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Djibouti Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Djibouti Map

Introduction

Background

The region of present-day Djibouti was the site of the medieval Ifat and Adal Sultanates. In the late 19th century, treaties signed by the ruling Somali and Afar sultans with the French allowed the latter to establish the colony of French Somaliland. The designation continued in use until 1967, when the name was changed to the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas. Upon independence in 1977, the country was named after its capital city of Djibouti. Hassan Gouled APTIDON installed an authoritarian one-party state and proceeded to serve as president until 1999. Unrest among the Afar minority during the 1990s led to a civil war that ended in 2001 with a peace accord between Afar rebels and the Somali Issa-dominated government. In 1999, Djibouti's first multiparty presidential election resulted in the election of Ismail Omar GUELLEH as president; he was reelected to a second term in 2005 and extended his tenure in office via a constitutional amendment, which allowed him to serve a third term in 2011 and begin a fourth term in 2016. Djibouti occupies a strategic geographic location at the intersection of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Its ports handle 95% of Ethiopia’s trade. Djibouti’s ports also service transshipments between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The government holds longstanding ties to France, which maintains a military presence in the country, as does the US, Japan, Italy, Germany, Spain, and China.

Geography

Location

Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, between Eritrea and Somalia

Geographic coordinates

11 30 N, 43 00 E

Map references

Africa

Area

total: 23,200 sq km

land:23,180 sq km

water:20 sq km

country comparison to the world: 150

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than New Jersey

Land boundaries

total: 528 km

border countries (3):Eritrea 125 km, Ethiopia 342 km, Somalia 61 km

Coastline

314 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone:24 nm

exclusive economic zone:200 nm

Climate

desert; torrid, dry

Terrain

coastal plain and plateau separated by central mountains

Elevation

highest point: Moussa Ali 2,021 m

lowest point:Lac Assal -155 m

mean elevation:430 m

Natural resources

potential geothermal power, gold, clay, granite, limestone, marble, salt, diatomite, gypsum, pumice, petroleum

Land use

agricultural land: 73.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 73.3% (2018 est.)

forest:0.2% (2018 est.)

other:26.4% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

10 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

300 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

most densely populated areas are in the east; the largest city is Djibouti, with a population over 600,000; no other city in the country has a total population over 50,000 as shown in this population distribution map

Natural hazards

earthquakes; droughts; occasional cyclonic disturbances from the Indian Ocean bring heavy rains and flash floods

volcanism: experiences limited volcanic activity; Ardoukoba (298 m) last erupted in 1978; Manda-Inakir, located along the Ethiopian border, is also historically active

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified:none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

strategic location near world's busiest shipping lanes and close to Arabian oilfields; terminus of rail traffic into Ethiopia; mostly wasteland; Lac Assal (Lake Assal) is the lowest point in Africa and the saltiest lake in the world

People and Society

Population

938,413 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 162

Nationality

noun: Djiboutian(s)

adjective:Djiboutian

Ethnic groups

Somali 60%, Afar 35%, other 5% (mostly Yemeni Arab, also French, Ethiopian, and Italian)

Languages

French (official), Arabic (official), Somali, Afar

Religions

Sunni Muslim 94% (nearly all Djiboutians), Christian 6% (mainly foreign-born residents)

Demographic profile

Djibouti is a poor, predominantly urban country, characterized by high rates of illiteracy, unemployment, and childhood malnutrition. More than 75% of the population lives in cities and towns (predominantly in the capital, Djibouti). The rural population subsists primarily on nomadic herding. Prone to droughts and floods, the country has few natural resources and must import more than 80% of its food from neighboring countries or Europe. Health care, particularly outside the capital, is limited by poor infrastructure, shortages of equipment and supplies, and a lack of qualified personnel. More than a third of health care recipients are migrants because the services are still better than those available in their neighboring home countries. The nearly universal practice of female genital cutting reflects Djibouti’s lack of gender equality and is a major contributor to obstetrical complications and its high rates of maternal and infant mortality. A 1995 law prohibiting the practice has never been enforced.

