Mayotte, officially named Department of Mayotte, is both a French island region and an overseas department of France which are administered within the framework of a single territorial authority headed by the departmental council of Mayotte. Geographically, it is a group of islands located in the Comoros archipelago, itself located in the Mozambique Channel and in the Indian Ocean. Mayotte consists of two main islands, Grande-Terre and Petite-Terre, and several other small islands including Mtsamboro, Mbouzi and Bandrélé. Its official department code is “976”. The de jure chief town is Dzaoudzi sur Petite-Terre, even if, in fact, the seat of the Departmental Council and the administrative services of the prefecture are both on the other side of the bay on Grande-Terre in Mamoudzou, most populous city in Mayotte. Due to its status as a French region, Mayotte is also an outermost region of the European Union. On April 25, 1841, during the reign of Louis-Philippe I, the kingdom of France bought Mayotte from Sultan Andriantsoly, who was threatened by neighboring kingdoms and preferred to see the two islands attached to France.

In 1848, the island integrated the French republic like the rest of the French territory. At the end of the 19th century Mayotte was used as a base for colonial expansion in the region and in 1886, France established a protectorate over the rest of the Comoros archipelago, made up of Grande Comore, Mohéli and Anjouan which find themselves placed under the direction of the governor of Mayotte. In 1958, the administration left Dzaoudzi (in Mayotte) for Moroni (in Grande Comore), which caused dissatisfaction of the Mahorais. The Congress of Notables meets and demands departmentalization.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Zéna M’Déré and the ticklish movement campaigned for the permanent securing of Mayotte to the French Republic. In 1974, France organized a referendum on the entire Comoros archipelago to decide on possible independence, but the Mahorais voted only 36.78% for independence. A second referendum was organized only in Mayotte in 1976, which confirmed this choice. However, the Union of the Comoros still claims sovereignty over Mayotte. Following the local referendum of 2009, Mayotte became an overseas department and region (DROM) with a single deliberative assembly : the Departmental Council also exercises the powers of a regional council in 2011. In 2014, Mayotte also changed its status at European level, becoming an outermost region, and has since been part of the European Union.

In 2017, Mayotte’s population was 256,518 inhabitants (compared to 212,645 inhabitants in 201211) spread over 376 km2. It thus has the highest population density in overseas France, with 682 inhabitants / km2 in 2017 (565 inhabitants / km2 in 2012), but also the highest fertility rate with nearly five children per women on average and the highest poverty rate (84%). Its inhabitants are called the Mahorais.

Mayotte’s history

Ancient times

9 millions years old, the island does not seem to have known any human presence before the Middle Ages, the mammals being probably absent with the exception of the fruit bats. The 7th and 9th centuries saw the first human settlements. It seems that the first inhabitants already belong to the first Swahili peoples, characterized by a culture of Bantu origin widespread on all the shores of East Africa from Somalia to Mozambique, maintaining relations still poorly known with the Malagasy populations, of Austronesian origin. Mayotte and Anjouan were apparently occupied later because the two islands differ from all of the Comoros by a specific linguistic evolution. The maritime trade, very active from this time, attests to contacts with the Muslim Middle East. The oldest vestiges of human occupation have been found in Acoua, and date from this period ; the first populations were probably not Muslim, and would not have become Islamized until later, in contact with Arab merchants. Mayotte is then a stage in trade between Africa and Madagascar, as evidenced by archaeological data from the site of Ironi Bé in Dembéni.

In the 13th and 15th centuries, the island was under the direction of Muslim leaders, the Fani. Cultural contacts with the Swahili coast and Madagascar are important, and the remains of African, Malagasy, Indian and even Chinese pottery attest to a flourishing trade. The excavations carried out in Dembéni have brought to light ceramics imported from the Persian Gulf, India, China as well as Madagascan products dating from the 9th to the 12th century, already showing a great inclusion of this locality in international ocean trade. This ” Dembéni civilization ‘seems to have experienced a decline in the 12th century, possibly due to wars, leading to its gradual disappearance. Around 1470, a Shirazi sultanate (originally from Persia) was established, it was recognized until the beginning of the 19th century. It was from this period that the establishment of Sunni Shafi Islam still practiced in Mayotte dates back. The island of Mayotte (“Mawutu”) is mentioned for the first time in 1490 from the pen of the Arab navigator Ahmed Ibn Majid.

