FACTBOX-Relations between France and Comoros

Thu Mar 27, 2008 8:06am EDT

March 27 (Reuters) - Comoros demanded France hand over rebel leader Mohamed Bacar on Thursday, after he evaded African Union and Comorian troops on Anjouan island and escaped to the nearby French-run island of Mayotte.

Anti-French protests erupted in Moroni, capital of the biggest Comorian island, over suspected French involvement in Bacar's flight.

Here are some facts about French-Comorian ties:

* Traces of French colonial rule, which lasted from the late 19th century to 1975, can be found throughout Comoros. French remains an official language, while the local currency is the Comorian Franc.

* France is Comoros' major economic partner, buying nearly all of its ylang-ylang cash crop. (Ylang-ylang is a flower whose oils are used in aromatherapy). In 2006, France accounted for 42 percent of Comorian exports and 39 percent of its imports. France also provided $16.2 million, or 46 percent of the total of bilateral aid to Comoros in 2005, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

* There are between 200,000 to 350,000 Comorians living in France compared to about 700,000 on the Indian Ocean archipelago itself. Comorians are involved in more than half of reported fraudulent attempts to get French nationality, the French Foreign Ministry says.

* Relations between the two nations are particularly strained over Mayotte, an island that voted to stay with France in 1974, unlike Comoros' three other islands -- Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli.

* Since then, Mayotte has flourished under French control while Comoros' rapidly growing population has suffered poverty and political instability. Hundreds of Comorians risk their lives every year on the dangerous sea crossing to Mayotte, where roughly a third of the population are illegal immigrants, mostly from Anjouan.

* France and Mayotte account for almost all remittances into Comoros, one of the world's most remittance-dependent countries. Cash sent from overseas was worth an estimated 18.5 percent of GDP in 2005 -- well above exports of goods and services, and more than three times the amount of foreign aid.

* Comoros has long been suspicious of French meddling, citing the involvement of the late French mercenary Bob Denard in four of six successful coups in the archipelago, the first of which took place a month after independence. (Writing by Ed Harris; Editing by Katie Nguyen and Mary Gabriel) (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: africa.reuters.com/)



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