République de Djibouti
Republic of Djibouti
Quick Facts About the Country
Capital - Djibouti
Government - republic
Currency - Djiboutian franc (DJF)
Area - 23,000 sq km
Population - 486,530 (July 2006 est)
Language - French (official), Arabic (official), Somali, Afar
Religion - Muslim 94%, Christian 6%
Calling Code +253
Internet TLD .dj
Time Zone UTC +3
Djibouti (Arabic: Gībūtī, pronounced jee-BOO-tee), officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a small country in eastern Africa, located in the Horn of Africa. Djibouti is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. On the other side of the Red Sea, on the Arabian Peninsula, 20 kilometers (12 mi) from the coast of Djibouti, is Yemen.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)
Weather and Climate
The country has a climate that is hot and dry year-round, but it is especially hot and dry in the summer, when winds blow from the inland desert. In the capital, average daily temperatures range from 23° to 29°C (73° to 84°F) in January and from 31° to 41°C (87° to 106°F) in July. Annual rainfall ranges from 127 mm (5 in) in the capital to 380 mm (15 in) in the mountains. Djibouti lies in an earthquake zone along several major faults. The land is mostly rocky desert with scattered drought-tolerant grasses and shrubs. Wildlife includes jackals, hyenas, ostriches, and gazelles.
(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003)
Major Travel and Tourism Info (Country Travel Guide)
Djibouti 101 (Basics)
The French Territory of the Afars and the Issas became Djibouti in 1977. Hassan Gouled Aptidon installed an authoritarian one-party state and proceeded to serve as president until 1999. Unrest among the Afars minority during the 1990s led to a civil war that ended in 2001 following the conclusion of a peace accord between Afar rebels and the Issa-dominated government.
In 1999, Djibouti's first multi-party presidential elections resulted in the election of Ismail Omar Guelleh; he was re-elected to a second and final term in 2005. Djibouti occupies a strategic geographic location at the mouth of the Red Sea and serves as an important transshipment location for goods entering and leaving the east African highlands.
The present leadership favors close ties to France, which maintains a significant military presence in the country, but is also developing stronger ties with the US. Djibouti hosts the only US military base in sub-Saharan Africa and is a front-line state in the global war on terrorism.
Two-thirds of the inhabitants live in the capital city, the remainder being mostly nomadic herders.
Coastal plain and plateau separated by central mountains. Mostly wasteland. Lac Assal (Lake Assal) is the lowest point in Africa
Natural hazards include earthquakes and droughts. Occasional cyclonic disturbances from the Indian Ocean bring heavy rains and flash floods.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)
History in Brief: Summary
Pre-colonial and Colonial Period
Djibouti lies at a major global crossroads where, some 100,000 years ago, early humans migrated from Africa to the Middle East. Livestock herding, which remains important to Djibouti’s people, was introduced to this region by nomads more than 10,000 years ago. The ancient region’s small ports, inhabited by the ancestors of the Afars, hosted merchants from Persia, Arabia, Ethiopia, and the Mediterranean.
In the first centuries ad, a series of kingdoms dominated the region and its rich trade, paying tribute to the powerful inland kingdom of Aksum, in what is now Ethiopia. Arab traders brought Islam to the coastal ports by the 9th century and founded the Islamic sultanate of Adal at Zeila, a port to the southeast in what is now Somalia. Somali people moved into what is now southern Djibouti by the 14th century.
By 1500 Adal ruled Djibouti. Starting in 1527 Ahmed al-Ghazi, the ruler of Adal, led Afar and Somali troops in a holy war against Christian Ethiopia. The Muslims won a major victory in 1529, destroying an entire Ethiopian army, and they went on to capture several Ethiopian provinces.
However, in 1543 an Ethiopian force with Portuguese assistance defeated and killed Ahmed, and Adal collapsed. Subsequently, small Afar sultanates, including Obock and Tadjoura, emerged on the northern side of the Gulf of Tadjoura. These sultanates still survive, though the sultans have little formal power. During the second half of the 16th century, European merchants began a lucrative trade in Ethiopian coffee and perfumes with these Djiboutian sultanates.