Classical age and modern times

The Comoros archipelago constitutes the southern border of the Swahili cultural area which developed from the end of the Middle Ages in this region which at the time was called Zanguebar. Mayotte is also the point of contact of this group with the very different Malagasy culture, which makes this island a crossroads of influences, but also a warlike target. Influences from across the Indian Ocean, but also from the African coast, turned upside down by the Bantu eruption, and the Malagasy coast, continue to shape Swahili island society. A Bantu and Malagasy immigration (Sakalaves) begin imperceptibly. In 1453, the fall of Constantinople brutally closed the trade routes which linked Europe to the East. Then opens the golden age of maritime trade, which bypasses Africa to reach India and China: the Mozambique Channel suddenly finds itself at the heart of the main trade route in the world, leading to an important period prosperity for the many islands and city-states of the Swahili cultural area.

In 1503, the island of Mayotte was mentioned for the first time by a Portuguese squadron which approached it ; it was baptized “island of the Holy Spirit” in 1507. According to the archives of the Portuguese admiralty, it was mapped by Diego Ribeiro in 1527. At first, this careful location allows above all to avoid it, in the way convoys of dhows that have crisscrossed the Mozambique Channel for centuries : the coral reefs of Mayotte represent a fatal danger for boats. This is why until the eighteenth century, the island is not an ordinary place of call for large fleets and welcomes only a few large European ships lost and careful, who came to refuel by necessity. In 1521, the Ottoman admiral and cartographer Piri Reis also visited Mayotte. He describes it in these terms in his Kitab-i Bahrije : “The second island is named Magota. The Portuguese are said to have put men there. She has a Shah. Its population is black and white. They are chafi’i, among them no hypocrisy. It has a town called Chin Kuni [Tsingoni]. Only sheikhs reign there”.

The great sovereign of the sixteenth century is named Haïssa ben Mohamed (sometimes spelled Aïssa or Issa) : son of Sultan Mohammed of Anjouan and sultana heiress of Mayotte (whose capital was then Mtsamboro), it was he who transferred the capital in Tsingoni and had the mirhab of the mosque still visible today in 1538. His long reign (40 years according to some sources) apparently coincided with a period of significant prosperity for the island, now in a strategic position on the trade routes connecting Europe to the East bypassing Africa: the European navigators of the times recommend in fact to ships en route to the Indies to take an Atlantic break in Cape Verde in the spring and an Indian break in the Comoros in September, in order to make the most of the monsoon currents; however these ships prefer the safe Anjouan to the dangerous Mayotte. At his death, the Mahorais reject the authority of his widow then established in Anjouan, and elect his daughter Moina-Alachora sultane de Mayotte, separating once again from Anjouan authority, and accentuating diplomatic tensions between the two islands. Malagasy, mainly Sakalaves, gradually took control of the south and a specific part of the east of the island, and the Portuguese began trade relations from 1557, with the visit of the fleet of Baltazar Lobo da Sousa.

Relations with Europe were still practically non-existent in the eighteenth century: in 1751, the Encyclopédie de Diderot et d’Alembert barely mentioned Mayotte in a two-line article: “Mayotte, ile, (Géog.) Mayota insula, it is the southernmost of the Comorres islands. It is located, according to Mr. de Lisle, in the Mozambique Channel. The article “Comorres” is even shorter. A passing English captain noted at the turn of the century that “the pirates of Madagascar often come here, so that, because of an always possible encounter with these rascals, I would not make it a safe place for a small ship alone , although the country is pleasant ”. From 1742 to 1791, the Sultanate of Anjouan made several attempts to conquer the Sultanate of Mayotte. From 1795 to 1820, raids by Malagasy pirates (Sakalaves and Betsimisarakas) depopulate the island considerably, and the carved wooden minbar of the Tsingoni mosque was stolen by Anjouanese people (where it is still visible). These numerous Madagascan and Anjouan raids were described in 1791 by Captain Pierre-François Péron in his Memoirs, who witnessed in particular a punitive Anjouanese expedition to Mayotte.

At the end of the 18th century, a wealthy Omani family from Zanzibar settled in Tsingoni and made their fortune there. The main heir of this family (Salih ben-Mohammed ben-Béchir el-Mondzary el-Omany) then marries the daughter of the old sultan Boina Kombo ben Salim and becomes the legitimate heir to the throne: after having abandoned Ibadism for Shafiism in force in the region, he became sultan under the name of Salim II, until his death in 1807 or 1815 according to sources. It is in particular him who transfers the capital of Tingoni to Dzaoudzi, locality then easier to fortify against the attacks of pirates Tsingoni is abandoned.

