The recent announcement by the government of France that it was preparing to conduct a referendum in March, 2009 among the inhabitants of the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte violates relevant United Nations resolutions which have rejected such an action. The proposed referendum would only offer the political status option of integration with France, with no other choice.
International legal experts have questioned both the legitimacy of such a referendum on a single alternative, as well as the fact that it would be conducted by France which occupies the island rather than by the United Nations or another international body.
The Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte has been a longstanding item on the agenda of the United Nations, but UN discussions on the future of the territory have been routinely deferred. A decision on whether the UN will examine the issue this year is scheduled for discussion on 23rd October by the UN General Committee which will make its recommendation to the full General Assembly.
Mayotte is located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mozambique. The territory is part of the Union of Comoros, but is occupied by France which ignored the results of the only legitimate referendum held in 1974 where the people of Mayotte joined its compatriots in overwhelming supporting independence. The Comoros is a member of the African Union.
The Permanent Mission of Comoros has made available an Aide Memoire, (below) which provides an historical perspective on the continued challenges faced by the Union of Comoros on the disposition of Mayotte - an integral part of its national territory.
UNION DES COMORES
Aide memoir on the Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte
A global referendum for self-determination was organized in the Comoros archipelago on 22 December 1974 in conformity with an Agreement signed earlier by the French and the internal self-government of the Comoros in June 1973. Following the referendum, 96% of Comorian voted for independence. Contrary to the signed Agreement, the French Government wanted to reorganize another referendum island by island. This was not accepted by the Comorian authorities who went by the Agreement which stipulated that the results of the referendum would be counted globally.
On 6 July 1975 Comoros declared its independence following a resolution adopted by the Comoros House of Representatives convened for that purpose. The new Comorian State was unanimously admitted to the United Nations on 12 November 1975 by General Assembly resolution 3385 (XXX) reaffirming the need to respect the unity and territorial integrity of the Comoros composed of the islands of Anjouan, Grand Comore, Mayotte and Moheli. The new State is recognized by all international Organizations namely the Organization of African Unity (now African Union, AU), the Non Aligned Movement, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States.
In February and April, France organized illegal referendums in Mayotte; on October 21 1976 the United Nations adopted resolution A/31/4 condemning those consultations and any other in the future.
Every year from 1976 to 1995, the UN General Assembly adopted resolutions on the Comorian island of Mayotte and placed on its agenda the item entitled “The Question of the Comorian island of Mayotte’’ as requested by its resolution 31/4 of 21 October 1976. Resolution 31/4 of 21 October 1976 condemned the referendums organized on the Comorian island of Mayotte by France on 8 and 11 April 1976 and rejected any kind of referendum or consultation which might be organized on the territory of Mayotte in the future by the French Government.
Since 1995 France requested the Comoros to sit and discuss bilaterally the question of the Comorian island of Mayotte and therefore requested the Comorian government, at the opening of each UN General Assembly not to include the question of Mayotte in the definitive agenda of the UN General Assembly sessions but defer it to the next session. Thus since 1995 the question of Mayotte has always been on the temporary agenda of the United Nations.
The United Nations General Assembly has adopted more than a dozen resolutions on the question entitled “The Question of the Comorian island of Mayotte” in which they condemned the illegal occupation of Mayotte by France and the unity and territorial integrity of the Comoros was every time reaffirmed in those resolutions.
In all those resolutions, the United Nations invited France to respect the Agreement signed by both French and Comorian Governments in 1973, called upon France to implement the wish expressed by the then French President to find a just solution to the problem of Mayotte, ardently requested France to speed up negotiations with the Comorian Government in view of the rapid return of Mayotte to the Comorian Republic.
Efforts to resolve the problem of the illegal occupation of the Comorian island of Mayotte have subsided and lost momentum.
During the Summit of the Organization of the African Union in Port Louis, Mauritius, in July 1976, the Head of States adopted resolution (497 XXVII) as a follow up mechanism of the Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte. The OAU Ad-hoc Committee on the question of the Comoros Island of Mayotte also known as the Committee of Seven composed of the following countries; Algeria, Cameroon, Comores, Gabon, Maurice, Mozambique, Tanzania has not met since decades. There is a risk that the issue might be forgotten indefinitely.
Despite the eagerness of all the successive Comorian Government, to sit and discuss with the French Government, French authorities have accelerated their actions and political activities by obliterating the Comorianity of Mayotte and imposing French Laws in the Comorian Island of Mayotte, which are mainly against the Comorian culture and religion.
In Mayotte, Comorian from the other islands have been harassed and humiliated before been expelled Manu military. Thousands of Comorian have lost their lives while traveling to Mayotte by improvised and rudimentary boats.
Last year the French government for the first time agreed to create a bilateral Commission Comorian and French. Since than, several meetings have taken place, in France, in the Comoros and last month in Mayotte, yet despite the efforts and willingness of the Comorian government to negotiate with France. Recently the French government has announced that in March 2009 it will organize a referendum in Mayotte with the intention of changing the political status of Mayotte from a “French Territorial Collectivity” to a French Overseas Department. This is in violation of the United Nations Resolution A/31/4 of October 1976.
