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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #13 of 54: Congo (Kinshasa) | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #15 of 54: Egypt »

May 23, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #14 of 54: Djibouti

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- 14. DJIBOUTI Flag of Republic of Djibouti

Formal Name: Republic of Djibouti.

Term for Citizens: Djibouti.

Capital: Djibouti. Population: 542,000.

Independence Achieved: June 27, 1977, from France.

Major Cities: Djibouti.


Geography:

Djibouti is in northeast Africa. Djibouti is 8, 880 square miles. Djibouti is on the Horn of Africa, a tiny sliver of land. Djibouti is bordered by the Gulf of Aden, Somalia and Ethiopia. The land is mostly plain and some highlands in the west. Plant life is scarce. In the semi arid area, goats and camels are raised. Temperature sometimes exceed 120.F. Rainfall is rare and less than five inches annually.

Society:

The population of Djibouti is estimated to be 703, 000.

Ethnic Groups: Afar, Issa, Somali, Arab, and Europeans.

Languages: Afar, Somali, Arabic, and French.

Religion: Muslim and Christian are evenly represented in the population.

Education: Primary education is available to all. Literacy is estimated at less than 67.9%.

Economy: Evaporated pools of water leave salt. This salt has traditionally been traded with people surrounding Djibouti, such as Ethiopians, Somalis and others. Sheep, camels and goats herding is still a primary industry. The area has traditionally been an important trade route between Arab States and Africa. GDP estimate: $619 million; Per Capita GDP: $1,030. Monetary Unit: Franc (DJF).


History and Government:

This tiny country on the horn of Africa is made up of the Afars and Issas. The French claimed rule over Djibouti, reportedly to counter British influence in the area. The French built a seaport at Djibouti between 1887 and 1917. The French first called their small colony French Somaliland but in the 1967 changed its name to the French territory of Afar and Issas. Upon independence, the people opted for the name of Djibouti. The main ethnic groups: Afar, Issas and Somali work out power sharing arrangement. However, tension exists among the ethnic groups, and occasionally flares up in violence and bloodshed. The country is divided into 5 districts. A president rules the country.


CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS

Djibouti is a small country on the horn of Africa. It is composed of two major groups: the Issas and the Afars. The Issas are of Somali origin and the Afars are of Ethiopian origin. These two groups traditionally warred among themselves.
In the nineteenth Century, Europe got involved with the Horn of Africa, first the Italians and later the French. The area was colonized by the French as The French Colony of Issas and Afars.
In 1977, France gave the country independence, and the country renamed itself the Republic of Djibouti, from the name of its capital.
The Issas, Somalis, are in the majority (60%) and have been in control of the government from independence to the present. Indeed, the same family has been in control of the government from independence to the present. First, was President Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who, in 1999, was replaced in office by his cousin, President Guelleh. It runs in the family. In an election, in 2005, Guelleh essentially prevented opposition candidates from competing and was said to have been returned to office by 100% of the electorate!
The Afars section of the country has been in intermittent conflicts with the Issas. In the 1990s there was overt civil war which was concluded when the Issas dominated government co-opted the leaders of the Afars militia into the government and made their leader the prime minister.

Djibouti does not have economic resources of any significance. Its primary source of income is its strategic location. It is at the crossroads of the Arab world and Africa. Traditionally, trade between Africa and Arabia flowed through Djibouti. In the present, Djibouti’s ports are from where landlocked African countries like Ethiopia ship their goods overseas. Djibouti charges these countries fees for shipping their goods for them.

Djibouti’s location makes it of strategic interest to Western powers. France stations thousands of its troops at Djibouti. The United States of America stations thousands of its troops at Djibouti. American war ships operating in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf operate from Djibouti. These foreign military personnel pay the Djibouti government money for utilizing her territory. The country maintains strategic alliance with the West and the West finds its leaders, undemocratic as they are, convenient and prop them in office.

Over 80% of the population of Djibouti lives in the capital region. The rest of the people live in the county side, irking out a living from herding goads etc. Fruits are occasionally planted in the few arable lands in the mostly arid country. The country has no known economic resource and does well providing a heaven for international trade between Eastern Africa and the Arab world, and now, the Western world. Djibouti’s income per capita is US $1, 030 (World Bank, 2005).

Djibouti’s politics is of critical interest to Ethiopia since the later ships its goods through her seaports and without them would be cut off from world trade. It is, therefore, understandable why Ethiopia (as well as Somalia) meddles in Djibouti’s politics. Real politics requires Djibouti’s landlocked neighbors to be interested in who governs the country. Thus, balancing the various domestic and foreign interest groups interested in who governs this small country is a must for Djibouti’s leaders.

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at May 23, 2006 09:16 AM

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