Because of its political stability and its strategic location at the confluence of East Africa and the Gulf States along the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, Djibouti is a key transit point for migrants and asylum seekers heading for the Gulf States and beyond. Each year some hundred thousand people, mainly Ethiopians and some Somalis, journey through Djibouti, usually to the port of Obock, to attempt a dangerous sea crossing to Yemen. However, with the escalation of the ongoing Yemen conflict, Yemenis began fleeing to Djibouti in March 2015, with almost 20,000 arriving by August 2017. Most Yemenis remain unregistered and head for Djibouti City rather than seeking asylum at one of Djibouti’s three spartan refugee camps. Djibouti has been hosting refugees and asylum seekers, predominantly Somalis and lesser numbers of Ethiopians and Eritreans, at camps for 20 years, despite lacking potable water, food shortages, and unemployment.

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Djibouti

conventional short form:Djibouti

local long form:Republique de Djibouti/Jumhuriyat Jibuti

local short form:Djibouti/Jibuti

former:French Somaliland, French Territory of the Afars and Issas

etymology:the country name derives from the capital city of Djibouti

Government type

presidential republic

Capital

name: Djibouti

geographic coordinates:11 35 N, 43 09 E

time difference:UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the origin of the name is disputed; multiple descriptions, possibilities, and theories have been proposed

Administrative divisions

6 districts (cercles, singular - cercle); Ali Sabieh, Arta, Dikhil, Djibouti, Obock, Tadjourah

Independence

27 June 1977 (from France)

National holiday

Independence Day, 27 June (1977)

Constitution

history: approved by referendum 4 September 1992

amendments:proposed by the president of the republic or by the National Assembly; Assembly consideration of proposals requires assent at least one third of the membership; passage requires a simple majority vote by the Assembly and approval by simple majority vote in a referendum; the president can opt to bypass a referendum if adopted by at least two-thirds majority vote of the Assembly; constitutional articles on the sovereignty of Djibouti, its republican form of government, and its pluralist form of democracy cannot by amended; amended 2006, 2008, 2010

Legal system

mixed legal system based primarily on the French civil code (as it existed in 1997), Islamic religious law (in matters of family law and successions), and customary law

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only:the mother must be a citizen of Djibouti

dual citizenship recognized:no

residency requirement for naturalization:10 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Ismail Omar GUELLEH (since 8 May 1999)

head of government:Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil MOHAMED (since 1 April 2013)

cabinet:Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister

elections/appointments:president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term; election last held on 9 April 2021 (next to be held in April 2026); prime minister appointed by the president

election results:Ismail Omar GUELLEH reelected president for a fifth term; percent of vote - Ismail Omar GUELLEH (RPP) 97.4%, Zakaria Ismael FARAH (MDEND) 2.7%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale, formerly the Chamber of Deputies (65 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by party-list proportional representation vote; members serve 5-year terms)

elections:last held on 23 February 2018 (next to be held in February 2023)

election results:percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UMP 57, UDJ-PDD 7, CDU 1; composition - men 47, women 18, percent of women 26.7%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court or Cour Supreme (consists of NA magistrates); Constitutional Council (consists of 6 magistrates)

judge selection and term of office:Supreme Court magistrates appointed by the president with the advice of the Superior Council of the Magistracy CSM, a 10-member body consisting of 4 judges, 3 members (non parliamentarians and judges) appointed by the president, and 3 appointed by the National Assembly president or speaker; magistrates appointed for life with retirement at age 65; Constitutional Council magistrate appointments - 2 by the president of the republic, 2 by the president of the National Assembly, and 2 by the CSM; magistrates appointed for 8-year, non-renewable terms

subordinate courts:High Court of Appeal; 5 Courts of First Instance; customary courts; State Court (replaced sharia courts in 2003)

Political parties and leaders

Center for United Democrats or CDU [Ahmed Mohamed YOUSSOUF, chairman]
Democratic Renewal Party or PRD [Abdillahi HAMARITEH]
Djibouti Development Party or PDD [Mohamed Daoud CHEHEM]
Front for Restoration of Unity and Democracy (Front pour la Restauration de l'Unite Democratique) or FRUD [Ali Mohamed DAOUD]
Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development [Daher Ahmed FARAH]
Movement for Development and Liberty or MoDel [Ismail Ahmed WABERI]
Movement for the Development and Balance of the Djiboutian Nation (Mouvement pour le Dévelopment et l'Équilibre de la Nation Djiboutienne) or MDEND [Zakaria Ismael FARAH]
National Democratic Party or PND [Aden Robleh AWALEH]
People's Rally for Progress or RPP [Ismail Omar GUELLEH] (governing party)
Peoples Social Democratic Party or PPSD [Hasna Moumin BAHDON]
Republican Alliance for Democracy or ARD [Aden Mohamed ABDOU, interim president]
Union for a Presidential Majority or UMP (coalition includes RPP, FRUD, PND, PPSD)
Union for Democracy and Justice or UDJ [Ilya Ismail GUEDI Hared]

