Djibouti -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Djibouti
Capital City: Djibouti
Area: 23 200 sq km
Country Population: 864 000 (2009)
Languages: Arabic and French
Official Currency: Franc (DJF)
Religions: Islam 94% , Christian 6%
Djibouti lies in Northeast Africa on the Gulf of Aden at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. It has 314 km (195 mi) of coastline and shares a 113 km (70 mi) border with Eritrea, 337 km (209 mi) with Ethiopia and 58 km (36 mi) with Somalia (total 506 km/314 mi). The country is mainly a stony semidesert, with scattered plateaus and highlands. It has an area of 8,900 square miles (23,051 km2).
Djibouti -- History --
The history of Djibouti is recorded in poetry, songs, and folklore of its nomadic people and goes back
thousands of years to a time when Djiboutians traded hides and skins for the perfumes and spices of ancient Egypt,
India, and China. Through close contacts with the Arabian peninsula for more than 1 000 years, the Somali and Afar ethnic groups in this region became among the first on the African continent to adopt Islam.
French interest developed in the nineteenth century when the area was ruled by the sultan of Raheita, Tadjoura and Gobaad. The French bought the anchorage of Obock in 1862 and expanded it eventually to a colony called French Somaliland with essentially the current boundaries. In 1967, the area became the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas.
The Republic of Djibouti gained its independence from France on June 27, 1977. Djibouti is a Somali, Afar and Muslim
country, which regularly takes part in Islamic affairs as well as Arab meetings.
Djibouti -- Economy --
The economy of Djibouti is based on service activities connected with the country's strategic location and status
as a free trade zone in northeast Africa. Two-thirds of the inhabitants live in the capital city, the remainder being mostly nomadic herders. Scant rainfall limits crop production to fruits and vegetables, and most food must be imported.
In April 2005, the United Nations World Food Programme warned that 30 000 people in Djibouti face serious food shortages following three years of poor rains.
Djibouti provides services as both a transit port for the region and an international transshipment and refueling center. It has few natural resources and little industry. The nation is, therefore, heavily dependent on foreign assistance to help support its balance of payments and to finance development projects. Daniel R. Sutton, an American salt miner, is also overseeing some $70 million operation to industrialize the collection of Djibouti’s plentiful salt in the Region Lake Asal.
There are gold miners from India, geothermal experts from Iceland, Turkish hotel managers, Saudi oil engineers, French bankers and American military contractors. Investors from Dubai have leased the country's port, in an effort to develop the area as a gateway to the region. Saudi investors are reportedly exploring the possibility of linking the Horn of Africa with the Arabian Peninsula via an 18-mile long oversea bridge referred to as the Bridge of the Horns. Tarek bin Laden, half brother of Osama bin Laden, has been linked to the project.
An unemployment rate of 40% to 50% continues to be a major problem. Inflation is not a concern, however, because of the fixed tie of the franc to the U.S. dollar. Per capita consumption dropped an estimated 35% over the last seven years because of recession, civil war, and a high population growth rate (including immigrants and refugees). Renewed fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been beneficial to Djibouti, the Port of Djibouti now serving as landlocked Ethiopia's primary link to the sea. Faced with a multitude of economic difficulties, the government has fallen into arrears on long-term external debt and has been struggling to meet the stipulations of foreign aid donors.
Djibouti -- Culture --
Djiboutian attire reflects the region's hot and arid climate. When not dressed in Westernized clothing such as jeans and t-shirts, men typically wear the macawiis, which is a sarong-like garment worn around the waist. Among nomads, many wear a loosely wrapped white cotton robe called a tobe that goes down to about the knee, with the end thrown over the shoulder
(much like a Roman toga).
Women typically wear the dirac, which is a long, light, diaphanous voile dress made of cotton or polyester that is worn over a full-length half-slip and a brassiere. Married women tend to sport head-scarves referred to as shash, and also often cover their upper body with a shawl known as garbasaar. Unmarried or young women, however, do not always cover their heads. Traditional Arabian garb such as the male jellabiya (jellabiyaad in Somali) and the female niqab is also commonly worn. For some occasions such as festivals, women may adorn themselves with specialized jewelry and head-dresses similar to those worn by the Berber tribes of the Maghreb.
A lot of Djibouti's original art is passed on and preserved orally, mainly through song. Many examples of Islamic, Ottoman, and French influences can also be noted in the local buildings, which contain plasterwork, carefully constructed motifs and calligraphy.
Djibouti -- Political system, law and government --
Djibouti is a semi-presidential republic, with executive power in the central government, and legislative power in both the government and parliament. The parliamentary party system is dominated by the People's Rally for Progress and the President who currently is Ismail Omar Guelleh. The country's current constitution was approved in September 1992. Djibouti is a one party dominant state with the People's Rally for Progress in power. Other parties are allowed, but the main opposition, Union for a Presidential Majority, boycotted the 2005 and 2008 elections leaving all of the legislative seats to the PRP.
The government is seen as being controlled by the Somali Issa Dir clan who enjoy the support of the Somali clans, especially the Gadabuursi Dir who are the second most prominent Somali clan in Djibouti politics. The country has recently come out of a decade long civil war, with the government and the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD) signing a peace treaty in 2000. Two FRUD members are part of the current cabinet.
Djibouti's second president, Guelleh was first elected to office in 1999, taking over from Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had ruled the country since its independence from France in 1977. Despite elections of the 1990s being described as "generally fair", Guelleh was sworn in for his second and final six-year term as president after a one-man election on 8 April 2005. He took 100% of the votes in a 78.9% turnout.
The prime minister, who follows the council of ministers ('cabinet'), is appointed by the President. The parliament - the Chambre des Deputes - consists of 52 members who are selected every five to nine years.
In 2001, the Djiboutian government leased the former French Foreign Legion base Camp Lemonnier to the United States. It transitioned from United States Central Command to United States Africa Command in 2008 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
France's 13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade shares Camp Lemonier with the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) of the United States Central Command, which arrived in 2002. It is from Djibouti that Abu Ali al-Harithi, suspected mastermind of the 2000 USS Cole bombing, and the American citizen Ahmed Hijazi, along with four others persons, lost their lives in 2002 while riding a car in Yemen, by a Hellfire missile launched by an RQ-1 Predator drone provided by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It is also from there that the American Army launched a few attacks in 2007 against enemy forces in Somalia.
The country of Djibouti is a member of the Arab League, as well as the African Union, and also the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).