Djibouti History

Djibouti History

As the Arabs advanced into northern Africa, the territory of today’s Djibouti came under Arab influence in the course of the 7th century. This was only replaced in the 16th century by the domination of the Ottoman Empire. French influence began in the mid-19th century, and after France placed Obok and Djibouti under one administration, French Somaliland was officially declared a colony in 1896. The most important economic achievement of that time was the development of the hinterland, which took place at the beginning of the 20th century. With the construction of a railway line to Ethiopia, an infrastructure measure was implemented that still plays a key role in the trade in goods with the neighboring country.

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In 1967, the Afar and Issa Territory (named after the predominant tribes) gained limited autonomy within the declining French post-colonial system. In 1977 Djibouti became sovereign, very late compared to many other African countries, which can be explained by the constant territorial conflicts in the Horn of Africa. Djibouti became a member of the Arab League and the UN in the following years. However, contact with France remained very close, both politically and economically. What was remarkable was the fact that the independent country was unable to be drawn into or even occupied by Ethiopia or Somalia in their existing conflicts, even though the Afar and Issa peoples each had strong ethnic ties to these countries.

The first president of the independent country was H. Gouled Aptidon, who in the following years introduced a one-party system with the RPP (Rassemblement Populare pour le Progr¨¨s) at the top of the country. According to AbbreviationFinder, the president’s power base was based primarily on the largest ethnic group in the country, the Somali Issa. Strict foreign policy neutrality ensured the independence of the small country in the 1980s, and Aptidon was re-elected in 1981 and 1987. Nevertheless, the ethnic conflicts that flared up shortly after independence had been reduced since the introduction of the one-party system, but this was associated with a preference for Issas.

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In 1991 the Afar living in the north rose and in 1992 a multi-party system was introduced and a new constitution adopted. In 1994 the FRUD party (Front pour la Restauration de l’Unit¨¦ de la D¨¦mocratie), founded by the resistance movement, signed a peace treaty with the incumbent government, which included the legalization of the FRUD. Hassan Gouled Aptidon’s nephew Ismail Omar Guelleh (RPP) won the 1999 presidential election and followed his uncle in office; an attempted coup by the National Police in late 2000 failed. Nevertheless, the social and political situation of the small country in the Horn of Africa remains heavily dependent on the territorial conflicts of the larger countries in the region.

Djibouti President

From 27 June 1977 the French Afar and Issa Territory became an autonomous republic. The surface of the new state is 23,200 km 2 ; recent estimates attribute to the country a population of over half a million residents (they were 405,000 in 1984). The capital Djibouti in 1988 had 290,000 residents, over half of the country’s total population. The administrative structure of the state follows the one in force in the colonial period and is divided into five districts (Djibouti, Dikhil, Ali Sabieh, Tagiura and Obock). About 35,000 political refugees from Ethiopia are hosted in the country (1985). The population belongs to different ethnic groups: 47% are Issa (Somali), 37% Afari (Danakil), 8% European and 6% Arab.