© 2008 Dr Roger Izarn - Copyrighted material published with the permission of the author
- Reproduction prohibited without the written consent of the author - This text commits only its author -

Anjouan has inherited the rule of law, monarchy founded in the early sixteenth century by Sultan Hassani Chirazi El Madoua. For centuries, she lived under the authority and the laws of a sovereign belonging to one or the other branches of one family, the descendants of Hassani Chirazi El Madoua.

The Salic law does not apply, the power often fell to the descendants of Hassani Chirazi. For their wedding with princes sometimes foreign to the progeny of Hassani Chirazi, they launched ''Dynasties'' which no longer bore the name of El Madoua, but whose lineal members were always, by women, descendants of the first Sultan (Dynasties El Masela and Aboubakar ben Salim).

The Sovereign was assisted by a Grand Council, the Mandjelissa, which brought together the Leading Men of the island, and by its role in succession, did Sultanate an elective monarchy, at least within the progeny of Hassani Chirazi. The Mandjelissa had to deal with important political issues, including the setting of taxes, but also relations with foreign countries. The administrative procedures are described by Lieutenant of Vessel Frappaz in 1820 : «The Sultan, highly respected, is only the first person of the State. He has no absolute power, and can not do anything without the advice of a permanent Council composed of key leaders of the island. It has however the right to pardon the condemned, and no execution can take place without having affixed on the sentence the seal of his arms. He also chairs the courts and he is accessible to any of his subjects». Recognizing the reality of the State of Anjouan, and the authority of the Sultan, English as French envisioned repeatedly to pass treaty with him in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But Anjouanese, suspicious, avoided a long time to link by any document whatsoever.

The two main cities of the island, Domoni and Mutsamudu, shared administrative functions : to Domoni, the "administrative" Capital, the head office of the Sultanate and of the Mandjelissa to Mutsamudu, under the authority of a Governor-Vizir the role of economic Capital and foreign relations during the stops of European vessels on the route to India. Ultimately, we can say, with the best specialist in the history of the archipelago, that, in the late eighteenth century, «ultimately, and unlike neighboring islands, Anjouan doubtless formed long ago, a state and not an African chiefdom, a kingdom with a monarch, flanked by a government whose authority extended to the whole island, an army and a treasury funded by regular resources». (Jean Martin - Four islands between pirates and planters. v. 1, p.51-52).

To Hassani Chirazi succeeded his son, Mohammed Ben Hassan; then, in 1598, there is a granddaughter of Hassani Chirazi, Djoumbé Halima 1st, who reigns on Anjouan; he will be still there in 1615. After his son, the Sultan Maouana Idarous, there is still a woman, Manaou Idarous, who reigns in 1645, she marries Alaoui El Masela, causing thus a change of dynasty.

Her daughter, Djoumbé Halima II, who reigns in 1693, will bring a new change of dynasty by marrying a Aboubakar ben Salim. After his son, the Sultan Salim, there is his granddaughter Djoumbé who receipt the throne, she marries her cousin, Saïd Ahmed, who also was a descendant of Hassani Chirazi, will take the title of Sultan. His lengthy reign was marred late in life, by peasant revolts against the tax and privileges of city people. Having had the unfortunate idea, to quell the rebellion, to engage Sakalaves warriors, they will turn against him; Domoni be besieged and conquered, the old Sultan Saïd Ahmed will abdicate (1792) and his successor Abdallah 1st Mougné Fani, rear-grandson of the Sultan Manaou Idarous, will decide to transfer the Capital to Mutsamudu. Henceforth (1792), administrative and economic capitals were met.

To Abdallah 1st (1792-1803) will succeed a descendant of the elder branch of the family of Hassani Chirazi El Madoua, Alaoui 1st (1803-1821), that Abdallah 1st had taken as Vizir. His son Abdallah II (1821-1836) succeeds him.

Hospital, as are traditionally Anjouanese, Abdallah II will will be involved into the worse difficulties in agreeing to give refuge to Malagasy princes exiled from Madagascar.

