History of Djibouti
History of Djibouti
The history of Djibouti goes back thousands of years to a
time when populations in the area traded hides and skins for the perfumes and
spices of ancient Egypt, India and China. Through close contacts with the adjacent
Arabian Peninsula for more than 1,000 years, the Somali and
Afar ethnic groups in the region became among the first populations on the continent
to embrace Islam.
Place Menelik in Djibouti City in 1905.
From 1862 to 1894, the land on the north side of the Gulf of Tadjoura was called Obock, and was ruled by Somali Sultans. France first gained a foothold in the region through various treaties signed between 1883 and 1887. In 1894, Léonce Lagarde established a permanent French administration in the city of Djibouti and named the region French Somaliland (Côte française des Somalis). It lasted from 1896 until 1967, when it was renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas.
In 1958, on the eve of neighboring Somalia's independence in 1960, a referendum was held in Djibouti to decide whether or not to join the Somali Republic or to remain with France. The referendum turned out in favour of a continued association with France, partly due to a combined yes vote by the sizable Afar ethnic group and resident Europeans. There was also widespread vote rigging, with the French expelling thousands of Somalis before the referendum reached the polls. The majority of those who voted no were Somalis who were strongly in favour of joining a united Somalia as had been proposed by Mahmoud Harbi, Vice President of the Government Council. Harbi was killed in a plane crash two years later. Djibouti finally gained its independence from France in 1977 and Hassan Gouled Aptidon, a French-groomed Somali who campaigned for a yes vote in the referendum of 1958, eventually wound up as the nation's first president (1977–1991).
Djibouti is a Somali, Afar and Muslim country, which regularly takes part in Islamic affairs. It is also a member of the Arab League, as well as the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).