Arab Countries - Djibouti

Djibouti [ Gibuti ] Republic of Djibouti

The Country & People of Djibouti

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Djibouti, officially Republic of Djibouti, republic (2005 est. pop. 477,000), c.8,900 sq mi (23,057 sq km),E Africa, bordered by Eritrea (N), Ethiopia (W, S), Somalia (Se), and the Gulf of Aden (e). Djibouti is the capital. Largely a stony desert, the country is economically underdeveloped. Nomadic animal-herding is the chief occupation, but most revenue is derived from the port of Djibouti and the country's free-trade zone status. Hides, cattle, and coffee (transshipped from Ethiopia) are the major exports. Industries include shipbuilding and repair and food processing. The population is about 40% Issa (of Somali origin) and 35% Afar (of Ethiopian origin), with the rest largely other Somali tribes, Arabs, and Ethiopian refugees. Both Issas and Afars are Muslim and speak Cushitic languages. French and Arabic are the official languages.

History
Djibouti is important for its strategic location on the strait between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. France obtained a foothold in the area in 1862 and organized it as a colony, French Somaliland, in 1896. The colony gained territorial status in 1946 and was renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas in 1967.

In a 1967 referendum the Afars voted to continue ties with France, while the Issas voted for independence and eventual reunion with Somalia.

Djibouti became independent in 1977 under Pres. Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who established a single-party state in 1981. The country has been adversely affected by warfare in and between neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia.

Tensions between Afars and the Issa-dominated government led to an Afar rebellion in 1991 that finally ended in 2000.

Limited multiparty elections were restored under a 1992 constitution and Gouled was reelected in 1993.

In 1992 a constitution allowing for a limited multiparty state was approved by Djibouti’s voters.

In 1993, Gouled was reelected in the country’s first multiparty elections, which were widely boycotted by the opposition.

The 1999 presidential election was won by Ismail Omar Guelleh, the governing party candidate.

The French remain a strong military and technical presence in Djibouti, and the United States has also established (2002) a base in the strategically located nation.

In 2003 the government sought to expel an estimated 100,000 illegal immigrants, largely Ethiopians and Somalis, from the country. The move was prompted by security and unemployment concerns. Guelleh was reelected in 2005, but the opposition refused to contest the election, believing that the government would rig the vote.

In June, 2008, fighting erupted briefly between Djibouti and Eritrea near the Bab el Mandeb; Djibouti had accused Eritrea of occupying Djiboutian territory there earlier in the year, and relations remained tense in subsequent months.

In Jan., 2009, the UN Security Council demanded Eritrea to withdraw its forces from the disputed area, but Eritrea refused to comply; Djibouti had previously withdrawn.

Under an agreement signed in June, 2010, that called for Qatar's emir to mediate between Djibouti and Eritrea, Eritrea withdrew from disputed areas it had occupied.Also in 2010, the constitution was amended to permit Guelleh to run for more than two terms, and he was reelected in Apr., 2011. The opposition, which had boycotted the 2008 legislative elections and the 2011 presidential election, fielded candidates in the 2013 legislative elections, but Guelleh's party claimed three fourths of the seats, leading to opposition charges of fraud and protests in the capital.

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Copyright (c) 2012 Columbia University Press.
Used by permission of Columbia University Press.


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