French Colonial Treaties in Africa: France in the Comoros, Treaty with Anjouan 21 April 1886

Comoros_Anjouan-Sultan_Saïd_Mohamed 1920s
Sultan Said Mohamed of Anjouan in 1928

The Comoros  was a French colony until 1975. Below is a treaty signed between a representative of the French Republic and the Sultan of Anjouan on 21 April 1886. As you can see from this treaty, France did not just get the rights to almost everything, but it also got the right to judge Anjouan citizens, but most importantly, it also got the right to choose the successor to the throne of the sultanate, in cases when the Sultan’s first choice could not take over. So this way of France meddling into local politics and choosing local kings that could be their puppets instead of the ones chosen by the people or traditions, is not new!

The English translation of the treaty, below, is by Dr. Y., For the French original click here: Comores_Traite de protectorat avec sultan d’Anjouan 21 Avril 1886.


18th century map of Anjouan

The government of the French Republic, rightfully represented by Mr Gerville-REACHE, Commandant of Mayotte and His Highness ABDALLAH BEN SULTAN SALIME, Sultan of Anjouan, intervening directly, concerned by the development of the prosperity of the Anjouan Sultanate, have decided to consecrate by the following conventions the friendship relations existing between us for a long time and to ensure the preponderance of France in Anjouan.

Article I

His Highness assisted by the council of ministers places the Island of Anjouan under the protection of France. She commits herself, and thereby commits her successors to never deal with any other nation and to never grant any privilege to foreigners without the consent of France.

Article II

The subjects of His Highness will be able, in all freedom, to enter, reside, circulate, and trade in France or in French colonies in the same conditions as the French settlers, on one part, the French will enjoy the same freedom in the states of His Highness.

Article III

The Sultan hereby makes the commitment to provide French industrials who would want to settle in Anjouan the lands that they will need for their exploitations, within the bounds of his domain.

Map of the Comoros with the Anjouan island

Article IV

Disputes that could arise between the French citizens and people of Anjouan will be judged in French courts.

Article V

The rights of the foreigners actually established on the island remain reserved such that in no case the French government will be responsible for the execution of former facts and conventions. If there were any dispute about those facts and conventions, the Government of the Republic will be referee.

Article VI

Anjouan buildings will be treated in French ports as French ships. The same advantages will be given to the Republic’s ships which will enter in a port tributary to the states of His Highness.

Article VII

In order to ensure peace in Anjouan and to allow the regular succession on the throne, according to the customs of the country, the sultan makes his choice of his successor as SALIM BEN ABDALLAH, his eldest son, and in case of the later’s decease, before the advent on the throne of ABDALLAH ben SALIM, oldest son of SALIME. The French government will have to settle the throne’s succession in cases where the dispositions taken by His Highness would have no effect and in cases when there will be no direct and immediate heir in his family.

Article VIII

The Sultan promises to provide each of his brothers with means of livelihood.

Image of Anjouan (Source: BBC)

Article IX

To end the civil wars that have plagued ANJOUAN for many years, the French Government and His Highness declare that any person who would have taken arms against a constituted government will be considered a rebel and judged according to the laws of the country.

Article X

The Government of the Republic is committed to not grant asylum to any Anjouan person who, found to be a rebel, would seek refuge in France, in Mayotte, and in any other French possessions.

Article XI

His Highness commits not to take arms in any of the islands of the Comoros and not to lend his support to any party and assistance without the consent of the Commandant in Mayotte.

Article XII

The Sultan declares that there does not exist between his kingdom and any other power an act that could invalidate the current convention.

Article XIII

 The Sultan commits to take all necessary disposition for the abolition of slavery in all his states.

Mutsamudu, capital of Anjouan, today (

Article XIV

The present contract which will be final after the approval of the Government of the Republic has been signed in the presence of, on one part, MM. BRICH, lieutenant of the vessel, commandant of the “CHACAL” DE LESTRAC, deputy commissioner of the Marine, GAUTHIER and LESQUIVIT, sailors, DESLANDES, Medical doctor of the 2nd class in the Marine; on the other part, of SALIME BEN SULTAN ABDALLAH, MOHAMED ben sultan SALIME, SAID ATTOUMASI ben sultan SALIME, SAID ALI ben sultan SALIM, ABDALLAH MOHAMED or DIAMOND prime minister, SAID JAFFAR minister of Foreign Affairs, SAID ALI ben SAID MOCOU, MAUOME ALLASSE BEN SAID ABDERHAMA, MASAILA, …*

          Made in 3 expeditions in MOUSSA MOUDOU (ANJOUAN) the 21st April 1886 (Is Radjabou 1303 era of the hegire)

          Signed: GERVILLE-REACHE, DESLANDES, BRICH, LESQUIVIT, de LESTRAC, GAUTHIER, Sultan ABDALLAS, King of Anjoua, H.H. Prince SALIME, interpreter of the Government

(* the list continues)

Why the Name: Comoros?

Flag of the Comoros

How many people know the country of Comoros? Have you ever heard about it? Have you ever wondered where the name Comoros come from? Well, I have… At first I wondered if it was like Cameroon, whose name comes from Rio dos Camarões, and so since Comoros seems to rime with Camarões, will Comoros mean Shrimp?

Well, my previous assumption was forgetting the fact that the Comoros, or rather the Union of the Comoros, had once seen the influence of Arabic sailors. So, the name Comoros comes from the Arabic word qamar, meaning moon! He he he… Comoros essentially means Moon.

Comoros_Map of the Comores 1747
Map of the Comoros, 1747

The Comoros is a sovereign archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel off the eastern coast of Africa between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar. Other countries near the Comoros are Tanzania to the northwest and the Seychelles to the northeast. Its capital is Moroni, on Grande Comore. The Union of the Comoros has three official languagesShikomori (Comorian), Arabic and French. The religion of the majority of the population is Islam.

The Comoros with the map of Africa (

Comoros is a nation formed at the crossroads of different civilizations; it is almost like Madagascar in its cultural diversity: it was first inhabited by Bantu speakers from East Africa, and later its population was supplemented by Arab and Austronesian immigration. Islam was introduced around after the 650s AD. It was a major hub of trade and an important location in a network of trading towns that included Kilwa, in present-day Tanzania, Sofala (an outlet for Zimbabwean gold), in Mozambique, and Mombasa in Kenya. The country became part of the French colonial empire in the 19th century before becoming independent in 1975.

Comoros_Port of Moroni 1908
Port of Moroni, Comoros (1908)

The Comoros is formed by Ngazidja (Grande Comore), Mwali (Mohéli) and Nzwani (Anjouan), three major islands in the Comoros Archipelago, as well as many minor islets. The capital and largest city, Moroni, is located on Ngazidja. The archipelago is situated in the Indian Ocean, in the Mozambique Channel, between the African coast (nearest to Mozambique and Tanzania) and Madagascar, with no land borders.  In addition, the country has a claim on a fourth major island, southeastern-most Mayotte (Maore), though Mayotte voted against independence from France in 1974, has never been administered by an independent Comoros government, and continues to be administered by France (currently as an overseas department). France has vetoed United Nations Security Council resolutions that would affirm Comorian sovereignty over the island.


The main export of the islands are vanilla, ylang-ylang, and clove. The Comoros are the world’s largest producer of ylang-ylang.

So, if you ever visit the Comoros, imagine the moon! Enjoy its sandy beaches, and its lovely people!