Useful Notes / Djibouti

Djibouti (Arabic: جيبوتي‎ Jībūtī, French: Djibouti, Somali: Jabuuti, Afar: Gabuuti), officially known as the Republic of Djibouti (Arabic: جمهورية جيبوتي Jumhūriyyat Jībūtī, French: République de Djibouti, Afar: Gabuutih Ummuuno, Somali: Jamhuuriyadda Jabuuti), is a little country near the Horn of Africa, right next to Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Actually, that’s the best way to describe its culture, because Djibouti is ethnically composed by Somalis and Afars, ethnic groups from the aforementioned countries. But most of all, the inhabitants of the country tend to consider themselves as brothers with Somalia (except for the European descendants, obviously).

The land was originally known as Obock, where Afars and Somalis shared the land. When the French came in the mid-1800s, the sultans in the area began to sign treaties with them, giving them each time more control until France’s influence was big enough to firmly establish a colony, the French Somaliland.

In 1958, when the independence of Somalia was imminent, a referendum was held to decided if the people wanted to go independent (and presumably join later with Somalia) or keep being a French protectorate. Since most of the European residents and the Afars were in favor of the French, they rigged the vote by expelling thousands of Somalis (who obviously wanted to join Somalia proper). In 1967, another referendum was due, and they did the same thing again and just to piss off the losers they renamed the colony French Territory of the Afars and the Issas (a take that against the Somalis, because the Issas were just a sub-clan of them). In 1977 came a third referendum, but the Somali population was big enough to avoid the rigging and ended gaining independence.

They didn’t join with Somalia, though. The president elected turned the country into a one party state, eventually triggering a civil war in 1991 that ended in 2001. Considering what happens with Somalia, maybe they should be glad of being an independent country; on the other hand, the country has had enough problems on its own.

Djibouti still has problems exercising democracy and freedom of the press as with many young African countries, but it is notable for being the Only Sane Man in the region, not succumbing to the Orwellian state repression that is Eritrea or the general anarchy that is Somalia, which if you recognize are two ends of an opposing spectrum. It also tries to preserve cordial relations with everyone, though a bad blood still resides with Eritrea (but well, it's Eritrea. Everyone has bad blood with Eritrea.). It also has maintained a close relationship with its former colonial master, France, and French bases continue to operate there long after independence.

A member of the Arab League, Arabic is recognized as an official language, alongside French, which also makes Djibouti a member of the La Francophonie.

Djibouti was the last place in Africa where the first (modern) humans resided before they disembarked to populate the rest of the world. Incidentally, this area was also one of the first places where Islam came to Africa. Accordingly, the country is highly Islamic (94%). The remaining is Christian.

It has the second-lowest land depression (after the Dead Sea): Lake Assal, which is located very close to the sea but is cut off, which means that whenever evaporation occurs (which it does A LOT, thanks to it being located in a very hot region), the salt stacks up, making it 10 times saltier than seawater. Indeed, it's the saltiest body of water outside of Antartica's Don Juan Pond, not to mention being designated Earth's largest salt reserve. The sea has at times been exploited for salt production, though the government has set up the entire lake under official protection.

It’s highly unlikely that you ever see a reference to Djibouti in the media; usually it’s treated just as a part of Somalia or as a non-entity. There was a mention of Djibouti in According to Jim, but it was mainly just so they could say “ye-booty”. On the other hand, it is the subject of an incredibly lame pickup line/meme in Model United Nations circles, namely, "I want to invade Djibouti with the aid of Greece", or "Swiggity Swooty I'm coming for Djibouti."

The Djiboutian flag
The white isosceles triangle symbolizes peace; inside the triangle is a star, colored red for unity, and whose five points symbolize five areas inhabited by Somalis: British and Italian Somaliland (modern-day Somalia), French Somaliland (Djibouti), Ogaden (eastern Ethiopia) and North Eastern Province, Kenya; the blue upper half symbolizes both the sea and sky as well as the Issa clan of the Somali people; and the green lower half symbolizes both the earth and the Afar people.