Djibouti Government and Politics

Following pressure from the IMF, the government reduced public spending in 1995 and introduced a number of measures to increase government revenue. The following year, the IMF issued a $ 6.7 million loan to Djibouti in support of the government’s reform program. In March 1996, President Gouled fired two members of the government: Minister of Defense and Justice Ahmed Boulaleh Barreh, and the Prison Service and Religious Affairs Moumin Bahdon Farah. The departure of these two ministers was interpreted as Prime Minister Barkat Gourad Hamadou and Chief Minister Ismael Omar Guelleh attempting to strengthen their positions.

Djibouti Country Flag

Farah, who announced the formation of a new political party in April, was arrested for a month, after charges of insulting Gouled. In August, Farah went on a hunger strike in protest of his arrest. In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 17 oppositionists were abducted on September 26 and then detained by Djibouti authorities. Among those detained were human rights defender Aicha Debalé, who, at the request of the French NGO “Mission Enfance”, had set up headquarters in Ethiopia to provide assistance to the Djibouti children who stayed as refugees in Ethiopia.

The December parliamentary elections were characterized by the opposition as a “masquerade”. RPP achieved 25 seats and FRUD 11.

Thanks to strong pressure from organizations such as “Solidarity Women” and “The International Democratic Women’s Association”, Debalé was released in February 1998, while his wife, who had been abducted with him, had to remain in prison. Although Djibouti had signed the African Declaration of Human Rights, whose 9th article guarantees freedom of information and expression, editor Ahmed Abdi Farah and journalist Kamil Hassan Ali of the journal “Al Wahda” were arrested, accused, in an article published in February the previous years, having criticized the government.

In April 1999, for the first time since independence, the people had the opportunity to elect the president. The one chosen was Ismail Omar Guelleh by a large margin. He thus became the second president in the country’s history. His election campaign was geared towards promises to reduce population poverty. His political rivals accused him of murdering opponents for 20 years while he was a key adviser and director of police special forces.

History and Politics

Early days

Most of the descendants of today’s residents of Djibouti immigrated from neighboring countries at some point. The immigrants include the Afar, who are nomadic people who roam around with their herds of cattle. In addition, there were immigrants who belong to the Somali people, more precisely the Issa-Somali. The Issa are a subgroup of the Somali. These two ethnic groups still make up the largest proportion of the population in Djibouti today.

In the 7th century the Arab influence increased because the Arabian Peninsula is not far from Djibouti. the Islam became the dominant religion and still is today. At the beginning of the 15th century, a sultanate developed in what is now Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Colonial times

In 1896 Djibouti became a colony and came under the influence of France as French Somaliland. The decisive factor was the construction of a railway line from Djibouti City to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is not by the sea and does not have its own port. In this way the goods from Ethiopia could be transported to Djibouti and then exported. This railway line is still of great importance for both countries today.


Djibouti did not achieve independence until 1977, but French influence persisted. Although there were repeated conflicts in the countries around Djibouti, the small state was largely able to stay out of it.

The first president of Djibouti was named H. Gouled Aptidon. He was at the head of a one-party system. He was also re-elected president twice in the 1980s and 1993. The president belonged to the Issa-Somali tribe. So in the end there was a rebellion by the Afar tribe, who felt they were disadvantaged compared to the Issa-Somali.

In 1992, Djibouti said goodbye to the one-party system and at the same time passed a new constitution. In 1999, Ismail Omar Guelleh became president, he is also Somali. In 2000, an attempted coup against the government at the time failed. Ismail Omar Guelleh also won the presidential elections in 2005, 2011 and 2016.

Djibouti Head of Government

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