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During the mid-19th-century ‘scramble for Africa’, Sultan Adriansouli, who had gained quite a few enemies during his rise to power, formed an accord ceding the island to the French in exchange for protection from his rivals. The official transfer of Mayotte took place in May 1843 and the island was transformed first from a sultanate into a haven for French planters and slaveholders, and then into a full colony of France.

A majority of Mahorais voted against independence in a 1974 referendum, and when Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane unilaterally announced the independence of all four islands, Mayotte’s leaders asked France for its intervention. French Foreign Legionnaires and a couple of warships were sent to patrol the territory, and the Comoros’ transition to independence went ahead without Mayotte. Another referendum was held in 1976, during the height of Ali Soilih’s chaotic reign in the independent Comoros, and this time a whopping 99% of the population voted to stay with France. The UN regularly calls on France to hand Mayotte back to the Union des Comores, but faced with a population staunchly opposed to a break with France the French seem disinclined to do so.