The last Shirazian sultan, Mouana-Mâddi, was assassinated in 1829: his son Bana-Kombo (or Bwana Combo) found refuge with the Sakalavian king of Iboina in Madagascar, Andriantsoly, with whom his father had concluded a pact of alliance. Andriantsoly helps the young Bana-Kombo to regain his throne, and in exchange obtains half of the island. This state of affairs quickly led to a rivalry between the two co-sovereigns, and after a few battles Andriantsoly exiled Bana-Kombo to Mohéli. The latter then tried to ally himself with the local sultan of Malagasy origin Ramanateka, who however preferred the spoiler to become co-sultan of Mayotte in his place. Ambitious, he chased Andriantsoly from Mayotte in 1836 to reign supreme on the island, but then returned to Mohéli. Andriantsoly then allies with Sultan Abdallah of Anjouan to recover the island. A warrior converted to Islam and also a respected diplomat with the Swahili and Malagasy communities, Andriantsoly thus became the recognized sultan of the island, whom he struggled to preserve sovereignty despite continual hostilities and threats. Following the capture of Nosy Be (Madagascar) in 1840, the French became aware of the presence of this sultan, former Sakalavian king, in Mayotte, who requested maritime protection.

Gradual integration into the French Republic

Purchase by France

Andriantsoly inherited the sultanate in 1832 after dismissing Bwana Kombo (or “Buanacombé”, or “Banakombo”), a son of Mawana Madi, who found refuge in Mohéli. He must then defend the island against the aims of the hova Ramanetaka – who became the master of Mohéli under the name of Abderahmane – and the sultans of Anjouan, Abdallah and then Salim (1836). Andriantsoly wishes to preserve the autonomy of his island from other Comorian sovereigns. However, devoid of an ally against the latter and against the Malagasy monarchy supported by Great Britain, he knew he was threatened. He then turned to the British rivals, the French, who, also present in Madagascar since 1643, have just taken Nosy Be. It is in this context that, on April 25, 1841, the Sultan sold Mayotte to France, thereby ceding his sovereignty to the July monarchy of Louis-Philippe I. In exchange he obtained from Captain Pierre Passot (sent by Anne Chrétien Louis de Hell), a personal life annuity of one thousand piastres (5,000 francs) and the right to raise two children of the sultan in Reunion. This treaty was officially ratified by the French state in 1843.

Colonization and abolition of slavery

French sovereignty over Mayotte is independent of the division of Africa resulting from the Berlin conference which will not take place until 1885. Mayotte indeed becomes a French colony after its purchase in 1843 under the reign of Louis-Philippe Ier. The abolition of slavery in Mayotte was pronounced on April 27, 1846 when the island had hitherto been subjected to the Arab slave trade. At that time the island had around 3,000 almost exclusively Muslim inhabitants, of whom between a third and half were slaves. French hopes of developing a port and plantations in Mayotte meant attracting more immigration from Africa, but the government was aware that the arrival of free blacks would be interpreted by the British as disguised black trafficking, which was prohibited. Consequently, the Minister of Marine and Colonies, Ange René Armand de Mackau suggested to King Louis-Philippe I that the development of a market economy in Mayotte required to free the slaves and compensate their Muslim masters. The French Parliament approved, in the spring of 1847, the financing necessary for the payment of an indemnity of 200 francs per slave. The liberation process began in July 1847. After the fall of the July monarchy caused by the French revolution of 1848, article 3 of the Decree to abolish slavery of April 27, 1848, passed a few months later, confirms the abolition of slavery on the island.

Mayotte is therefore a French island from 1841, but it remains above all an island emptied of its inhabitants by decades of wars, as well as by the exodus of the old masters and some of their slaves: most of the cities are abandoned, and nature has regained its rights over the old plantations. The French administration therefore tries to repopulate the island, by first recalling the Mahorais refugees in the region (Comoros, Madagascar …), by proposing to former exiled masters to return in exchange for compensation, then by inviting wealthy Anjouan families to come and settle there. France launched some first major works, such as the construction in 1848 of Boulevard des Crabes connecting the rock of Dzaoudzi to Pamandzi and the rest of Petite-Terre. In the wake of the Antilles and Reunion, the French government plans to make Mayotte an island with a sugar vocation: despite the steep slopes, vast plantations are developed, 17 sugar factories are built and hundreds of foreign workers (mainly African, in particular Makwas from Mozambique) were engaged from 1851. However, production remained poor, and the sugar crisis of 1883-1885 quickly put an end to this culture in Mayotte (which had just reached its peak of production), leaving only a few ruins of factories, some of which are still visible today. The last sugar factory to close was that of Dzoumogné in 1955. The best preserved, and now heritage is that of Soulou, in the west of the island.