Anjouan - Andriantsoli

To Mayotte, governed by Boina Combo, Sultan theoretically vassal of that of Anjouan, there is Andriantsoli, dethroned king of the Malagasy kingdom of Boina, who was hosted in 1832. Helped by some of his subjects who had accompanied him in his exile, he succeeded in a few years to eliminate the legitimate Sultan and take its place. To restore its overlord rights, Abdallah II will organize in 1835 a successful expedition on Mayotte, the Leading Men of the island confirmed the rights of the Sultan of Anjouan, by a treaty signed in the presence of a representative of the British Governor of Cape Town, the 19th of November 1835 (J. Martin, op. cit. v. 1, p.138-139, and n.96, p.437). Andriantsoli was appointed Governor of Mayotte, but he quickly dismissed any suzerainty, and proclaimed himself Sultan of Mayotte. However, rightly fearing a new action of the Sultan of Anjouan to return to his duties, and planning to regain a foothold in Madagascar, he hastened to contact representatives of the Governor of the Isle Bourbon, to sell Mayotte to France.

To very Anjouan, Abdallah II had given refuge to Ramanateka, Governor of Majunga, and pretender to the succession of the King of Madagascar, Radama 1st. Hosted in 1828, Ramanateka tried, as early as 1831, to overthrow his benefactor; to get rid, Abdallah II sent him to Moheli, with the title of Governor. Again, Ramanetaka was quick to proclaim himself Sultan. After a successful first expedition, to recover his rights, Abdallah II was the victim of a shipwreck who threw off the coast of Moheli. Taken prisoner by Ramanetaka, he died very soon in its prisons.

This capture, situation altogether unprecedented for the Anjouanese, will make extremely difficult the succession of Abdallah II; his son, Alaoui II (1836-1840), wishing to avenge his father, only succeeds in weakening his position; because his uncles, brothers of Abdallah II considered dangerous and hopeless a punitive expedition against Ramanateka. From 1837 to 1840, a situation close to anarchy reigns in Anjouan; in November 1840, Alaoui II throws down the gauntlet and fled to Mozambique. A brother of Abdallah II, also son of Sultan Alaoui 1st, the Prince Saïd Hassan, took power in the name of Salim II (1840-1855).

This one will reaffirms immediately «the constant doctrine of the Sultans of Anjouan in respect of the two small islands. Like Moheli, Mayotte was part of his dominions, and he alone could yield to any power that it was» (August 1840). A new Anjouanese expedition to Mayotte, in November 1840, was a semi-failure. That may be why, when the envoy of France came to Salim II to aware of the impending sale of Mayotte (the treaty was signed with Andriantsoly the 25th of April 1841) «this one could only repeat... the words he had said in August of the previous year : Andriantsoly, proclaiming himself Sultan of Mayotte, had engaged in pure and simple usurpation; and, himself, legitimate owner of the island, had no intention of selling it to anybody. Before the resolution of the French... he preferred nevertheless to compromise, saying he would consent to the sale in exchange of the income from customs of port of Mayotte» (Jean Martin. Comores : op.cit. v. 1, p. 157).

Sultan Salim II died in August 1855. His son, who had received a European-style education to Port-Louis, succeeded him under the name of Abdallah III (1855-1891). The title of Sultan, long ago prestigious, being devalued in this second half of the nineteenth century by the uses made of many small Muslim leaders, Abdallah III preferred to be called ''King of Anjouan'', title under which it was recognized by the British Consuls in Zanzibar, and by foreign growers.

Founded in the life of an Anjouanese State of monarchy type, to the hereditary character tempered by an elective touch, the reality of an Anjouanese nation is still asserted by the contention of Anjouanese to the suzerainty on Mayotte and Moheli. It is mentioned early in the seventeenth century (1614) by Walter Peyton. Various expeditions tried to restore it (in 1750, 1789, 1794, and those which were discussed above. - See Jean Martin, op. cit. v. 1; notes 137 and 140, p.407, 144 p. 408, n. 60, p. 417, n 65, p. 418). Even it seems that some of the sovereigns of Anjouan had dreamed to extend their authority to Grande-Comore, and sometimes sent troops to participate in wars that tore the island. However, the strict maintenance of these claims was always difficult because of the insularity and it faced, especially in the nineteenth century, the claims of suzerainty that, referring to a very distant past, the Sultans of Zanzibar and Mascate expressed on Grande-Comore and Moheli (but, significantly, never on Anjouan). Moreover, under pressure from France coveting to conquer the entire archipelago, the Sultans of Anjouan finally give it up after the loss of Mayotte.

