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During the latter part of the 19th century, Sultan Abdallah III of Anjouan ran into problems with his long-term supporters, the British, over his continued holding of slaves. When he agreed to halt the practice, Anjouan’s landowners revolted – they depended on slaves to farm their plantations. In April 1886 the ageing sultan travelled to France, which had a more relaxed approach to the issue of slavery, and signed the treaty making the island a French protectorate. In 1912 the island joined the other three Comoros in becoming a full colony of France.

The destinies of the three islands remained on a parallel course throughout the series of coups d’état that characterised politics in the Comoros over the next 12 years. But in March 1996 the volcanic tensions created by years of federalism and centralism finally erupted.

In 1997 the Anjouan government, led by the self-elected president Ibrahim, declared full independence from the federal government in Grande Comore. Almost immediately guerrilla war broke out between the supporters of President Ibrahim and those who wanted Anjouan to remain part of the federation.

Anjouan rejected any attempt to bring the island back into the federal republic until 2001, when a new ‘military committee’ led by Major Mohamed Bacar seized power on Anjouan with the aim of rejoining the Comoros. Bacar survived two coup attempts in quick succession, and held on to power long enough to become president of Anjouan in the elections held in April 2002. In 2006 Ahmed Abdallah Sambi of Anjouan was elected president of the Union by a 60% majority. He has pledged to clean up Anjouan’s cities.