The Berlin conference ended in 1885 ; the division of Africa between the European powers is then decided and France, already present in Mayotte, will use the island to take control of the whole of the Comoros archipelago, whose largest island is already controlled in fact by a French potentate, Léon Humblot. In 1886, the sultanates of Grande Comore, Mohéli and Anjouan became protectorates under the direction of the governor of Mayotte while Mayotte, for its part, retained its status as a colony. The Comoros archipelago then becomes the “Mayotte and dependencies” Islands. The year 1898 was one of the darkest in Mahoran history, the island being struck by two successive cyclones which almost completely destroyed the houses, as well as the sugar cane plantations. The phenomenon is followed by an earthquake and an epidemic of smallpox, which depopulate the island and devastate crops, ending the sugar hopes of the seahorse island. Mayotte is struggling to recover from this dark period, and it will be necessary to wait for the twentieth century to see the re-emergence of an attempt at export cultivation, this time oriented towards vanilla, coffee, copra, sisal, then perfume plants like vetiver, lemongrass, sandalwood and especially ylang-ylang.

From 1908, all of the Comoros was integrated under the authority of the general government of “Madagascar and dependencies”. In 1919, in the aftermath of the First World War, the League of Nations was created (ancestor of the current United Nations Organization), which also recognized direct French sovereignty over Mayotte and the legality of its previous acquisition, as well as the status separate protectorates on the other islands, which it places under its tutelage, with the responsibility for France to take care to guarantee their own integrity. The difference in treatment between Mayotte and the rest of the archipelago is increasingly becoming a source of tension. The entire archipelago remains controlled from Dzaoudzi.

The refusal of independence

In 1946, the protectorates of the Comoros and the colony of Mayotte were administratively separated from Madagascar and became an overseas territory (TOM). After refusing to gain independence during the 1958 referendum organized by General De Gaulle, the Comoros obtained on December 22, 1961 (Law No. 1412) a status of internal autonomy (which was extended in 1968 by Law No. 6804). This statute of internal autonomy gives birth to a Comorian Government elected by the Territorial Assembly. From 1961 to 1970, former deputy Said Mohamed Cheikh was elected President of the Government Council until his death on March 16, 1970. It was during this period, in 1966, that the capital Dzaoudzi (Mayotte) was transferred to Moroni, eight years after the transfer decision.

During this period the first political movements were born which challenged the power of Saïd Mohamed Cheikh and, for some, demanded independence. Others, like the Mouvement populaire mahorais (MPM), initially called for more autonomy from the other islands. Born in 1958, the Union for the Defense of the Interests of Mayotte (UDIM) is a movement created by a Creole native of Sainte-Marie, Georges Nahouda. Her nephew, Marcel Henry, continued the fight with the creation of the MPM after his death the same year. Associated with part of the Mahoran elite (including Younoussa Bamana), Marcel Henry will continue the fight for French Mayotte until the end. The MPM obtains the support of a large part of the French political class. However, in the 1960s, other political movements were born, including the “Serrez-la-main” party. This party claimed independence for Mayotte from France. Numbers of skirmishes took place between the latter and the MPM. The MPM radicalized and asked for the separation of Mayotte and the other islands and in particular the departmentalization of Mayotte. Zakia Madi, among the leaders of the MPM, was killed during one of these demonstrations between opposing parties on the pier at Mamoudzou, at the pier of the barge. The brightness of a tear gas canister is the most likely origin according to testimonies.

On August 25, 1972, the Special Committee on Decolonization of the United Nations inscribed the Comoros archipelago on its list of territories subject to self-determination. On June 15, 1973, France and the Comoros signed agreements relating to the attainment of independence. On December 22, 1974, France organized a referendum in the Comoros. If the suffrage obtains as a whole more than 90% for the independence of the territory, Mayotte stands out by voting at 63.8% for the maintenance of the Comoros within the French Republic. A new French government comes to power in France and, in accordance with a recommendation from a group of parliamentarians who came on a study trip to the archipelago, it plans to respect the wishes of the Mahorais and to consider the result “island by Isle “. The President of the Comoros Government Council, Ahmed Abdallah, then unilaterally declares the immediate independence of the Comoros “within its colonial borders”, without the process provided for by the agreements being completed. Mayotte however remains under French administration notwithstanding the declaration of the Comorian government. The Union of the Comoros claims Mayotte and refuses this separation which would call into question the territorial integrity of the archipelago. The African Union considers this territory as occupied by a foreign power.

Legally, France could not oppose the self-determination and independence of the Comoros (except Mayotte) since it only exercised a protectorate under the supervision of the United Nations. But it disputes the indivisibility of the union of the Comoros with Mayotte, which is the fact of the late creation (by internal law) of the overseas territory in the French Union in 1946, federating (preserving their international status respective treaty) the protectorate of Comoros (separated in 1946 from the former colony of Madagascar become independent) with the French possession of Mayotte (which was never under the supervision of the United Nations but acquired much earlier, then recognized by the League of Nations when it was created). The status of a hybrid overseas territory (unified by internal law of 1946, but in two separate parts under international law) will be preserved (as will the old treaties relating to the United Nations trusteeship over the Comoros and the ‘previous acquisition of the island of Mayotte) when the short-lived French Community was created between 1958 and 1960, and then the French Republic (where the overseas territory continued to have dual international status). The non-binding resolution of the United Nations is mainly based on the declarations of will of the French government made only a few months before the organization of the self-determination poll, which do not have the binding force of the law (France expected even that Mayotte also votes for its own independence, like the other islands, but was surprised at the importance of the no to joint independence with the rest of the Comoros, in this French island for even longer than others French metropolitan departments and whose French sovereignty had not been disputed before 1958).

