Colonialism. What is it, and why is it important? If you live in a first world country, chances are, at some point in your country’s history, it has colonized other countries and taken over governmental control. Colonialism is the policy and practice of one power extending control over weaker and dependent people or countries. While many dominant countries colonialized smaller countries and islands – oftentimes in acts of exploitation colonialism – over time, these small pieces of land and their people have fought for independence, sometimes winning it. While there are positives to a country gaining its own independence, this also leaves space for many negatives.
Located just north of the Mozambique channel and situated between the island of Madagascar and the continent of Africa lay the Comoros Islands. Throughout their history, these islands have been affected by a series of invasions by a succession of different groups from lands such as the coast of Africa, the Persian Gulf, Indonesia and Madagascar. Around the year of 1505, Portuguese explorers visited this group of islands, and around the same time, Arab migrants introduced Islam to the residents. Between 1841 and 1912, France established colonial rule over the islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan, Mayotte and Moheli, placing the islands under the rule of the governor general of Madagascar. Over time, through this act of colonialization, French settlers and companies, as well as Arab merchants, established a plantation-based economy and exported crops. After World War II, the islands became a French overseas territory and were represented in France’s National Assembly.
However, on July 6, 1975, the Comoran parliament passed a resolution declaring unilateral independence from France. Now, only the island of Mayotte remains under French administration. Once the colonializing country has left the land that it used to rule, what happens to the newly independent islands Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli that are now under control of the Comoran government? Here’s what has happened to the Comoros islands:
1. There is no political stability.
While most of the Comoros islands are now independent, the Comoros government is still struggling to gain a strong voice in the world. Since 1975, the Comoros islands have seen three presidents. The first president, Ahmed Abdallah, was overturned in a coup that was assisted by the French military. Since then, the two proceeding presidents have not stood out as powerful leaders among their country. Iklilou Dhoinine, the current president who took office in 2011, received 61% of the vote in his presidential election. According to his opposition, the poll was spoiled by “massive fraud.” Without a strong government, it’s hard for a country to prosper in other ways.
2. There is no money.
Without political stability, it is difficult to build a powerful economy. Under the rule of France, these islands were once rich in trade as a major stop along an ancient Indian Ocean trade route. Now, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Comoros is one of the world’s poorest countries, and the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the lowest in the world. Since independence in 1975, the European Union, particularly France, has been the solid base of the economy, while countries such as Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Juwait have also pitched in financial support.
3. There is a lack of education.
Children ranging from ages six to 16 are in the age range of recieving an education in Comoros, but in practice, many of the country’s children recieve little, if any, schooling. Instruction is offered through traditional Islamic schools and state-run schools based on the French system. However, the public school system is underfunded. Nine-tenths of the population can read and write Comorian, using Arabic script, but only about half of the country’s population is literate in French, which is the language of the government administration. Because of a lack in national leadership, there are no set rules on what an education should look like.
The seemingly ancient practice of Colonialism still leaves traces of its damage in small countries like Comoros today. Because the large first world country has left these islands to their independence, they are now struggling to get a grip on leadership, and subsequently, other important aspects of life such as a steady economy and a good education. Without these factors, it will be hard for the islands to prosper. Unfortunately, while we have a definition to blame, there is no clear answer as to what the next step can be, and a prosperous future is not on the horizon.
Featured photo courtesy of The Inertia