The manner of Anjouan and its Sultan dealt with the European powers also confirms the objective existence of a national State, the only one of the archipelago to be so recognized.

First came the frequent stops of European ships in Mutsamudu from the sixteenth century. Ships bought food, than the Sultan and his Vizir tried to provide them to the better. For the French only, in the eighteenth century, there is at least fifty ships which anchored Mutsamudu, but there were also English, Portuguese, Hollanders, and soon the Americans. The break in Anjouan was very popular with Europeans, for the quality of reception and feeding opportunities offered by an island what all leash to guess prosperous.

Anjouan - Robert Surcouf
Robert Surcouf

In the eighteenth century, the exactions of French pirates (Surcouf, Lablache) provide an opportunity for exchanges of letters between the Sultan of Anjouan and the successive Governors of Port-Louis, then the Isle of France [Mauritius] with compensation provided to the Sultan in compensation.

Anjouan - Plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise
Plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise

In 1802, following the plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise, France asked to the Sultan Abdallah to kindly receive thirty-two of the deportees called "Jacobins", among whom was General Rossignol; what he made all the more willingly than the Captain Lafitte, "special envoy of the Governor of the Isle of France to the Sultan of Anjouan" had brought him three guns, weapons and different gifts.

Then there were numerous contacts between the Sultan of Anjouan and representatives of the French Government, during the events that led to the sale of Mayotte.

Similarly, one will evoke the draft treaties for a settlement of the English (1770, 1803, 1824) or French (1774, 1816, 1819) in the Sultanate. Project meets the reluctance of the Sultans of Anjouan to bind themselfs with foreign powers which they do not understand the language, and which they thought could not be trusted (the Treaty of 1884 with France, with significant variations between the French text and the Shindzwani text, sadly illustrate how this suspicion was justified).

But, with the early nineteenth century, arose the great movement of colonial imperialism which would lead to a takeover by force of countries of the South by European powers. From 1840, the negotiations to establish treaties with the Anjouanese State always relied on the presence of warships of the interested nation in roadstead of Mutsamudu, obviously limiting the free will of the sovereign.

In 1843, Sultan Salim II succeeded to reject a treaty of protectorate that France "proposed" to him only in exchange of a declaration of final renunciation to all its rights on Mayotte, the 19th of September 1843 (Jean Martin, op. cit., v. 1, p.168-169, and 460461). Two French warships were anchored in the roadstead, and threatened the capital.

Salim II thought it wise then, to offset the pressures of France, to pass with England antislavery treaty (8 Nov. 1844, ibid text. p. 564-565), which gave him only four months to remove the Slavery, which was completely unrealistic. He demanded the establishment of a Consulate of Great Britain in Mutsamudu, conducted in 1848 (ibid. p. 318), and concluded the Anglo-Anjouanese trade treaty of June 3, 1850 (ibid text. p.571). He also opened his State to the establishment of an English settler, William Sunley, of Indian traders, of an American physician, B. F. Wilson, whom he hoped to receive informed care, and to whom he gave a fairly large agricultural concession to Patsy, near Mutsamudu.

Happy coincidence, it happened that the government of Louis-Philippe, after failed attempts of 1843, decided in May 1844 not to give effect to those projects of protectorate. France, for the time, devoted himself to consolidate and organize his possession of Mayotte and sought to prevent than untimely actions precipitate definitively Anjouan in the arms of the English. Regularly, the French warships continued to come in Mutsamudu, but it was for the time in a new climate of friendship and cooperation.

