Monday 19 March 2018

MAYOTTE: The French Department In The Indian Ocean And Africa

Mayotte is a French island in the Indian Ocean off East Africa between Madagascar and Mozambique.

Although France has indubitable administrative control of the territory and it is part of the territory of the EU, Comoros claims the island as one of the Autonomous Islands of Comoros.

Mayotte was ceded to France along with the other islands of the Comoros group in 1843. When Comoros voted for independence in the 1970's, Mayotte decided to remain a French collective.

In March 2009, the islands voted overwhelmingly (95.2%) to become France's 101st departement effective in 2011.

The island is 95% Muslim and many Muslim customs such as polygamy, Islamic-inspired law, and male dominance are commonplace, although all was reversed in accordance with French law in 2011.

A large number of the island's population is composed of illegal aliens from neighbouring Comoros.

Mayotte is an insular department and region of France officially named the Department of Mayotte or Departement de Mayotte in French.

It consists of a main island, Grande-Terre or Maore, a smaller island, Petite-Terre or Pamanzi, and several islets around these two.

The archipelago is located in the northern Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southeast Africa, between northwestern Madagascar and northeastern Mozambique.

The department status of Mayotte is recent and the region remains the poorest in France.

Mayotte is nevertheless much more prosperous than the other countries of the Mozambique Channel, making it a major destination for illegal immigration.

Mayotte's area is 374 square kilometres (144 sq mi) and, with its 256,518 people at the 2017 census, is very densely populated at 686 per km² (1,777 per sq mi).

The biggest city and prefecture is Mamoudzou on Grande-Terre. However, the Dzaoudzi–Pamandzi International Airport is located on the neighbouring island of Petite-Terre.

The territory is geographically part of the Comoro Islands. The territory is also known as Maore, the native name of its main island, especially by advocates of its inclusion in the Union of Comoros.

The language of the majority is Shimaore, a Bantu language variety closely related to the varieties in the neighbouring Comoros islands.

The second most widely spoken native language is Kibushi, a Malagasy language variety most closely related to the Sakalava dialect of Malagasy with influences from Shimaore. The vast majority of the population is Muslim.

The island was populated from neighbouring East Africa with later arrival of Arabs, who brought Islam.

A sultanate was established in 1500. In the 19th century, Mayotte was conquered by Andriantsoly, former king of Iboina on Madagascar, and later by the neighbouring islands MoheƩli and then Anjouan before being purchased by France in 1841.

The people of Mayotte voted to remain politically a part of France in the 1974 referendum.

Mayotte became an overseas department on 31 March 2011 and became an outermost region of the European Union on 1 January 2014, following a 2009 referendum with an overwhelming result in favour of the department status.

The term Mayotte or Maore may refer to all of the department's islands, of which the largest is known as Maore or Grande-Terre and includes Maore's surrounding islands, most notably Pamanzi or Petite-Terre, or only to the largest island.

The main island, Grande-Terre or Maore, geologically the oldest of the Comoro Islands, is 39 kilometres (24 mi) long and 22 kilometres (14 mi) wide, and its highest point is Mount Benara, at 660 metres (2,165 ft) above sea level.

Because of the volcanic rock, the soil is relatively rich in some areas. A coral reef encircling much of the island ensures protection for ships and a habitat for fish.

Dzaoudzi was the capital of Mayotte and earlier the capital of all the colonial Comoros until 1977. It is situated on Petite-Terre or Pamanzi, which at 10 square kilometres (4 sq mi) is the largest of several islets adjacent to Maore.

Mayotte is surrounded by a typical tropical coral reef. It consists in a large outer barrier reef, enclosing one of the world's largest and deepest lagoons.

Followed by a fringing reef, interrupted by many mangroves. All Mayotte waters are ruled by a National marine Park, and many places are natural reserves.

In 1500, the Maore or Mawuti sultanate was established on the island. In 1503, Mayotte was observed by Portuguese explorers, but not colonized.

In 1832, Mayotte was conquered by Andriantsoly, former king of Iboina on Madagascar; in 1833, it was conquered by the neighbouring sultanate of Mwali or Moheli island in French.

On 19 November 1835, Mayotte was again conquered by the Ndzuwani Sultanate, a governor was installed with the unusual Islamic style of Qadi or judge in Arabic. However, in 1836 it regained its independence under a last local Sultan.

Mayotte was purchased by France in 1841. It was the only island in the archipelago that voted in referenda in 1974 and 1976 to retain its link with France and forgo independence with 63.8% and 99.4% of votes respectively.

The Comoros continue to claim the island. A draft 1976 United Nations Security Council resolution recognizing Comorian sovereignty over Mayotte, supported by 11 of the 15 members of the Council, was vetoed by France.

It was the last time, as of 2011, that France cast a lone veto in the Council. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a series of resolutions on the issues, under the title Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte up to 1995.

Since 1995, the subject of Mayotte has not been discussed by the General Assembly.

Mayotte became an overseas department of France in March 2011 in consequence of a 29 March 2009 referendum.