Taking into consideration the recent decision of the French government, the Comorian government has clearly indicated that it wants the question of the Comorian island of Mayotte to be included in the definitive agenda of the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly. On September 17, 2008 during the opening meeting of the UN General Committee decided to examine the question of Mayotte during its next meeting on which the date has to be fixed soon.
The French colonialism attitude on keeping the Comorian island of Mayotte under its occupation has clearly become aggressive. The recent event of the French government of unilaterally switching the Comorian telephone area code (269) from the Island of Mayotte is the most recent destructive and incomprehensible approach of the French authorities.
After more than 30 years of independence, it is clear that the French irritated the question of the Comorian island of Mayotte. There is therefore a need to act and to act fast. That is why Comorians are unanimous claiming the return of the Comorian island of Mayotte and their hope depends on the International Community and particularly the African Union. They believe that it’s only through a multilateral dialogue with the concerned parties that a road map for the return of the Comorian island of Mayotte to the Comoros could be elaborated in a fair manner.
Chronology of events
December 22, 1974
Consultation of the Comorian for the auto determination for the independence of the Comoros; 96% voted for the independence.
July 06, 1975
Unilateral proclamation for the independence of the Comoros by H.E.Mr Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane, President of the Internal Autonomy.
October 17, 1975
The United Nations Security Council adopt resolution 376 (1975) of 17 October 1975 and recommends the admission of the Comoros to the United Nations.
November 12, 1975
The General Assembly adopted resolution 3385 (XXX) reaffirming the need to respect the unity and territorial integrity of the Comoros composed of the islands of Anjouan, Grand Comore, Mayotte and Moheli, admit the Comoros to membership of the United Nations.
February 08 1976
France organized an illegal referendum on the Comorian Island of Mayotte.
February 11, 1976
France vetoed a resolution on the Question of the Comoros Island of Mayotte.
April 11, 1976
France organized another illegal referendum on the Comorian Island of Mayotte. Which was followed by several others referendums until 2001.
July 06, 1976
During the Summit of the Organization of the African Union in Port Louis, Mauritius, the Head of States adopted resolution CM/946 (XXVII) requested the Africa Group in New York to introduce the Question of Mayotte to the General Assembly and at the same time created the Ad-hoc Committee of (7) Algeria, Cameroon, Comores, Gabon, Maurice, Mozambique, Tanzania as a follow up mechanism of the Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte.
On it’s (31st) session the General Assembly of the United Nations introduced the Question entitled “ The Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte” in its agenda and since it has always been on the agenda of the General Assembly.
October 21, 1976
The General Assembly adopted Resolution 31/4 considering that the referendums imposed on the inhabitants of the Comorian island of Mayotte by France on 8 February and April 1976 null and void and constitute a violation of the Sovereignty of the Comorian State and its territorial integrity and that the occupation by France of the Comorian island of Mayotte constitutes a flagrant encroachment on the national unity of the Comorian State a Member of the United Nations. Condemned and considered null and void the referendums of organized by France and rejected any other form of referendum or consultation, which may be organized on the Comorian territory in Mayotte by France, and any foreign legislation purporting to legalize any French colonial presence on Comorian territory in Mayotte.
More than a dozen other resolutions were adopted by the General Assembly until 1995 when the Comorian Government accepted to withdraw the resolutions and decided to discuss with France.
Mayotte became a “Collectivite Territorial Francaise” administrated by a “Prefet”.
December 22 1979
A Law was adopted and considered Mayotte belonging to the Republic Francaise.
The French Government introduced a Law requiring Comorian entering the Comorian island of Mayotte to have an entrance visa.
After a meeting in New York with the members of the OAU Ad-hoc Committee on the question of the Comoros Island of Mayotte also known as the Committee of Seven, the Comorian Government decided to withdraw its resolutions at the United Nations and accepted to sit and negotiate with the French Government. On the contrary, France organized several illegal referendums on the Comorian island of Mayotte.
France organized another illegal referendum in Mayotte and changed its status and became “Collectivite Departemantale Francaise.”
Comorian and French authorities created a Bilateral Commission; the question of Mayotte was among the major issues, discussed.
Both the French and the Comorian Governments decided for the first time to suspend for 2 years to discussion of the “Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte” in the United Nations General Assembly.
The French Government decided unilaterally to switch the Comorian telephone country code (269) of Mayotte and attached it with (262) the one of Reunion Island a French Department in the Indian Ocean.
The AU Ad-hoc Committee on the question of the Comoros Island of Mayotte also known as the Committee of Seven met at the Ambassadorial level in New York to discuss on the French Government decision unilaterally on switching the Comorian telephone country code (269) of Mayotte and attached it with are code (262).
The French government announced that it will organize a referendum in Mayotte in March 2009.
October 01, 2008