France has since opposed the territorial claims of the Comoros over Mayotte, and the indivisibility of the archipelago which has not been the subject of any international treaty recognizing their union (and the islands were themselves divided into kingdoms or separate sultanates even before the French acquisition of Mayotte). The Comoros, for their part, also defend a position based on an older custom when various peoples (coming from different medieval empires) went fairly freely from one island of the archipelago to another or were able to partially occupy them, often by force (but without real international recognition of their unity). On November 21, 1975, the new master of the Comoros Ali Soihili landed clandestinely with his close guard in Pamandzi to try to seize Dzaoudzi: the rapid reaction of the Mahoran population resulted in a simple dismissal of the intruders, without violence. In the midst of the Cold War, France had plans to establish a naval military base there with a deep-water port. This project will not see the light of day but will be offset by the installation of a listening station for the French satellite network for spy communications (Frenchelon network), commissioned in 2000 on the island of Petite-Terre: the Badamiers military listening center. On February 6, 1976, France opposes its right of veto to the United Nations Security Council to prevent the adoption of a draft resolution asking it to enter into negotiations with the Comorian government with a view to the handover of Mayotte and renounce the holding of a new referendum. Such a resolution, if it had been adopted, would have resulted in the forcible placing of the Mahorais under the domination of the Comorian state.

This second referendum takes place on February 8, 19767,8 and confirms by a rate of 99.4% (82.3% of registered voters, 9,580 votes for and 13 against) the choice of the population of Mayotte to remain within the French Republic. By resolution no 31/4 of October 21, 1976, the United Nations General Assembly, considering this referendum as null and void, condemns the French presence in Mayotte, while France argues that this resolution constitutes only a lacking opinion of legal force. The General Assembly of the United Nations is based on the declaration of December 14, 1960, “on the granting of independence to the colonized countries and peoples”, point no 6 on the preservation of territorial integrity, despite the point No. 2 on the right to self-determination and the fact that Comoros has never constituted a united country in the past. In its resolution of December 6, 1994, the UN General Assembly recalled and confirmed Mayotte’s membership of the Comorian state in his eyes. Since 1995, the question of Mayotte has not been on the agenda of the UN General Assembly.

Finally France does not wish to go against the popular will expressed by the three referendums which followed one another in Mayotte, which showed each time a very strong adhesion of the local population to the specificity of the island and to remain attached to the France, rather than joining the new Islamic Federal Republic of the Comoros (which later became the Union of the Comoros after severe political unrest), as well as the popular will expressed very early by local political representatives (before the independence of the Comoros) towards its departmentalization (They opposed the transfer in 1966 of the administrative capital of the new overseas territory of Mayotte to Grande Comore), an option which was then offered to them when the French Community was created in 1958, at the same time as the Comoros and all the other overseas territories (also with that of independence, or that of an associated Free State, or the maintenance as an overseas territory), but not granted before 2009 (when was also added the choice of the new statute of overseas collectivity to replace that of overseas territory).

French department

The organization by France of a referendum on the departmentalization of Mayotte was challenged in 2008 by the president of the Union of the Comoros but following this referendum of March 29, 2009 on the departmentalization 95% of voters (57 % of voters) confirm once again their desire to remain French. On March 31, 2011, the Department of Mayotte officially became the hundred and first department of France and its fifth overseas department. Following this change of status, negotiations are engaged with the European Union so that the island enters the territory of the Union, by replacing its statute of overseas countries and territories (OCT) against that of of the outermost region (RUP), like the other overseas departments of France. Mayotte joined the Union in 2014.

Demonstrations and violence in October 2011

In the fall of 2011, major protest movements against the increase in the cost of living disturbed the social and economic life of the new department. For several weeks, demonstrations follow one another. The island is gradually paralyzed, and acts of violence are increasing. Stores are looted, dams are set up. The mobile gendarmes charge several times; one protester dies in these clashes and another is seriously injured. The metropolitan media observed an almost general silence on the events. The government then appoints a mediator to resolve the crisis. Since then, strikes for claims of different rights are almost annual: many companies are in a monopoly situation (like Total), and the island is very easy to block entirely even for a small group, being provided only a single port and a single main, circular road.

