The Comoros, formally the Union of the Comoros, is a sovereign archipelago island country in the Indian Ocean located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel off Africa’s east coast, between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar. Tanzania is to the northwest of the Comoros, while the Seychelles is to the northeast. Its capital is Moroni, which is located on Grande Comore.
The Comoros are the third-smallest African nation by area, with 1,660 km2 (640 sq mi) omitting the disputed island of Mayotte. Excluding Mayotte, the population is projected to be 798,000 people. The archipelago is known for its varied culture and history as a country founded at a crossroads of many cultures. The archipelago was initially settled by Bantu speakers from East Africa, who were later joined by Arab and Austronesian immigrants.
It was a part of the French colonial empire in the nineteenth century before gaining independence in 1975. Since its declaration of independence, the country has had more than 20 coups or attempted coups, with numerous leaders of state killed. Along with this continual political instability, the Comoros have the greatest economic inequality of any nation, with a Gini coefficient of more than 60%, and rank in the worst quartile on the Human Development Index. In 2008, almost half of the population was living below the international poverty level of US$1.25 per day.
Comorian, Arabic, and French are the official languages of the Union of the Comoros. The bulk of the population practices Islam.
The country is made up of three large islands and several smaller islands, all of which are part of the volcanic Comoros archipelago. The largest islands are usually known by their French names: Grande Comore (Ngazidja) in the northwest, Mohéli (Mwali), and Anjouan in the southeast (Nzwani). Furthermore, the country claims a fourth major island, southeastern-most Mayotte (Maore), however Mayotte voted against independence from France in 1974, has never been ruled by an independent Comoros government, and remains under French administration (currently as an overseas department). France has blocked UN Security Council proposals that would recognize Comorian sovereignty over the island. In addition, Mayotte became an overseas department and a region of France in 2011 after a resoundingly successful vote.
The Comoros is the only country to be a member of the African Union, Francophonie, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Arab League (of which it is the southernmost member, being the only Arab League member fully within the Southern Hemisphere), and Indian Ocean Commission.