on November 7. He went on to win the December 26 runoff election with 61 percent of the vote, although his victory was clouded by allegations of fraud from the opposition. Dhoinine was inaugurated on May 26, 2011.
Azali Assoumani is the president since 2016
Azali Assoumani is a former army officer, first came to power in a coup in 1999. Then he won presidency in 2002 election, having power until 2006. After ten years, he was elected again in 2016 election. In March 2019, he was re-elected in the elections opposition claimed to be full of irregularities. (1)
Before the 2019 presidential election president Azali Assoumani had arrenged a constitutional referendum in 2018 that approved extending the presidential mandate from one five-year term to two. The opposition had boycotted the referendum.
In January 2020, his party The Convention for the Renewal of the Comoros (CRC) won 17 out of 24 parliamentary seats in the parliamentary election, meaning president Azali had a very tight hold on power.
In case you are wondering there have been 20 coups in the Comoros in its history.