France sought to challenge British dominance of the Indian Ocean trade by establishing a base at the strategic entrance to the Red Sea, so France signed a treaty with the sultan of Obock in 1862. Beginning in 1881 France set up a trading mission in Obock and concluded a series of treaties with other local rulers that recognized French control. In 1888 France established the colony of French Somaliland—encompassing what is now Djibouti—and chose the town of Djibouti as the colony’s capital in 1892 because it offered a good site for a rail link to Addis Ababa. The French completed the railroad in 1917, and the port of Djibouti grew rapidly. Large numbers of Somalis and Arabs migrated to the port to take advantage of the opportunities for employment and trade.
Independence for Djibouti
French rule met some resistance from Afar and Issa nomads, but the French mainly ignored the interior of the territory and focused their attention on the port. In 1946 France made French Somaliland an overseas territory with limited self-rule.
Ethnic conflicts soon arose over representation in the territory’s legislature. The French adopted a policy of favoritism toward the Afars because the Somali population generally sought independence from France and possible unification with Somalia. In a 1967 referendum, Djiboutians voted to remain under French administration, and the colony’s name was changed to the French Territory of the Afars and Issas.
Ten years later, however, increased nationalist sentiment and international pressure led France to hold another referendum, and this time Djiboutians overwhelmingly voted for independence. The Republic of Djibouti achieved full independence on June 27, 1977.
The people of Djibouti elected Hassan Gouled Aptidon, an Issa, as its first president. Gouled quickly monopolized power and established a single-party state in 1981. Gouled dominated the RPP—the sole party—and rewarded his supporters with patronage. The population of the capital city grew, and the subsequent lack of clean water, sanitation, and adequate employment caused growing dissatisfaction and tension. Afars and other dissidents organized resistance movements, but the government acted to suppress any opposition.
Beginning in 1991 an armed Afar rebellion destabilized Djibouti. By mid-1992 Afar rebels controlled two-thirds of Djibouti’s territory. Later that year the government, under pressure from France, held a referendum in which voters approved a new constitution permitting opposition parties.
However, the constitution required opposition groups to gain government approval in order to compete in elections, and the government rejected the application of FRUD, the party of the Afar rebels. The government defeated the rebels in a 1993 military offensive. In late 1994 the two sides signed a peace agreement.
However, over the next two years several factions split off from FRUD and vowed to continue armed resistance. Under the peace agreement, the government granted cabinet posts to two Afar leaders, incorporated former rebels into the military, and recognized FRUD as a legitimate political party. With its economy devastated by the war, Djibouti was forced to cut government spending to gain international financial assistance. Government austerity measures further worsened Djibouti’s chronic unemployment and poverty.
Gouled’s health began to deteriorate in 1995, and in early 1999 he announced that he would not run for another term. Ismail Omar Guelleh, an aide of Gouled’s who had built a power base within the RPP, won a solid victory in presidential elections in April 1999. The outbreak of border clashes between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998 proved a boon to Djibouti, which became virtually the only outlet for Ethiopia’s external trade during the ensuing war. Growing port traffic improved the country’s economy, but persistent unemployment and ongoing attacks by Afar rebel factions continued to threaten Djibouti’s stability.
A peace agreement between the government and a radical Afar FRUD faction was signed in February 2000 in Paris. This brought to an end seven years of guerrilla fighting. In March the former prime minister and leader of the splinter group of FRUD, Ahmed Dini Ahmed, returned from his nine-year exile to lead the political opposition.
First Multiparty Elections
The January 2003 election was the first to be opened up to many political parties. The parties formed into two electoral coalitions: the Union for a Presidential Majority (UMP) and the Union for a Democratic Change (UAD). The UMP secured more than 62 percent of the vote. In April 2005 President Guelleh ran unopposed in presidential elections and was reelected.
(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003)
Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003
The World Factbook 2006
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc