Djibouti History

Old Djibouti Map

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 area 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 and, having established a naval base there, they formally annexed the territory in 1884 as part of the Scramble for Africa and in 1892 their administrative capital was moved from Obock to the present day 'City' of Djibouti. Four 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 colony was declared a French overseas territory and in 1958 the French held a referendum there to ascertain whether its people wanted to remain with France or join the soon to be independent Republic of Somalia.

History of Djibouti

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. Ten years later, after the formation of the Ligue Populaire Africaine pour L'independance (LPAI) ~ a unified political movement that led calls for independence ~ the territory finally gained its independence as the Republic of Djibouti, named after its capital. Following independence, the first president Hassan Gouled Aptidon, installed a Issa led one-party state and he continued to serve in that role until 1999 when his nephew was installed in the position.

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, Aptidon's nephew, has won all of them with over 90% of the vote not least because of opposition boycotts. For more about the history of Djibouti independence check out the articles below and if you love history take time to follow the 'Old Djibouti' link also below to see images of Djibouti between the two world wars in a series of picture postcard images, a wonderful insight into life in colonial Djibouti. The video (below) also chronicles the ancient history of the country.

Djibouti History: Volunteer in Djibouti

African Volunteer Work: Djibouti

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Djibouti History: Djibouti Independence

Djibouti Independence

Pictures and images about the Djibouti struggle for independence achieved in 1977.

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Djibouti Profile: Colonial Djibouti

Colonial Djibouti

We just love this video of picture postcards of old Colonial Djibouti between the world wars, a bit of African history to savour!

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Djibouti History: Child Sponsor Djibouti

Child Sponsor Djibouti

Details of how to sponsor children in Djibouti with Djibouti child sponsor organisations, charities, programs and projects.

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Djibouti History: Djibouti Country Profile

African Country Profiles: Djibouti

In another of our African country profiles, find out all about Djibouti in a series of information articles, latest daily news, videos, and images together with volunteering and child sponsorship opportunities.

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