The outcome was a 95.5 per cent vote in favour of changing the island's status from a French overseas community to become France's 101st departement.

Its non-official traditional Islamic law, applied in some aspects of the day-to-day life, will be gradually abolished and replaced by the uniform French civil code.

Additionally, French social welfare and taxes apply in Mayotte, though some of each will be brought in gradually.Comoros continues to claim the island, while criticising the French military base there.

Mayotte is an overseas department and region of France officially named Departement de Mayotte.

Unlike the other overseas regions and departments of France, Mayotte possesses a single local assembly, officially called the departmental council or conseil departemental, which acts both as a regional and departmental council.

The situation of Mayotte proved to be awkward for France, while the local population very largely did not want to be independent from France and join the Comoros, some international criticism from post-colonial leftist regimes was heard about Mayotte's ongoing ties to France.

Furthermore, the peculiar local administration of Mayotte, largely ruled by customary Muslim law, would be difficult to integrate into the legal structures of France.

Not to mention the costs of bringing the standards of living to levels close to those of Metropolitan France.

For these reasons, the laws passed by the national parliament had to state specifically that they applied to Mayotte for them to be applicable on Mayotte.

The status of Mayotte was changed in 2001 towards one very close to the status of the Departments of France, with the particular designation of departmental collectivity.

This change was approved by 73% of voters in a referendum. After the constitutional reform of 2003 it became an overseas collectivity while retaining the title departmental collectivity of Mayotte.

Mayotte became an overseas department of France or departement d'outre-mer, DOM on 31 March 2011 following the result of the March 2009 Mahoran status referendum, which was overwhelmingly approved by around 95% of voters.

Becoming an overseas department will mean it will adopt the same legal and social system as used in the rest of France.

This will require abandoning some customary laws, adopting the standard French civil code, and reforming the judiciary, educational, social and fiscal systems, and will take place over a period of about 20 years.

Despite its domestic constitutional evolution from the status of an overseas collectivity to that of an overseas department, effectively becoming a full constituent territory within the French Republic.
With regards to the European Union, Mayotte remained an Overseas country and territory (OCT) in association with the Union as per Article 355(2) TFEU) and not a constituent territory of the European Union in the same way as the other four overseas departments.

However following a directive of the European Council in December 2013, Mayotte became an outermost region of the European Union on 1 January 2014.

This successful agreement between the 27 member states follows a petition made by the French government for Mayotte to become an integral territory of the European Union nonetheless benefiting from the derogation clause applicable in existing Outermost regions.

This namely Article 349 TFEU, as favoured in a June 2012 European Commission opinion on Mayotte's European constitutional status.

In 2015, the GDP of Mayotte at market exchange rates was €2.25 billion (US $2.5 bn). In that same year the GDP per capita of Mayotte at market exchange rates, not at PPP, was €9,477 (US $10,516).

This was 14.5 times larger than the GDP per capita of the Comoros that year, but only 44% of the GDP per capita of Reunion and 27% of the GDP per capita of Metropolitan France.

As of the September 2017 census, there were 256,518 people living in Mayotte.

According to the 2007 census, 63.5% of the people living in Mayotte were born in Mayotte, 4.8% were born in the rest of the French Republic either metropolitan France or overseas France except Mayotte.

28.3% were immigrants from the Comoros, 2.6% were immigrants from Madagascar, and the remaining 0.8% came from other countries.

Most of the inhabitants of the island are Comorians. The Comorians are a blend of settlers from many areas, Iranian traders, mainland Africans, Arabs and Malagasy.

Comorian communities can also be found in other parts of the Comoros chain as well as in Madagascar.

The main religion in Mayotte is Islam, with 97% of the population Muslim and 3% Christian.

The main religious minority, Roman Catholicism, has no proper diocese but is served, together with the Comoros, by a missionary jurisdiction, the Apostolic Vicariate of Comoros Archipelago.

Mayotte Climate is tropical; marine; hot, humid, rainy season during northeastern monsoon (November to May); dry season is cooler (May to November).

Mayotte Landscape is generally undulating, with deep ravines and ancient volcanic peaks.

Cities of Mayotte

- Mamoudzou, capital of the island

- Bandele

- Dzaoudzi

- Sada

Planes fly daily between Reunion and Dzaoudzi, the airport/military base in Mayotte. For a return flight from Paris to Mayotte, expect to cash out at least €800.

Kenya Airways has flights from Nairobi to Mayotte. This is an extension of their Paris-Nairobi flights.

The primary port for boat transport is Dzaoudzi.

The easiest way to get around Mayotte is with bush taxis or taxi brousse who will take you around the island for a few euros.

French is the official language and is spoken by around 63% of the population. Few people over the age of 65 speak French.

The vernacular languages are Shimaore, a language closely related to Comorian and Swahili and Kibushi a language related to Malagasay and heavily influenced by Shimaore and Arabic.

Kibushi is spoken in the south and north-west of Mayotte, while Shimaore is spoken elsewhere.