Water shortage 2016-2017

Mayotte was faced with a severe water shortage. The production of drinking water indeed depends largely on precipitation on the island, which experienced a critical drought situation due to a late rainy season in late 2016, early 2017. 80% of the resources come from the surface waters of rivers and hill reservoirs, which makes the island particularly vulnerable to climatic hazards. The dilapidation of the distribution network, the increase in consumption (+ 20% in four years) and massive deforestation are also implicated. To remedy these problems, in addition to the delivery of water by tanker, new drilling is planned to diversify the water resource, the construction of a second seawater desalination plant and the construction of the third hill reservoir.

Social movement against violence in Mayotte in 2018

Following several school bus shocks by gangs of young delinquents in January 2018 and then a real coordinated assault on Kahani high school, several schools are exercising their right of withdrawal, and the company managing the school transport declares a strike unlimited. Several demonstrations against violence, insecurity and Comorian immigration take place. The movement grew from February 20 to lead to a “general strike”, with road blockades and “dead island” operations, as well as demonstrations by several thousand people. Many elected officials join the protesters to demand government aid, and Laurent Wauquiez (chairman of the Les Républicains party), who has come to support his candidate for the partial legislative elections, takes advantage of his stay to criticize the government’s lack of responsiveness.

On March 28, 2018, faced with the stagnation of the movement and the increasingly worrying overflows of certain groups of demonstrators, Dominique Sorain, previously director of cabinet of the Minister for Overseas Annick Girardin, was appointed prefect de Mayotte and “government delegate”, replacing Frédéric Veau, called to other functions. The minister announced a strengthening of state services and discussions with the inter-union. The new prefect, accompanied by an interministerial team, arrives on the island on March 30, 2018. Despite meetings held from the weekend with the actors of the conflict and the call of the inter-union and the Collective to lift the roadblocks, many blocking points remain the following days. On the morning of April 7, 2018, the prefect had the gendarmerie open the dam blocking access to the port of Longoni. The following days, all the dams are gradually lifted.

On April 19, 2018, a delegation of elected Mahorais was received by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Overseas in Matignon. Édouard Philippe made a statement during which he first recalled the emergency measures taken by the government, in particular for securing school transport. It announces the main directions of a catch-up plan for Mayotte, on the themes of security, health or infrastructure. It also addresses the question of relations with the Union of the Comoros, as well as projects aimed at devolution of decisions, in particular by the creation of a Regional Health Agency for Mayotte and the creation of a full-fledged rectorate.

Mayotte’s politics

In 1958, five sparsely populated overseas territories chose to retain their status and not to become states within the new French Community : these were Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, de la Côte Somalis (which will take its independence under the name of Djibouti), the Comoros Territory (the former protectorate plus the former colony of Mayotte), New Caledonia and French Polynesia. These TOM continued to send representatives to the National Assembly, but due to the delay in exercising the option, they could not participate in the legislative elections of 23 and 30 November 1958, the first of the Fifth Republic. The seat of deputy for Mayotte therefore dates back to that of the Comoros, since, by its vote of February 8, 1976 (“Yes” at 99.4%, or 82.3% of those registered) maintained its links with France.

In 1978, the UDF Younoussa Bamana was the first deputy elected, then re-elected, in this local authority of 19,000 voters. With the election of François Mitterrand, it is Jean-François Hory, close to the PRG who is then elected (whereas Valéry Giscard d’Estaing had obtained 89.9% of the votes a short time before). In 1986, a centrist, originally from Martinique, Henry Jean-Baptiste, was elected, then re-elected in 1988, 1993 and 1997. In 2002, the RPR-UMP Mansour Kamardine, 1st vice-president of the general council, was elected against the UDF-MDM candidate who was running for the succession of the outgoing deputy. During the 2007 legislative elections, Abdoulatifou Aly (Mouvement democrate), candidate for the Alternation Force of the Mahorais departmental movement (a dissidence from the Mahorais departmental movement) was elected in the second round against Mansour Kamardine.

In 2007, the Mayotte departmentalization project accelerated under the impetus of deputy Mansour Kamardine who obtained the adoption of a consultation law on departmentalization. In 2008, Secretary of State Roger Karoutchi announced on January 24 that after the March elections, the General Council, if he wished, would adopt a resolution so that Mayotte became a department-region. However, following the cantonal elections of March 2008, Ahmed Attoumani Douchina general councilor of the canton of Kani-Kéli (UMP), was elected president of the general council by thirteen votes against five and a null ballot, succeeding Saïd Omar Oili, without label, president of the New Momentum for Mayotte (NEMA). The new president was elected by a UMP-PS-MDM coalition (the MDM comes from the Mahoran Popular Movement) favorable to such an evolution which was then expected for 2008 or 2009. The UN and the Comoros had then warned that they considered as null and void any consultation which would be organized within the framework of the departmentalization of the Comorian island of Mayotte. The referendum for departmentalization took place on March 29, 2009. During his visit, the Minister for Overseas Christian Estrosi raised the possibility of reconsidering land law to discourage illegal immigration, but this idea was not taken up by his successor, Yves Jégo.

