Djibouti History

The land today known as Djibouti has history stretching back thousands of years with traders from the area exchanging animal skins for perfumes and spices from the far east including India and China.

It is easier to think of the history of Djibouti by its people rather than its land. Part of the Abyssinian Empire, the land was settled by the Issas of Somalia and the Afars of the Ethiopian Danakils ethnic group with the Afars being the minority group.

French interest in the area began with Rochet d'Hericourt's expedition of Shoa between 1839-42 and

later expeditions by the French Consular Agent at Aden, Henri Lambert, and another by Captain Fleuriot de Langle.

This interest was spurred to some degree by growing British influence in Egypt and led to a treaty of friendship between France and the Afar Sultans of Raheita, Tadjourah, and Gobaad who ruled parts of Djibouti in the nineteenth century. In 1862 the French consolidated their position with the purchase of Obock.

After the French established a naval base at the anchorage of Obock they formally annexed the territory in 1884 as part of the Scramble for Africa and in 1892 the capital was moved from Obock to present day Djibouti.

Djibouti HistoryFour years later in 1896 the territory was named French Somalialand, broadly reflecting Djibouti's current boundaries as marked out in 1897 by France and Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia. (These boundaries were confirmed by agreements with Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia in 1945 and 1954.)

At the end of the Second World War the territory was declared a French overseas territory. In 1958 the French held a referendum in the territory to ascertain whether its people wanted to remain with France or join the soon to be independent Republic of Somalia. 


Djibouti History

Djibouti History

Djibouti History

Djibouti History


Volunteer Djibouti

Volunteer Work Djibouti

Check out all the latest African volunteer work placements and opportunities in Djibouti.
More >


Djibouti History

In what was considered a rigged vote after many Somalians were ejected from Djibouti creating a 'stay with France' outcome, the territory was renamed in 1967 as the French Territory of the Afars and Issas. The history of Djibouti recorded growing ethnic tensions in the area with the French widely perceived to favour the Afars, with the Issas pressing for independence altogether.

This location map of Obock is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licenseTen years later after the formation of the Ligue Populaire Africaine pour LĀ“independance (LPAI) a unified political movement that led calls for independence, the territory finally gained its independence as Djibouti. Following independence Hassan Gouled Aptidon (left), an Issa politically opposed by the Afars installed a Issa led one-party state and he continued to serve as president of the country until 1999.

Afar unrest was prevalent during the 1990s and has been described as civil war between 1991-1994, a civil war that drove off much needed foreign investment and deprived the country of making much needed infrastructure improvements, however a peace treaty was signed in 2000 and since then there have been multi-party elections, even if the current president won his last election with 100% of the vote!

The video above shows pictures and images of the history of Djibouti from 1888 until 2008. For more about the history of Djibouti independence check out the articles above and if you love history take time to follow the 'Old Djibouti' link also below to see the history of Djibouti between the two world wars in a series of picture postcard images, a wonderful insight into life in colonial Djibouti.


Volunteer Work

African Volunteer Work Opportunities

Get Your
Free Listing!

African Volunteer Directory

Latest TEFL
Jobs in Africa

TEFL Jobs in Africa

Sponsor a Child

Sponsor a Child Djibouti