On the death of Salim II, in 1855, his son Abdallah III, succeeded him without any problems (1855-1891). He appeared anxious to maintain good formal relations with a power of which his father had experienced the danger; he provided oxen to Dzaoudzi, and paid its share for the postal service that assured him the colony, he also took advantage of the commercial activity of the large Anjouanese colony of Mayotte (ibid. v.2, p. 10). The peace which, for forty years, then reigned in the kingdom even allowed the Sultan to go away to do care his view to Mauritius and Reunion; without much success, alas.

But the worm was in the fruit. The conclusion of treaties and the introduction of foreign landowners in the territory were gradually destabilize the country. Slavery was still flourishing in the region, including in the French colonies of Reunion and Mayotte. It was the cornerstone of socio-economic structures of tropical islands. His removal, however legitimate and desirable it might be, could be done gradually, except to upset the delicate political balance of a nation where the monarchy had to take account of an aristocracy of great leaders, who had institutionally their word to say in the accession and maintenance of sovereign power.

The fight against slavery did not obviously the matter of Anjouanese owners, settlers as notables. Sunley (despite the Anglo-Anjouanese treaty of 1845) and Wilson, as well as the Sultan and all the Anjouanese notables practiced slavery. But as Sunley, Consul of Great Britain was the first to do - which reproached him his friend, the great Livingstone during his visits of Pomoni - were able to leave to sleep the Treaty of 1844. The worry of masters, the impatience of the slaves who had dangled a promise of liberation, grew nevertheless with the news of the fight against slave trade in the area (boarded slave ships; emancipation of slaves in Mayotte in July 1847, testing of humanization of slavery led by Sunley even in Anjouan).

Foreign pressures of any kind had further complicated the task of the Sultan, and especially undermine his authority.

It was U.S. pressures, with the treaty of "friendship and commerce" of October 4, 1879 (ibid text. v.2, p. 240-241) passed under the threat of guns of the Ticonderoga frigate moored in the roadstead of Mutsamudu. Then, to support their compatriot Wilson, the visits of Vice-Consul of the United States in Zanzibar; Ropes, aboard the steamer Akala in November 1884; and that of the Commodore Harrington on board the sloop Juanita a year later.

These were, to the English side, the frequent interventions of the consuls, Napier, and Sunley, mixing with the fights for the power, intervening on behalf of Indian traders, and taking often the party of local opposition. There was, above all, the Treaty of 1882 (ibid text. p. 243) who immediately prohibited all traffic of slaves, and stared at August 4, 1889 a deadline for the emancipation of all slaves in the territory of Anjouan. There followed, in 1884, a revolt of the pro-slaveries blaming the Sultan to have thus been involved itself; Abdallah III faced them successfully. But having bowed to pressure of foreigners undermining its prestige and authority.

There was, especially following the Berlin Conference which gave him free rein in the Mozambique Channel (2.26.1885), the resumption of the imperialist action of France, which was going to take the Anjouanese nation to the ruin in a few years.

On April 21, 1886, the sovereign signed with the representative of France a convention enshrining «the friendly relations existing... since longtime» and ensuring «the preponderance of France in Anjouan». He had inscribed the right of Prince Salim, his eldest son, to succeed him. But at the same time, the French text did commit to «never deal with any nation and to grant any privileges to foreigners without the consent of France» and to «take the necessary disposals for the abolition of slavery in their States» (ibid text. p. 273-274). This Convention, however, was below the wishes of the French Government (ibid. p. 269, n. 3 and 4) who wanted to achieve it by installing a French resident and the creation of a French school in Mutsamudu; and beyond what Abdallah III had believed to grant. In the month of August, he protested against serious differences between Swahili and French texts (p. 276, n. 45).

Hoping to force him, France sent in October, the Limier cruiser in the roadstead of Mutsamudu. But the Sultan was back to the wall and knew that if he yielded, he would be filed as a traitor to the country and to Islam. His brothers, Mohamed and Othman, were ready to take power. He then refused further concessions, and tried in vain to appeal to the English of Cape Town and Mauritius.

A new attempt of intimidation in December, with the Nyelly cruiser, was equally unsuccessful. This was then an escape forward of France, with the sending of a real squadron of four ships, of which two cruisers, the 22nd of March 1887, under the command of Captain of Vessel Dorlodot des Essarts, Chief of the Naval Division of Indian Ocean. This squadron landed an expeditionary force of four companies, which surrounded the capital, occupied, and took prisoner the Prince heir Salim.

