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The French established themselves in this area in 1856 and officially took possession of it in 1883 as French Somaliland. The city of Djibouti was founded by the French in 1888 as a counterpart to the British city of Aden. Since 1897, Djibouti has been the seat of government. In March 1967, 60% of the population voted in a referendum to remain with France, after which the name was changed to Afar and Issaland, the two most important population groups in the country.

In the capital Djibouti, mainly inhabited by Issa, 70% of the population had voted against the association with France, which led to bloody clashes between them and the Afar. In a referendum in May 1977, 98% voted for independence. On 27 June 1977, the country became an independent state under the name of Djibouti, under the leadership of President Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who was re-elected to that office in 1981, 1987 and 1993. The ethnic rivalry between the Afar and the Issa (the latter occupying key positions) led to a guerrilla war in November 1991 by members of the Afar people against the government. They called themselves the Front pour le Rétablissement de l'Unité et de la Démocratie (FRUD). France decided on a peace mission on 25 February 1992 and had 250 of the French soldiers stationed in Djibouti create a buffer zone between the Afar and government soldiers. The FRUD declared a unilateral ceasefire. However, no dialogue with the government was initiated. On 19 July 1992, fighting flared up again. A cabinet reshuffle in June 1995 appointed two FRUD leaders to ministerial posts and in March 1996 the government recognised the FRUD as a political party, thus completing the peace process between the government and the former rebel group.

Djibouti's position as an international trade centre was lost with the closure of the Suez Canal (1967-1975) and the intensifying civil war in Ethiopia (1974). Due to the related closure of the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway line and the development of the Eritrean port city of Assab, trade with Ethiopia stagnated, but has been picking up again in recent years (in 1996 Djibouti and Ethiopia signed a trade agreement) and certainly since the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict.

Since the 1980s, many refugees from Ethiopia (famine) and Somalia (civil war) have flooded into the country.

In January 2003, Ismael Omar Guelleh won the presidential elections, the first free elections since 1977. In 2005, Guelleh was re-elected; he was the only candidate. In February, the ruling coalition won all 65 seats in parliament; the elections were boycotted by the opposition. In June 2008 fighting broke out between Eritrea and Djibouti. In April 2009, the United Nations rebukes Eritrea for still having troops in the disputed territory, Eritrea denies this. In April 2010, the parliament amended the constitution to allow the president to be re-elected for a third term. In April 2011, Guelleh was indeed re-elected; the opposition boycotted the elections. In February 2012, the IMF provided a loan to support Djibouti's stalled economy. In 2013, the opposition parties run again in elections, rejecting the result. In 2014 and 2015, the country is in turmoil due in part to bombings by the Islamic terrorist group al-Shabab. In April 2016, Guelleh was re-elected for a fourth term. In June 2017, Djibouti accuses Eritrea of sending troops into disputed territory. In August 2017, China officially opened a military base in Djibouti. In the April 2021 presidential election, Guelleh is re-elected for a fifth term


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2024
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