Djibouti (DJ)






Republic headed by president

Head of state

President H.E Mr Omar Guelleh

Head of government

Prime Minister H.E Mr Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed

National Day

June 27th

Dijibouti's Ambassador to the UK

The French Consulate General represents Djibouti in the UK

UK's Ambassador to Dijibouti

H.E Mr Vinay Talwar 

Rue de Djibouti, Djibouti

The tiny African country of Djibouti lies on the strait of Bab el-Mandeb, the narrow stretch of the Red Sea which separates Africa from the Arab peninsula. Djibouti lies a mere 20 miles across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen and is often described the gateway to the Suez Canal which lies around 1,400 nautical miles to the north.

Close to Arabian Peninsula

Djibouti’s key geographical position has long proved to be its key economic asset in a country that is largely barren. Its position has guaranteed the country a regular flow of aid from the West. The capital, Djibouti City, handles imports and exports for several landlocked African countries, not least Ethiopia, its giant neighbour to the west. This earns Djibouti much-needed income in harbour fees and transit taxes.

Djibouti won independence from France in 1977, but France retains a significant military presence in the country, including thousands of troops, warships, and armoured vehicles. France used the country as a base during the 1990/1991 Gulf War.

Its strategic importance is underlined by the presence of other foreign military bases. Djibouti also hosts the United States’ largest military base in Africa, as well as the first overseas military base established by Japan since World War II. It also hosts China’s first ever military base.

Key ethnic balance

The key political imperative has been to achieve a government that reflects a balance between the country’s two main ethnic groups, the Afar people of Ethiopian origin and the Issa people of Somali origin. Civil war followed the failure to achieve this balance in the years following.

Post-independence history

After independence in 1977, the country’s first president, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, instituted an authoritarian one-party regime dominated by his own Issa community. Afar resentment eventually led to civil war in the early 1990’s. Under French pressure, Mr Gouled introduced a multi-party system in 1992 but civil conflict continued until a power-sharing agreement was reached in 1994. A splinter group of the Afar rebel group, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (Frud), continued to fight until it too signed a peace agreement with Mr Gouled’s successor, Omar Guelleh.

The country experienced mass protests in 2011 after Mr Guelleh persuaded the National Assembly to change the constitution to allow him to stand for a third term but the demonstrations were soon put down.


Key dates

2,500 BC +
PUNT LAND: The Horn, Somaliland & Red Sea coast of Sudan likely location for ancient Land of Punt known to the Ancient Egyptians
525 BC
MACROBIA: Horn of Africa occupied by ancient Port -Somali people known as Macrobians. Mentioned by Herodotus
First century AD
KINGDOM OF AKSUM/AKSUMITE EMPIRE: The Horn is thought to have been absorbed by Aksumite Empire centered in North East Africa & Arab peninsula
570 - 578 AD
AKSUMITE-PERSIAN WARS: Aksum is defeated by Sasanian Persian Empire, ejected from Southern Arabia and begins long period of decline
LATE 600s AD
ADVENT OF ISLAM: Islam crosses the Red Sea from the Arab Peninsula and is introduced to North East African region
700s AD+
ADAL SULTANATE: The Adal Sultanate, with capital in Zeila, is thought to have absorbed Djibouti territory
IFAT SULTANATE: Ifat Sultanate established by Walashma dynasty, also centred in Zeila in Somaliland, is believed to have ruled land currently occupied by Djibouti
1516 - 1867
EYALET OF EGYPT: The Eyalet of Egypt, an administrative region of the Ottomans, absorbs large areas of North East Africa including the Djibouti area
France purchases port of Obock, and French colony of Somaliland is later created
FRENCH SOMALILAND: French Somaliland established across the region
Djibouti becomes capital of French Somaliland
Ethiopia acquires parts of Djibouti after signing a treaty with France.
RAIL CONNECTION TO ETHIOPIA: Railway connecting the port of Djibouti with the Ethiopian hinterland reaches Addis Ababa.
FRENCH OVERSEAS TERRITORY: Djibouti made an overseas territory within the French Union with its own legislature and representation in the French parliament
FRENCH SOMALILAND NAME CHANGE: The territory becomes known as the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas
June 1977
DJIBOUTI INDEPENDENCE: The French Territory of the Afars and Issas becomes independent, taking the name Djibouti, with Hassan Gouled Aptidon as President
One party rule gives way to multi-party state
AFAR INSURGENCY ENDS: Initial stage of civil war/Afar insurgency ends with peace agreement
May 1998
GUELLEH BECOMES PRESIDENT: Ismail Guelleh is elected as the 2nd president of Djibouti, assumed office. He succeeded his uncle Hassan Gouled Aptidon.
May 2000
DUBAI SIGNS PORT CONTRACT: the government signed over the management of the port to Dubai Ports International for the next 20 years
Afar insurgency ends with second peace deal with Afar nationalists
President Omar Guelleh amends constitution to run for third term
AUG 2011
FAMINE: The UN said tens of thousands of people have already died in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. It warned that the famine has not peaked and that 12 million people in the area need food aid
Dec' 2011
JOINS AFRICAN UNION IN SOMALIA: 200 troops from Djibouti arrived in Mogadishu to join the African Union force that helps protect the government and fight Islamist insurgents.
Feb' 2013
PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS: Voters in Djibouti cast ballots in the nation's parliamentary elections. Opposition political parties were eligible to win seats for the first time
May 2014
AL SHABAB SUICIDE BOMBING: Bomb blast in restaurant with several Western military personnel kills three, including two suicide bombers. Somali Islamist group al-Shabab claims responsibility
June 2014
DROUGHT INTO 4TH YEAR: Djibouti marks its fourth consecutive year of drought, a UN official says.
April 2016
GUELLEH WINS 4TH TERM: President Ismail Omar Guelleh gains fourth term of office following elections, having previously said he would not run for the presidency again.
July 2016
CONDEMNED BY ICC: The International Criminal Court says it has referred the governments of Djibouti and Uganda to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir
Dec' 2016
SAUDI BASE: Djibouti announces that Saudi Arabia is to set up a military base in the country.
June 2017
BORDER DISPUTE WITH ERITREA: Djibouti accuses Eritrea of sending troops into a disputed area on the border, following the withdrawal of Qatari peacekeepers
Aug' 2017
CHINA ESTABLISHES BASE: China formally opens its first overseas military base in Djibouti