Abdallah III could only sign, under the force, a text authorizing the installation of a French resident who, «representative of a friendly nation, would not intervene in the government of the Sultanat(March 26, 1887, ibid. p. 69). This text, which represented to the eyes of the commodore the maximum that we can require to the Sovereign without precipitating the country into revolution, does not reaped however the consent of the French Administration, which refused to ratify. Through the Resident Troupel, it imposed, October 8, 1887, a new treaty, which resumed the French text of the April 21, 1886, specifying the installation of the Resident, the establishment of a Joint Court, and the foundation of a French school in Mutsamudu (ibid. p.282, n. 87).

Sick, almost blind, fired hue and slide between the requirements of French imperialism and the resistance of his subjects, principally his own brothers, who saw it as a mortal threat to the Anjouanese culture (Islam, rights notables, serfdom), faced with serious financial difficulties resulting from the failure of the plantation, that like the Europeans he had tried to create in Bambao, Abdallah III was exhausted.

The France thought fit, then replace Troupel by a physician, Dr. Ormières, which seems to have acquired at the beginning, the confidence of the Sultan and of the population. He advised, to calm the discontent of pro-slaveries notables to publish an abolitionist dahir, which tempered the constraint by the obligation done to the freed to remain ten years to the service of their masters (January 26, 1889). This was very badly received in the slave population.... Shortly after (March 17, 1889, ibid. p. 284, n. 93) Ormières was granted the right to intervene in the internal government of the Sultanate. Masters as slaves felt to tighten the French vice, the popularity of England was only growing, and everywhere the revolt rumbled. It was avoided only by the parking, to Mutsamudu, of French warships succeeding there during several months. Therefore the resistance limited, to the governmental side, to act the most possible as if the agreements did not exist, and to the population side, to hostile actions against the French Residence. In these circumstances, France decided to withdraw temporarily Dr Ormières and close the buildings of the Residence (January 21, 1891).

But February 2, 1891, Sultan Abdallah III died. His son Salim succeeded him by right but he was immediately faced with a revolt of slaves and peasants of highs (Koni and Nioumakélé) gathered around the Prince Saïd Othman, the brother of Abdallah III who proclaimed himself Sultan and published a dahir of immediate liberation of slaves. The rebels invaded, then plundered Mutsamudu and Domoni, killing some three hundred people who had not been able to flee. These disturbances doing the matter of France, April 23 1891, an escadre of four vessels, after landing a task force of a thousand men, wet in front of the capital, bombarded it, and installed as sultan a straw man of the French, the Prince Saïd Omar, grandson of the Sultan Abdallah 1st, who lived to Mayotte since 1846, after favoring the purchase of this island by France. The task force invested Anjouan; and, despite a certain resistance, due especially to the peasants of the highs (Koni Ngani in particular) went island master. The Anjouanese nation sank itself in the night; that was going to last a century...


Differences with the Grande-Comore

Made of instability, through perpetual struggle of a handful of small principalities that seek to dominate the other, the political tradition of the Grande-Comore is the opposite of that of Anjouan, and typically feudal.

The island was divided into eight small sultanates, sometimes longer, sometimes less, depending of the era, everyone was in the power of a clan, so the clan Hignia Foumbaia ruled the Sultanate of Itsandra, who was for vassals more or faithful months the Sultans of Oichili and of Hamahane, the Higna Pirusa clan ruled the Bambao, and vassals sultanates of Mitsamiouli, Hambou, Boudé and Boinkou. The M'Dombozi clan, him, dominated the Badgini, of which the Sultanate of Domba was vassal.

Quite small, roughly those of a French Canton, these principalities did not count hardly more of some thousands of subjects. They were in perpetual struggle to obtain the relative and fragile domination committed attached to the title of Sultan Tibé or principal Sultan. These struggles have earned to the island the nickname of "island of fighters Sultans", qualifier unduly extended by some, for purposes of propaganda, to the whole archipelago. We saw it could hardly apply to Anjouan.