The DOM status may be incompatible with the maintenance of personal status (see below), the question is not clear on this subject, since for example Guyanese, Wallisians or Neocaledonians already have such a status, and that the Constitution already “protects” personal status everywhere on the territory of the Republic. The departmentalization supposes notable evolutions, some of which have been implemented since 2003 under the impulse of deputy Mansour Kamardine : the minimum legal age for women to marry is raised from 15 to 18 years, polygamous marriages are prohibited, even if acquired situations are not called into question, cadial justice gives way to civil justice. The social minimums will also be gradually increased, starting with the only two in force, those for disabled adults and the elderly. Similarly, the transformation of Mayotte into a DOM should allow the allocation of active solidarity income (RSA), which explains the lobbying of a large part of the political class in this direction. The RSA will be paid from 2012, at around a quarter of what it represents in mainland France, and will then be gradually upgraded over a period of 20 to 25 years, depending on the pace of the island’s economic development, but with the establishment of a cadastre, the housing tax and the property tax should also appear. At the end of 2012, the social situation in Mayotte remains problematic. 75% of the islanders only speak Shimaore, 48% of adolescents from 16 to 18 years old are illiterate and fail at school, 64% of CE1 students fail the French test.

Mayotte’s economy

In 2001, the administrative service sector employed 45% of the island’s employees. Besides administration (mainly the hospital and the National Education), public works, commerce and its associated services are the main employers. Despite a growth of 9% per year, the unemployment rate reaches 35%: INSEE counted, at the beginning of 2019, 51,400 people “without a job but who want to work”, which is by far the record for France in all territories combined (and while informal employment is counted as work). The minimum wage in Mayotte is 25% lower than the national minimum wage. The average annual household income was 9,337 euros in 2005 compared to 29,696 euros in mainland France. According to INSEE, Mayotte suffers more from inequality than from the average level of income. The amount of active solidarity income (RSA) in Mayotte is half the amount available in France outside Mayotte.

In 2018, the island had 2,360 businesses, to which were added around 5,300 informal businesses (unknown to the tax authorities but listed by INSEE). These informal enterprises are most often very small, and constitute only 9% of the added value generated, for around 6,640 undeclared employees (agriculture is not included in these figures). This phenomenon is due to the fact that a large number of entrepreneurs are foreigners in an irregular situation, which prevents them from formalizing their activity.

Almost all of the goods available in Mayotte are imported and pass in small part by the airport of Dzaoudzi-Pamandzi but essentially by the only deep water port in Longoni (commune of Koungou). Ownership of the port of Mayotte was transferred to the general council in 2008. Most non-local products are subject to a sea grant and above all the monopoly situation of most importers and distributors: consequently, prices are 73% more expensive than in mainland France (compared to 66% on average in the other overseas departments). A Price Observatory was set up in 2007 with the aim of controlling the excessive margins of certain companies (“quality-price shield”). There are several supermarkets in Mayotte (mainly around Mamoudzou), and in the villages a network of general purpose grocery stores called “Doukas”. There is a large covered market in Mamoudzou, and farmers’ markets in Coconi, Combani (a village of Tsingoni) and Acoua.

Mayotte’s demography

Mayotte is the smallest French overseas department, and the least populated; however, it is also the territory with the highest demographic growth, and the population of the island should soon exceed that of Guyana. Mayotte is however largely in the lead in terms of population density. The 2017 census counted 256,518 inhabitants, compared to 212,645 in the 2012 census and 186,452 inhabitants in 2007. This makes it the French department with the highest rate of population growth (3.8% per year), as well as the highest density outside the departments of Île-de-France (682 inhabitants / km2). By way of comparison, the second most densely populated French overseas department is Réunion, with only 339 inhabitants / km2, or less than half the density of Mayotte. Mayotte has a very young population: six out of ten Mahorais were under the age of 25 in 2012 and three out of ten were under the age of 10.

Official population figures are, however, disputed due to the large proportion of illegal immigrants, and some local actors put forward much larger population estimates, between 300,000 and 500,000 inhabitants, but these estimates, based essentially on popular sentiment, are considered as fanciful by INSEE. Population growth is extremely strong in Mayotte, due to double fertility and significant immigration: the population has multiplied by 7 between 1950 and today. Mayotte had 3,000 inhabitants when it was bought by France in the 1840s; in 1911 there were 11,000, and still only 67,205 in 1985. Mayotte even has the strongest population growth of the entire African continent, with the exception of Niger, the youngest country on the planet.

