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Brief History

Djibouti, officially known as the Republic of Djibouti, gained its independence from France on June 27, 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. Unrest among the Afars minority during the 1990s led to a civil war that ended in 2001. In May 1999, Ismail Omar Guelleh was elected as president, and in 2005 he was also re-elected. Djibouti has a French military presence and the only US military base in sub-Saharan countries and and is a front-line state in the global war on terrorism.


Djibouti, capital Djibouti, is located in the Horn of Africa in Eastern Africa covering an area of 23,200 square kilometers. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The climate is torrid and hot. The saline Lake Assal is the lowest point in Africa and the second lowest in the world. The natural resources present are potential geothermal power, gold, clay, granite, limestone, marble, salt, diatomite, gypsum, pumice, and petroleum.


Djibouti has a population of 740,528 (2010), with 60% of the population being Somalis, 35% Afar, and the rest includes French, Arabs, Ethiopians, and Italians. The official languages are Arabic and French, while Somali and Afar are also spoken. The literacy rate is 67.9% (2003) and the unemployment rate is 59% (2007). Its religions are distributed among 94% Muslims and 6% Christians.


The government of Djibouti is subject to a republic system. Its legal system is based on French civil law system, traditional practices, and Islamic law. It accepts ICJ jurisdiction with reservations. The chief of state is President Ismail Omar Guelleh -since May 8, 1999- and the head of government is Prime Minister Mohamed Dileita Dileita as of March 4, 2001. The official currency is the Franc, where 180 francs are equivalent to US$1.


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.

There is little arable farm land in Djibouti, and the country is subject to periods of severe drought. As a consequence, most food must be imported. Over half of the population derives its income from livestock: goats, sheep, and camels. A fishing industry has emerged, while sea salt is one of the country’s main resources. The Islamic Development Bank helped finance a canning factory. 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. Djibouti has been known to produce occasional small quantities of clays, granite, limestone, marble, salt, sand and gravel, and crushed and dimension stone for domestic construction projects. Other mineral occurrences of potential economic interest included diatomite, geothermal fluids and mineral salts, gold, gypsum, perlite, petroleum, and pumice.

Shipbuilding and urban construction traditionally have been industrial undertakings.

Djibouti has experienced relatively minimal impact from the global economic downturn, but its reliance on diesel-generated electricity and imported food leave average consumers vulnerable to global price shocks.

It is heavily dependent upon foreign aid to finance development projects and support its balance of payments. It has fallen behind on its debt payments in recent years and has had difficulty meeting the reform requirements set by foreign aid donors.

The GDP per capita is US$2,800 (2009) and the inflation rate is 6% (2007). The country’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is estimated to be US$1,157.56 (2010).

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