French is the only official language of Mayotte. It is the language used for administration and the school system.

It is the language most used on television and radio as well as in commercial announcements and billboards. In spite of this, knowledge of French in Mayotte is lower than in any other part of France.

Local languages of Mayotte are:

- Shimaore, a dialect of the Comorian language close to Swahili.

- Kibushi, a western dialect of the Malagasy language (the language of Madagascar) heavily influenced by Shimaore and Arabic

- Kiantalaotsi, another western dialect of the Malagasy language also heavily influenced by Shimaore and Arabic
Kibushi is spoken in the south and north-west of Mayotte, while Shimaore is spoken elsewhere.

Besides French, other non-indigenous languages are also present in Mayotte namely:

- Arabic, essentially learned in the Quranic schools

- Various dialects of the Comorian language essentially imported by immigrants who have arrived in Mayotte since 1974

- Shindzwani, the dialect of Anjouan, or Nzwani,

- Shingazidja the dialect of Grande Comore, or Ngazidja,

- Shimwali the dialect of Moheli, or Mwali
Shingazidja and Shimwali on the one hand and Shimaore on the other hand are generally not mutually intelligible. Shindzwani and Shimaore are perfectly mutually intelligible.

At the 2007 census, 63.2% of people 14 years and older reported that they could speak French although 87.1% of those whose age was 14 to 19 years old reported that they could speak it.

Whereas only 19.6% of those aged 65 and older reported that they could speak it.

93.8% of the population whose age was 14 or older reported that they could speak one of the local languages of Mayotte - Shimaore, Kibushi, Kiantalaotsi, or any of the Comorian dialects, which the census included in the local languages.

6.2% of the population aged 14 and older reported that they spoke none of the local languages and could speak only French.

A survey was conducted by the French Ministry of National Education in 2006 among pupils registered in CM2 equivalent to fifth grade in the US and Year 6 in England and Wales.

Questions were asked regarding the languages spoken by the pupils as well as the languages spoken by their parents.

According to the survey, the ranking of mother tongues was the following, ranked by number of first language speakers in the total population; note that percentages add up to more than 100% because some people are natively bilingual.

- Shimaore: 55.1%

- Shindzwani: 22.3%

- Kibushi: 13.6%

- Shingazidja: 7.9%

- French: 1.4%

- Shimwali: 0.8%

- Arabic: 0.4%

- Kiantalaotsi: 0.2%

- Other: 0.4%

When also counting second language speakers e.g. someone whose mother tongue is Shimaore but who also speaks French as a second language then the ranking became:

- Shimaore: 88.3%

- French: 56.9%

- Shindzwani: 35.2%

- Kibushi: 28.8%

- Shingazidja: 13.9%

- Arabic: 10.8%

- Shimwali: 2.6%

- Kiantalaotsi: 0.9%

- Other: 1.2%

With the mandatory schooling of children and the economic development both implemented by the French central state, the French language has progressed significantly on Mayotte in recent years.

The survey conducted by the Ministry of National Education showed that while first and second language speakers of French represented 56.9% of the population in general.

This figure was only 37.7% for the parents of CM2 pupils, but reached 97.0% for the CM2 pupils themselves whose age is between 10 and 14 in general.

Nowadays there are instances of families speaking only French to their children in the hope of helping their social advancement.

With French schooling and French language television, many young people turn to French or use many French words when speaking Shimaore and Kibushi.

This has lead to some fears that these native languages of Mayotte could either disappear or become some sort of French-based creole.

Approximately 26% of the adult population, and five times as many women as men, report entering trance states in which they believe they are possessed by certain identifiable spirits or Djinns who maintain stable and coherent identities from one possession to the next.

Other languages spoken by smaller numbers include Kiantalaotsi which is closely related to Kibushi, Arabic and Comorian.

Mayotte currency is the euro (€). Local food and items like bananas, manioc, fish rice are inexpensive, imported items dairy products, manufactured products are expensive.

Activities and adventures to explore in Mayotte:

- Hike or climb to the summit of Mont Choungui will offer a spectacular panorama of the island.

- Makis a ring-tailed lemur can be found in remote regions of the island.

- Diving is mandatory. Expect spectacular sights in the world's largest lagoon.

- Sea turtles come to roost on the southern beaches.

- In August-September, humpback whales can be found with their calves in the lagoon.

Voluntary service or Volontariat Civil a l'Aide Technique (VCAT). Conditions: you must be French or from another EU-member state or a country belonging to the European Economic Area.

You must be over 18 and under 28 years old. You must not have had your civic rights revoked by a court or have been convicted of certain offences.

Cyclones do occur during rainy season.

Mayotte is a malaria-infested zone considered to be high risk. Consult your physician for anti-malaria medicine, take it, and pile on mosquito repellent to avoid bites.

90% of the population is Muslim, following a very tolerant Islam. Greeting others while perambulating about, or a pleasant expression of recognition, a smile, is considered respectful.

Tourism Observer

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