«The title of Sultan Tibé was not hereditary, and the war seems to have been one of the only ways to acquire it with the possession of goods, because the winner had to demonstrate generosity and distribute bonuses: oxen, clothes, paddy and millet, for that his primacy was recognized by its peers» (Jean Martin, op. cit. v.1, p.60).

The identity of these little princes is uncertain because it has only been transmitted by oral tradition, without chronological indicators, and in strong different lists according to the informants; on the contrary of Anjouan where the relations with the Europeans allowed, thanks to the documents left by these, a certainty on the identity of the successive sovereigns, and chronological indicators rather precise.

In fact, one possesses pieces of information rather precise only in the nineteenth century, when relations with the British or the French began to be more frequent. Presumably the story of Sultan Tibé Mougné M'Kou (1813-1875) gives an idea of what were the reigns of his predecessors. We will trace through the information collected by Jean Martin (op. cit. p. 358-388).

Son of a prince banished from the Island of Patte, on the east coast of Africa, and of a Comorian princess, Moina Mtiti, daughter of the Higna Pirusa clan, Mougné M'kou grows in Anjouan, where his father had taken refuge. He married a daughter of Sultan Alaoui 1st, of which he had his elder son Saïd M'Kou.

On the death of his father, and his maternal aunt having become sovereign of Bambao, he returned to Grande-Comore in 1814.

Having established, with money (because his father had died very rich), a party in the Bambao, and have bought some sympathy among the notables of Itsandra, Mougné M'kou succeeded in capturing Moroni and Iconi which he drove the Sultan Bamba Ouma, and proclaimed himself Sultan of Bambao.

But that was not enough for his ambition. Coveting the title of Tibé, he began to forge alliances among other sultans, to whom he gave in marriage the daughters of his family. He attacked the Sultan of Bagdini, put it in escape, and replaced him by his brother-in-law. Then, with his allies, he turned against the Sultan Tibé of then, Fey Foumou. He put it in escape, and gave the throne of Itsandra to his father-in-law, Boina Foumou. He then proclaimed himself Sultan Tibé.

However, the former Tibé, Fey Foumou, succeeded in forming a coalition in which he rallied Boina Foumou. Defeated, Mougné M'kou was dispossessed and placed under house arrest. Then having succeeded obtaining the assistance of his brother-in-law, Abdallah II of Anjouan, who sent him a contingent of soldiers on a whaler, he said Moroni and his Bambao sultanate, and done allegiance to his father-in-law, Boina Foumou, has meanwhile become Sultan Tibé. This happened around 1830.

Around 1833 he went to Anjouan, for the wedding of one of his children and then did the pilgrimage of The Mecca. He returned quieted, and satisfied, for seven years, of his sultanate from Bambao to Moroni. Then, a coalition has been assembled around the ancient Tibé, Fey Foumou to dispossess the Tibé Boina Foumou, hostilities resumed in the island. Mougné M'Kou, after hesitation, rushed to help his father-in-law, but Fey Foumou, having obtained reinforcements of Sakalaves of Moheli, was victorious, and Mougné M'kou, having again lost his sultanate, was under house arrest. A year later, the new Tibé gave the small sultanate of Oichili. Meanwhile, Boina Foumou together a new coalition to unseat Fey Foumou, to the sides of which had arranged Mougné M'kou. He was victorious, but a year later returned the Bambao to his son.

Around 1840, a new coalition around Fey Foumou nocked again Boira Foumou. Tibé once more, aging Fey Foumou gave the government of Itsandra to his son Foumbavou, what he did to recognize as Tibé.

Mougné M'kou thought then offset weakness in attracting the good graces of the French recently installed in Mayotte. He tied up, with the Superior Commanders of the colony, relations that allowed him to obtain from them a probably superior consideration to what it was in reality, and an unofficial protection. Mougné M'Kou profited, circa 1846, to resume hostilities against Foumbavou; he lost his new fiefdom, and had to take refuge to Mitsamiouli.


© 1999- Anjouan.net - Tous droits réservés - All rights reserved - Contact :