International organization participation

ACP, AfDB, AFESD, AMF, AU, CAEU (candidates), COMESA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAS, MIGA, MINURSO, NAM, OIC, OIF, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Mohamed Said DOUALEH (28 December 2016)

chancery:1156 15th Street NW, Suite 515, Washington, DC 20005

telephone:[1] (202) 331-0270

FAX:[1] (202) 331-0302

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Larry Edward ANDRE, Jr. (since 20 November 2017)

telephone:[253] 21 45 30 00

embassy:Lot 350-B, Haramouss B. P. 185

mailing address:B.P. 185, Djibouti

FAX:[253] 21 45 31 29

Flag description

two equal horizontal bands of light blue (top) and light green with a white isosceles triangle based on the hoist side bearing a red five-pointed star in the center; blue stands for sea and sky and the Issa Somali people; green symbolizes earth and the Afar people; white represents peace; the red star recalls the struggle for independence and stands for unity

National symbol(s)

red star; national colors: light blue, green, white, red

National anthem

name: "Jabuuti" (Djibouti)

lyrics/music:Aden ELMI/Abdi ROBLEH

note: adopted 1977

This is an audio of the National Anthem for Djibouti. The national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition - usually in the form of a song or hymn of praise - that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions, or struggles of a nation or its people. National anthems can be officially recognized as a national song by a country's constitution or by an enacted law, or simply by tradition. Although most anthems contain lyrics, some do not.:

Economy

Economic overview

Djibouti's economy is based on service activities connected with the country's strategic location as a deepwater port on the Red Sea. Three-fourths of Djibouti's inhabitants live in the capital city; the remainder are mostly nomadic herders. Scant rainfall and less than 4% arable land limits crop production to small quantities of fruits and vegetables, and most food must be imported.

Djibouti provides services as both a transit port for the region and an international transshipment and refueling center. Imports, exports, and reexports represent 70% of port activity at Djibouti's container terminal. Reexports consist primarily of coffee from landlocked neighbor Ethiopia. Djibouti has few natural resources and little industry. The nation is, therefore, heavily dependent on foreign assistance to support its balance of payments and to finance development projects. An official unemployment rate of nearly 40% - with youth unemployment near 80% - continues to be a major problem. Inflation was a modest 3% in 2014-2017, due to low international food prices and a decline in electricity tariffs.

Djibouti’s reliance on diesel-generated electricity and imported food and water leave average consumers vulnerable to global price shocks, though in mid-2015 Djibouti passed new legislation to liberalize the energy sector. The government has emphasized infrastructure development for transportation and energy and Djibouti – with the help of foreign partners, particularly China – has begun to increase and modernize its port capacity. In 2017, Djibouti opened two of the largest projects in its history, the Doraleh Port and Djibouti-Addis Ababa Railway, funded by China as part of the "Belt and Road Initiative," which will increase the country’s ability to capitalize on its strategic location.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 37,107

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:4.12 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 165

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 413,866

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:45.94 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 175

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: 

Djibouti has a poor domestic infrastructure and a monopolized telecom system relying on microwave radio relay; rural areas connected via wireless local loop; mobile coverage limited to Djibouti city; despite challenges, foreign investment lends progress toward improvements; one of the best international fiber cables in the region, the Djibouti Internet Exchange, is a meeting point for cable systems passing between the Red Sea and Indian Ocean; national operator managed the Australia West Cable landing and signed an agreement for IP traffic through Paris and Marseille; international operator signed MoU for extension of cable from the Gulf to Djibouti (2021)

