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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 23,200 sq km
Population: 774,389 (CIA World Fact Book, 2012)
Capital city: Djibouti
People: Somalis (Issa) 60%, Afar 35%, French, Arab, Ethiopian and Italian 5%
Language(s): French, (official), Arabic (official), Somali, Afar
Religion(s): Muslim 94%, Christian 6%
Currency: Djiboutian Franc
Major political parties: People's Rally for Progress (RPP); National Democratic Party (PND); Front For The Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD); Djibouti Development Party (PDD); People’s Social Democratic Party (PPSD); Republican Alliance for Democracy (ARD); Union for Democracy and Justice (UDJ); Union of Reform Partisans (UPR).
Government: RPP
Head of State: President Ismail Omar Guelleh
Prime Minister/Premier: Dileita Mohamed Dileita
Foreign Minister: Mahamoud Ali Youssouf
Membership of international groupings/organisations: United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), League of Arab States (LAS), Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP: US$2.244 billion (CIA World Factbook 2012)
Annual Growth: 4.8% (CIA World Factbook 2012)
Inflation (Consumer Price): 7% (CIA World Factbook 2012)
Major Industries: The economy is based on service activities connected with the country's strategic location and status as a free trade zone in north-east Africa.
Major trading partners: Ethiopia, Somalia, Yemen, France, India, China, Saudi Arabia and other Arabian peninsula countries
Aid & development: Despite being classified as a middle income country, Djibouti is heavily dependent on foreign assistance.

International Monetary Fund - Djibouti (http://www.imf.org/external/country/DJI/index.htm)

Djibouti’s economy depends upon two factors; its strategically-located port, which handles 90% of Ethiopia’s trade, and funding from hosting US and French forces. The port of Doraleh is intended to boost Djibouti’s role as a commercial hub at the mouth of the Red Sea. Services contribute to an estimated 79% of the GDP, with a minimal 3% made up of agriculture and animal husbandry. Approximately 97% of food has to be imported and almost 52,000 people receive aid from the World Food Programme due to the lack of food. Djibouti lacks any significant natural resources other than fishing grounds, geothermal potential and some mining activity. The nation is therefore very dependent on foreign assistance to help support its balance of payments and to finance development projects. An unemployment rate of around 60% continues to be a major problem as does the national fixation with khat (a mild narcotic leaf chewed widely by the Somali community). Due to the fixed tie of the Djiboutian Franc to the US Doller, inflation is not a concern. However the artificially high value of the Djiboutian Franc adversely affects Djibuti’s balance of payments.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (http://www.undp.org/)

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HISTORY

Djibouti was first known as French Somaliland when it was established as a French colony in 1888. Independence came relatively late: in 1967 a majority of the population voted in a referendum to remain part of the French Community. The country was then renamed the French Territory of the Afars and Issas (the two principal ethnic groups). Djibouti gained independence in 1977.

Hassan Gouled Aptidon (an Issa-Somali) became the first President and remained in charge until he opted to step down in 1999. He established a one party state dominated by the Rassemblement Populaire pour le Progres (RPP). From 1991-6 the Afars in the North of the country conducted a rebellion against the government, led by the Front pour la Restauration de l'Unite et de la Democratie (FRUD). The civil war ended with the signature of peace and national reconciliation accords in 1996. Ahmed Dini, who led the Afar insurgency from 1991 to 1994, signed an agreement with the government in 2001 and led an opposition party until his death in 2004.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Djibouti hosts the Secretariat of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which consists of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. Relations with Ethiopia centre on Ethiopia’s use of Djibouti port for the major part of its imports and exports. Relations with Eritrea, which had been improving after a difficult patch preceding and during the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia (1998-2000), are now at an all time low after an incursion of Eritrean troops into Djiboutian territory in June 2008, which resulted in 30 Djiboutian dead and over 100 injured. In June 2010, under Qatari mediation, Djibouti and Eritrea signed an agreement to work towards a final resolution of the dispute. This process is still ongoing.

Djibouti takes a close interest in Somalia. It hosted the UN sponsored talks between the Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance for Re-Liberation of Somalia, which resulted in the agreement of a peace deal on 9 June 2008. This was then signed by both parties on 19 August 2008. Djibouti has also developed working relations with the authorities in Somaliland, which fall short of full recognition.

Djibouti has very close links with France which provides significant amounts of aid and financial support. 2,700 French troops remain stationed in Djibouti under agreements signed at independence. Djibouti also hosts 1,500 US troops (US State Dept, 2008) and is the headquarters of the US led Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) which support counter terrorism activities in the region.

RELATIONS With the UK

Diplomatic Representation

The UK is represented in Djibouti by an Honorary Consul, and by our Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Djiboutian diplomatic representation in the UK is covered by their Embassy in Paris.

Recent Visits

President Guelleh along with Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf and Minister of Religious Affairs Dr Hamoud Abdi Soultan visited to United Kingdom in February 2012 to attend the London Conference on Somalia.

Former Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister, Kim Howells visited Djibouti in June 2008.

For parliamentary interest, see the Hansard website (http://www.parliament.uk/hansard/hansard.cfm) .

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GEOGRAPHY

Djibouti is located on the North East Coast of the Horn of Africa. It borders Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia and is strategically located on the Strait of Mandeb that links the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden. It has a very hot dry climate with less than 150mm of rainfall annually.

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POLITICS

Ismail Omar Guelleh succeeded his uncle, Hasan Gouled Aptidon, in 1999. He won the April 1999 Presidential elections as the RPP candidate with 74% of the vote. Political parties (legalised in 1992) have since become more diverse: the RPP joined with FRUD to form a new ruling coalition, l'Union pour la Majorite Presidentielle (UMP). Four opposition parties formed L'Union pour l'Alternative Democratique (UAD) to contest parliamentary elections in January 2003. The UMP took 62.7% of the votes but won all 65 seats in the Chamber of Deputies due to Djibouti's unusual first-past-the-post list system. The UAD claimed extensive vote rigging and manipulation of constituency boundaries. Presidential elections were held on 8 April 2005. Guelleh stood unopposed as the UMP candidate and claimed 96.85% of the vote on a 78.9% turn out. The opposition UAD failed to field a candidate and called for a boycott of the polls. They have disputed the high turnout figure.

A constitutional amendment in April 2010 was approved by Djibouti’s lawmakers. The amendment abolished the two-term maximum and set an age limit of 75 for presidential candidates and shortens the mandate for six years to five.

The last presidential elections took place on April 8, 2011. Voters in Djibouti re-elected President Ismail Omar Guelleh by an 80.6% margin. He defeated Mohamed Warsama Ragueh, an attorney and former judge who took 19.4% of the vote.

Djibouti's opposition coalitions boycotted the election, saying it would not be free and fair, leaving only President Guelleh and Ragueh, who had served as President of Djibouti's Constitutional Council in 2005.

The last parliamentary elections took place in February 2008, when Dileita Mohamed Dileita was reappointed as Prime Minister.

BBC News: Africa (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/)

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HUMAN RIGHTS

In April 2008, the government established a Human Rights Commission, which included representatives from the Civil Society, the legal community, religious groups and the National Assembly. The Commission aims to build capacity and better investigate human rights abuses. Djibouti has ratified five of the nine core International Human Rights Treaties - the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

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Last Updated: March 2012

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