tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Comoros to war with France over naughty island

Warm, salty ocean currents aren't the only waves washing over the Comoros Islands this week: nationalist fervor is at an all-time high ahead of two very important referenda on the agenda.

First, Comorans -- the people who inhabit one of the 3 Indian-Ocean islands of Grand Comore, Moheli and Anjouan; collectively known as the Union of the Comoros Islands -- will go to the polls on March 22 to vote on a referendum to reduce the size of their bloated government.

In addition to having an overall federal president and legislative assembly, each island also has its own president and legislative assembly, which seems to some Comorans as excessively bureaucratic for a country with 730,000 people whose primary economic concern is the ylang-ylang harvest.

(After suffering no fewer than 20 palace revolts since 1975 -- a phenomenon that has given birth to Comoros' unofficial nickname: the "coup-coup islands" -- Comorans have enjoyed nearly a decade of political calm and burgeoning democracy, and so are now ready to cut back on big government as the economy begins to slag.)

Second, the French -- the people who inhabit France, now on its Fifth Republic itself -- will vote in a referendum on March 29 on whether to formally incorporate the disputed island of Mayotte into la belle république.

Comoros claims Mayotte for itself, though the Mayottese seem to prefer becoming an overseas department of France (like Gaudeloupe, e.g.) over joining an island federation with the collective GDP of the Rue du Cherche-Midi.

Comoros considers this a declaration of war by France. Perhaps emboldened by the fact that France has lost a few wars lately, Comorans are urging their government to stand up to the French empire. But will they have enough government to be successful?

[Fact-checker update Mar 24: It is Mayotte that is voting in the referendum on the 29th, not all of France. We apologize for inferring from limited news access that the whole country of France would s'arrêter for a day and vote on the fate of some tiny island in the southern Indian Ocean.]

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