Mayotti in the Comoros Archipelago in the Indian Ocean remains staunchly French, despite political problems on neighbouring islands.
Mayotti in the Comoros Archipelago in the Indian Ocean remains staunchly French, despite political problems on neighbouring islands. Grande-Comore, Anjouan and Moheli prematurely declared independence in 1975 and, in May, a small mercenary force, led by a Frenchman, invaded the three islands and overthrew President Ali Solih.
SYNOPSIS: Mayotte, which two years ago voted to remain part of France, has remained calm during the political turmoil on the other islands. Monsieur Ali Solih became President of the independent Comoro Islands in 1975 and the islands' economic situation soon became serious. But Mayotte, where 2,000 French troops are based, is more prosperous and there are plans to use the island and its find natural harbour as a base for the French Navy in the Indian Ocean. The economy of Mayotte and the other islands depends mainly on the exports of vanilla and cloves, however, the independent Comoro Islands suffered seriously when French aid was withdrawn after independence.
In June, the new leaders of the independent Comoros, co-Presidents Ahmed Abdallah and Mohammed Ahmed, travelled to Paris to ask for French support. But there has been concern in France and, as well, nearby Madagascar, that the coup was led by Bob Denard, a French mercenary. In early July, a Comoro delegation was expelled from an Organisation of African Unity conference on the grounds that its government was brought to power by a white soldier-of-fortune. A number of refugees fled to Mayotte during president Ali Solih's rule. His administration frowned on the islanders' Moslem religion and scrapped the civil service.
Discontent grew with food shortages and crop failures. However, even on Mayotte, much of the food has to be imported and there has been criticism of the French not developing the island's tourist potential by improving the airport and building hotel facilities.