Hala halele hala
Mwambwa hale kashindana
Ushindano mndru wa mroni
He to whom a tale is told must never question it.
If he questions it, he will go to hell
Unless it is to correct me.
Standard introduction to Comoros island tales.
(Contes comoriens de Ngazidja, Mohamed Ahmed-Chamanga and Ahmed Ali Mroimana, L’Harmattan 1999)
Let there be no mistake: Franco-Comoros relations have reeked of « Françafrique » type clientelism for many years, with their foul smell of misguided interventionism and secret agents. Four islands constitute the archipelago. The French bought one, Mayotte, from Sultan Adriansouli in 1841 for an annuity of 1000 piastres and the promise to educated his two children on Bourbon Island (now known as Réunion)! Mayotte was immediately declared a colony. The other three became French protectorates fifty years later. In 1974, during the referendum on self-determination, Mayotte chose to stay French unlike the three other islands. It thus remains a thorn in the Comoros’ heel, as officials never fail to point out in their speeches. As a territorial authority that is thus neither a department nor an overseas territory, it has its own departmental council, a prefect, and a senator who, in 1998, proposed to consider the island « a natural relay and one of the poles of France’s cooperation policy in the sub-region« .
It is thus both strategically important and financially better-off than the neighbouring islands. During the 1997 summer political crisis, the island of Anjouan tried to escape Moroni central power in the hope of benefiting from the same statute. Women from Anjouan regularly re-enact this episode by going to give birth in Mayotte so that their children receive French nationality. Every month, however, 10 to 15 Anjouan islanders lose their lives as they attempt to make the crossing
Many islanders, especially those from Grande Comore, who make up 95% of the total population, go to France, mainly to earn the money needed for the « big wedding » that enables them to settle down. In so doing, they swell the ranks of the large Comoros communities in Marseilles and Paris. Associated in community groups that organise balls where members club together to back village development projects and other forms of solidarity, these close communities are a real godsend for the country. Indeed, the total sum of money transferred is said to equal the Comoros budget itself!
France and the Comoros thus share a complex, interrelated history that has both its good and bad points. This dossier, which, like all the dossiers devoted to a given country, was primarily financed by a French « cultural action fund » and, through force of circumstances, is thus a continuation that we hope will be added to the good things! A new wind is blowing in the Comoros. We hope to accompany it, especially as feedback concerning this archipelago’s cultural forms is rare, despite there being such a strong Comoros presence in France. We have again conserved the right to reply to let readers contribute to the debate. The forum and letters and articles sent by www.africultures.com readers of are at your disposal so that you can correct us, as the Comoros tales invite!
The 1998 trial of the National Front billstickers proved that they were indeed involved in the murder of Ibrahim Ali in 1995, a young Marseilles lad of Comoros descent. Without any grand discourses, but recognising the current symbolic value, we would like to devote this 51st issue of Africultures to Ibrahim Ali and his family.
See: Les Comoriens de France, dossier d’Hommes et Migrations n°1215, sept.-oct. 1998.///Article N° : 5626