(2020)

domestic:4 per 100 fixed-line and 41 per 100 mobile-cellular; Djibouti Telecom (DT) is the sole provider of telecommunications services and utilizes mostly a microwave radio relay network; fiber-optic cable is installed in the capital; rural areas connected via wireless local loop radio systems; mobile cellular coverage is primarily limited to the area in and around Djibouti city (2019)

international:country code - 253; landing points for the SEA-ME-WE-3 & 5, EASSy, Aden-Djibouti, Africa-1, DARE-1, EIG, MENA, Bridge International, PEACE Cable, and SEACOM fiber-optic submarine cable systems providing links to Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and Africa; satellite earth stations - 2 (1 Intelsat - Indian Ocean and 1 Arabsat) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

state-owned Radiodiffusion-Television de Djibouti operates the sole terrestrial TV station, as well as the only 2 domestic radio networks; no private TV or radio stations; transmissions of several international broadcasters are available (2019)

Internet country code

.dj

Internet users

total: 492,221

percent of population:55.68% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 153

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 24,416

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:2.71 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 152

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers:4

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

J2

Airports

total: 13 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 151

Airports - with paved runways

total: 3 (2017)

over 3,047 m:1 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m:1 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m:1 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 10 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m:1 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m:7 (2013)

under 914 m:2 (2013)

Railways

total: 97 km (Djibouti segment of the 756 km Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway) (2017)

standard gauge:97 km 1.435-m gauge (2017)

country comparison to the world: 127

Roadways

total: 2,893 km (2013)

country comparison to the world: 163

Merchant marine

total: 18

by type:general cargo 1, other 17 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 147

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Djibouti

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Djibouti Armed Forces (FAD): Army, Navy, Air Force, National Gendarmerie; Djibouti Coast Guard (2021)

Military expenditures

4.9% of GDP (2017 est.)

3.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

3.7% of GDP (2015 est.)

4% of GDP (2014 est.)

4.3% of GDP (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 8

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Djibouti Armed Forces (FAD) have approximately 10,500 active troops (8,000 Army; 250 Naval; 250 Air; 2,000 Gendarmerie) (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the FAD is armed largely with older French and Soviet-era weapons systems; since 2010, it has received limited amounts of mostly second-hand equipment from a variety of countries, including Canada, China, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and the US (2020)

Military deployments

960 Somalia (AMISOM) (2021)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service; 16-25 years of age for voluntary military training; no conscription (2020)

Maritime threats

the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center (PRC) received zero incidents of piracy and armed robbery in 2020 for the Horn of Africa; while there were no recorded incidents, the IMB PRC warns that Somalia pirates continue to possess the capacity to carry out attacks in the Somali basin and wider Indian Ocean; in particular, the report warns that, "Masters and crew must remain vigilant and cautious when transiting these waters."; the presence of several naval task forces in the Gulf of Aden and additional anti-piracy measures on the part of ship operators, including the use of on-board armed security teams, contributed to the drop in incidents; the EU naval mission, Operation ATALANTA, continues its operations in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean through 2022; naval units from China, India, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, the US, and other countries also operate in conjunction with EU forces; China has established a logistical base in Djibouti to support its deployed naval units in the Horn of Africa

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

al-Shabaab

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Djibouti maintains economic ties and border accords with "Somaliland" leadership while maintaining some political ties to various factions in Somalia; Kuwait is chief investor in the 2008 restoration and upgrade of the Ethiopian-Djibouti rail link; in 2008, Eritrean troops moved across the border on Ras Doumera peninsula and occupied Doumera Island with undefined sovereignty in the Red Sea

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 12,139 (Somalia) (2020)

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Djibouti is a transit, source, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; economic migrants from East Africa en route to Yemen and other Middle East locations are vulnerable to exploitation in Djibouti; some women and girls may be forced into domestic servitude or prostitution after reaching Djibouti City, the Ethiopia-Djibouti trucking corridor, or Obock – the main crossing point into Yemen; Djiboutian and foreign children may be forced to beg, to work as domestic servants, or to commit theft and other petty crimes

tier rating:Tier 2 Watch List – Djibouti does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; in 2014, Djibouti was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; one forced labor trafficker was convicted in 2014 but received a suspended sentence inadequate to deter trafficking; authorities did not investigate or prosecute any other forced labor crimes, any sex trafficking offenses, or any officials complicit in human trafficking, and remained limited in their ability to recognize or protect trafficking victims; official round-ups, detentions, and deportations of non-Djiboutian residents, including children without screening for trafficking victims remained routine; the government did not provide care to victims but supported local NGOs operating centers that assisted victims (2015)

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