Republic headed by president
Head of state
President Omar Guelleh
Dijibouti's Ambassador to the UK
The French Consulate General represents Djibouti in the UK
UK's Ambassador to Dijibouti
H.E Ms Jo McPhail, who opened the first British Embassy in 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.
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.