The improvement in hygiene conditions, public health (rural medicine, preventive medicine, free for all until 2005) and the standard of living has resulted in a decrease in the past mortality rate of 25 ‰ inhabitants during the census of 1958, at 7.36 ‰ in 2008. The mortality rate estimated in 2015 is 2.8 ‰, but it is considered to be undervalued by INSEE. In 2018, the fertility index amounted to 4.79 children per woman. In 2017, the CHM of Mayotte was once again the first maternity hospital in France, with 9,800 births, re-raising as every year its own national record. As for the annual population growth rate, it is the highest in France with 3.8% from 2012 to 2017, ahead of Guyana which is 2.4% (from 2009 to 2014). According to a UN projection, the population could reach 497,000 inhabitants in 2050.

Currently, more than one inhabitant in two is less than 20 years old in Mayotte (against 1/3 in Reunion and 1/4 in mainland France). It is estimated that 84% of the population lives below the poverty line in Mayotte. The human development index for Mayotte was estimated at 0.75, which according to the authors of the estimate would place Mayotte in the seventieth place in the world ranking (not far from Algeria). The material living conditions of a large part of the population remain very poor, with an extension of the slums which is undoubtedly the first in Europe: “28% of dwellings do not have running water, 59% have no no toilets inside the house and 52% have neither bath nor shower ”. 79% of Mayotte households live in precarious housing, and only 3% benefit from social housing. Despite the lowest average life expectancy of all the French departments (76.3 years, like Jamaica or Argentina), Mayotte has some very elderly people including the dean of the French, Tava Colo, officially born on December 22, 1902 in Passamaïnty and therefore over 115 years old.

Mayotte’s education

Despite the fact that Mayotte was attached to France, the establishment of National Education is relatively recent : at the beginning of the 20th century, there were barely fifty schoolchildren, for more than 12,000 inhabitants, education primary school being mainly devoted to madrassas, which considerably delayed the learning of French on the island. The first colleges only opened after the war, and the first high school in 1980 (the second in 1998); nursery schools only appeared in the 1990s. On the other hand, some recent changes (the appearance of television and then social networks, air-conditioned houses, therefore closed to the outside world, insecurity, etc.) have greatly disrupted the modes of traditional education, in particular common education at the village level, closing the children in often unsuitable family units.

Illiteracy is extremely important on the island. In 2000, it still affected 35% of men and 40% of women. According to JDC data from 2015, 50.9% of young people are illiterate. 71% of the population has no diploma. French is the only language used in class, even though the majority of young people do not know it when they arrive at school. Over 100,000 minors are educated in Mayotte, making it one of the most populous academies in France. Education is administered in the department by the vice-rectorate of Mayotte. The Germanist Stephan Martens, former rector of Guadeloupe, assumed this function since July 2018, but resigned on May 15, 2019, without successor for the moment. There are 64 nursery schools, 119 elementary schools, 21 middle schools and 11 high schools, including the Younoussa-Bamana high school in Mamoudzou (opened in 1980), the Petite-Terre high school (opened in 1998), the Sada high school, the high school Mamoudzou Nord de Kawéni, the lycées du Nord, Dembéni, Kahani and Chirongui.

Mayotte’s language

French is the only official language. But it is not or little known to the elderly from the traditional world of the island. These, as well as most of the youngest, master a Bantu African language, Shimaore (dialect of Kiswahili), or a language of Malagasy origin, Kibushi (dialect of Sakalava), speaking vernacular from south to north west of Mayotte. These two languages ​​vary slightly from one village to another under the influence of other dialects of the region. The shimaore is de facto the indigenous lingua franca for everyday use, especially in the media. It differs slightly from the languages ​​spoken in the Comoros, the closest being Shindzuani (spoken in Anjouan) and the most distant, the Shingazidja of Grande Comore, closer to the classic Kiswahili on the East African coast. All Comorian dialects are represented in Mayotte, in the immigrant populations, with a clear predominance of Shindzuani. It is estimated that illiteracy in French in 2000 affected around 35% of men and 40% of women. The Alliance Française worked for its promotion, engaged in various emancipatory cultural activities such as martial arts, before departmentalization. However, this French illiteracy is also caused by a poor familiarity with the Latin alphabet. Illiteracy in Arabic is lower because the Arabic language and alphabet are taught regularly in madrassas. However, over the last decade, great efforts have been made in education by the State, this figure has therefore fallen constantly, and illiteracy only concerns a certain category of the relatively elderly population.