War in the Northern Mozambique Channel?

To the list of major concerns for the 798,000 inhabitants of the small Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros — such as frequent coups and hyperactive volcanoes — add secession and, um, war with France? An independent country since 1975, Comoros has co-existed awkwardly with a couple of islands in the chain, together known as Mayotte, which has been “politically separate” since independence. Now, as of yesterday, with the endorsement of 95% of Mayotte voters, the islands officially constitute a departement outre-mer of France. In response, Comoros’ vice president has, naturally, suggested that this is tantamount to a declaration of war.

While France is probably not about to send its destroyers down into the Indian Ocean, it is interesting to note that, in the past, UN attempts to grant sovereignty of Mayotte to Comoros were stymied by the French Security Council veto. This is not necessarily neo-colonialism, though, as indicated by the heavy support by Mayotte’s population for incorporation into the metropole. Economic benefits abound, but there also seems to be a somewhat odd sense of national belonging, somewhat disturbingly expressed by this Mayotte legislator quoted by Reuters: “We may be black, poor and Muslim, but we have been French longer than Nice.” Interesting what the island assumes that the French think of “Frenchness.”

(image of a Mayotte sunset, from flickr user gunner.romain under a Creative Commons license)