The Horn of Africa has always been a cultural and commercial crossroads between Africa, Asia and Arabia in particular. Exchanges with Arab countries intensified in the 7th century with the propagation of Islam in this region and the creation of Muslim kingdoms.

Introduction of Islam

7th Century

Adopt Islam in Africa

The history of Djibouti, recorded in the poetry and songs of its nomadic peoples, goes back thousands of years to a time when Djiboutians traded hides and skins for the perfumes and spices of ancient Egypt, India, and China. Through trade with the Arabian Peninsula for more than a thousand years, the Somali and Afar tribes in this region adopted Islam.

French Rule


French Red Sea Exploration

It was Rochet d'Hericourt's exploration into Shoa (1839-42) that marked the beginning of French interest in the African shores of the Red Sea. Further exploration by Henri Lambert, French Consular Agent at Aden, and Captain Fleuriot de Langle, led to a treaty of friendship and assistance between France and the sultans of Raheita, Tadjourah, and Gobaad, from whom the French purchased the anchorage of Obock (1862).


Creation of a French protectorate

Growing French interest in the area took place against a backdrop of British activity in Egypt and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. In 1884-85, France expanded its protectorate to include the shores of the Gulf of Tadjourah and the French Somali Coast. Boundaries of the protectorate were marked out in 1897 by agreement between France and Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia (and affirmed by further agreements with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1945 and 1954).


French Somali Coast was established over the region


Djibouti becomes capital of French Somali Coast


A new treaty between France and Ethiopia names Djibouti as the 'official trading channel for the commerce of Ethiopia'.


Opening of railway line to Addis Ababa

The administrative capital was moved from Obock to Djibouti in 1892. Djibouti, which had a good natural harbour and ready access to the Ethiopian highlands attracted trade caravans crossing East Africa as well as Somali settlers from the south. The Franco-Ethiopian railway, linking Djibouti to the heart of Ethiopia, began in 1897 and reached Addis Ababa in June 1917, further facilitating the increase of trade.


Vichy Rule, World War II

During the Italian invasion and occupation of Ethiopia in the 1930s and during World War II, constant border skirmishes occurred between French and Italian forces. The area was ruled by the Vichy (French) government from the fall of France until December 1942, and fell under British blockade during that period. The Allied forces recaptured Djibouti at the end of 1942. A local battalion from Djibouti participated in the liberation of France in 1944.


Djibouti made an overseas territory within the French union with its own legislature and representation in the French Parliament


Creation of an executive council

On July 22, 1957, the colony was reorganised to give the people considerable self-government. On the same day, a decree applying the Overseas Reform Act (Loi Cadre) of June 23, 1956, established a territorial assembly that elected eight of its members to an executive council. Members of the executive council were responsible for one or more of the territorial services and carried the title of minister. The council advised the French-appointed governor general.


Djibouti becomes a French overseas territory

After the September 1958 constitutional referendum, French Somali Coast became part of French overseas territory. This act entitled the region to representation by one deputy and one senator in the French Parliament, and one counselor in the French Union Assembly.


French Somali Coast renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas (Territoire Français des Afars et des Issas)

In July 1967 a directive from Paris formally changed the name of the region to the French Territory of the Afars and Issas (Territoire Français des Afars et des Issas). The decree also reorganised the governmental structure of the territory, making the senior French representative, formerly the governor general, a high commissioner. In addition, the executive council was re-designated as the council of government, with nine members.



Independence - Hassan Gouled Aptidon becomes first president of Djibouti

In 1975, the French government began to accommodate increasingly insistent demands for independence. In June 1976, the territory's citizenship law, which favored the Afar minority, was revised to reflect more closely the weight of the Issa Somali. The electorate voted for independence in a May 1977 referendum. The Republic of Djibouti was established on June 27, 1977, and Hassan Gouled Aptidon became the country's first president. In 1981, he was again elected president of Djibouti. He was re-elected, unopposed, to a second 6-year term in April 1987 and to a third 6-year term in the May 1993 multiparty elections. 


Appointment of Barkat Gourad Hamadou as prime minister

On 2 October 1978, Barkat Gourad Hamadou was appointed prime minister by the President. He held this role until 2001.


Development of multi-party democracy

In early 1992, the constitution permitted the legalisation of four political parties for a period of 10 years, after which a complete multiparty system would be installed. By the time of the December 1992 National Assembly elections, only three had qualified. They were the People's Rally for Progress (RPP, Rassemblement Populaire Pour le Progres) under the leadership of Aptidon, the Party for Democratic Renewal (PRD, Parti du Renouveau Democratique); and the National Democratic Party (PND, Parti National Democratique). The RPP had a landslide victory.

Establishment of a multi-party system and democracy


Internal conflict 

In early November 1991, an internal conflict had erupted in Djibouti between the government and the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD). Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, who was not yet president at the time, conducted secret negotiations with the guerilla army resulting in a peace accord in December 1994 and the end of the conflict. However, a radical faction of FRUD continued a small-scale armed resistance, eventually signing its own peace agreement in 2001.

On 8 June 1995, the Secretary-General of FRUD, Ougoure Kifle Ahmed was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Hydraulics. Four years later, on 12 May 1999, he was appointed Minister of National Defence.


Parliamentary elections

FRUD and RRP formed a coalition and were voted into Parliament.


Election of a new president

In 1999, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, President Hassan Gouled Aptidon's chief of staff, was elected to the presidency as the RPP candidate at the age of 52. He received 74% of the vote, with the other 26% going to opposition candidate Moussa Ahmed Idriss, of the Unified Djiboutian Opposition (ODU, Opposition Djiboutienne Unifée). For the first time since independence, no group boycotted the election. 

Moussa Ahmed Idriss and the ODU later challenged the results based on election "irregularities;" however, international and locally based observers considered the election to be fair.

Ismaïl Omar Guelleh took the oath of office as the second president of the Republic of Djibouti on 8 May 1999, with the support of an alliance between the RPP and the FRUD. He reappointed Barkat Gourad Hamadou prime minister. 


End of internal conflict and the appointment of a new prime minister

In May 2001, the government signed a peace accord with the armed FRUD led by Ahmed Dini Ahmed putting an end to the conflict. 

Dileita Mohamed Dileita was named prime minister on 7 March 2001, succeeding Barkat Gourad Hamadou who held the position from 1978 to 2001.


President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh elected for a second and third term

During the free and democratic presidential elections in 2005 and 2011, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh was re-elected for a second and third consecutive term.


Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed appointed prime minister

On 31 March 2013, Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed was appointed prime minister in a government reshuffle with a view of taking a more progressive approach to the Government’s action.


Agreement with the opposition

Djibouti's government and the opposition coalition, the Union of National Salvation (USN) signed an agreement paving the way for opposition lawmakers to make their first parliamentary appearance, and for reforms of the country's electoral body. This followed 18 months of negotiations with the opposition and signalled a new period of political collaboration.