Djibouti became independent from the colonial
power of France in 1977. Four years later, the country
became a one-party state with the Issa People-dominated
Popular Collection for Progress (RPP) as the only
permissible party. Multiparty systems were reintroduced
in 1992 after pressure from France. During the 1990s,
tensions between the peoples' groups led to public wars
and civil war. In 1994, a peace agreement was signed.
On June 27, 1977, the Republic of Djibouti was
proclaimed after a second referendum on independence was
held. The first vote was held in 1967 and was strongly
criticized from several directions (see Older history).
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Djibouti. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Hassan Gouled Aptidon from Issa became the country's
first president, a position he held for 22 years. In
1979, President Gouled formed the Ice-dominated party
RPP, which still holds the government of Djibouti. Since
he was re-elected as the only candidate in 1981, he
introduced a one-party system with RPP as the only
allowed party. After Gouled was re-elected president in
1987, tensions between the Issa and the Afar rose.
In 1991, three African exile groups in Ethiopia
formed the Front for the Restoration of Unity and
Democracy (Frud). The front started a rebellion that led
to a civil war that would last for ten years. Wife
denied the government's accusations that the rebel
movement received Ethiopian support. The war created
large streams of refugees within the country.
The economy was deteriorating as defense spending
rose, while the government was unable to collect taxes
in the areas of peace-controlled areas. Following
pressure from France, Gouled reintroduced multi-party
systems in 1992 after a new constitution was adopted
following a referendum. Mrs, who at that time controlled
two-thirds of the country, boycotted the referendum and
was not allowed to stand in the parliamentary elections
in December of that year. Only one party participated
alongside the RPP, which won all seats in the National
In the 1993 presidential election, Gouled officially
received 61 percent of the vote. According to the
opposition, extensive electoral fraud had occurred.
Peace was split in the spring of 1994 and a fraction of
the organization began working for a peace settlement
with the government.
A peace agreement was signed in December 1994.
According to this, a coalition government would be
formed, the regions would gain greater power and the
defense forces would be reduced in exchange for the
guerrillas laying down their weapons. However, a radical
group within Frud continued to fight the regime for a
few more years.
The 1997 parliamentary elections marked another clear
victory for the RPP. The part of Frud that put down the
weapons also took place in the National Assembly. In
accordance with the peace settlement, Frud also took a
seat in the government.
Guelleh becomes president
In 1995, President Gouled became very ill and could
not stand for the 1999 presidential election. In his
place, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, who was Gouled's relative
and closest adviser, was a candidate. Guelleh had
previously been the country's security chief with a
reputation for being ruthless. With RPP and Frud's
moderate falang behind him, he defeated the unified
opposition's counterpart, Moussa Ahmed Idriss.
International observers rejected the opposition's
accusations of electoral fraud.
In May 2001, the warring phalanx of Frud signed a
peace agreement with the government and handed in its
weapons. The details of the settlement were not made
public, but reportedly power would be decentralized, a
census carried out, local elections held and people
affected by the civil war would be helped.
After the peace settlement, Afare Dileita Mohamed
Dileita was appointed Prime Minister, which some
observers saw as an attempt to achieve a better balance
in politics between Issa and Afar.
In the parliamentary elections in January 2003, for
the first time, as many parties as possible could
participate. The eight parties participating had formed
two electoral unions. The government-loyal Union for the
Presidential Majority (UMP), dominated by the RPP, won
by 63 percent of the vote. The UMP gained a majority in
all constituencies and was thus able to take back all
the seats. The opposition alliance The Union for a
Democratic Alternative (UAD) received 37 percent of the
vote but was left without representation in the National
Assembly because of the electoral system (see Political
system). The opposition appealed the election results,
but the Constitutional Court went on the government's
Harassment of oppositionists
In opposition to the widespread opposition, according
to the opposition, the opposition parties chose to
boycott the presidential election in April 2005.
According to the government, 79 percent of the
electorate still went to the polls to elect Guelleh as
president. The opposition, for its part, claimed that
only 20 percent of voters voted.
In March 2006, for the first time district and
municipal elections were held. According to the 2001
peace agreement, a census would be carried out before
the elections, but it was not done. The UAD boycotted
the elections again, but other parts of the opposition
were running. The UMP won in all districts and municipal
assemblies. This time, the RPP's coalition partners
within Frud also claimed that there was widespread
electoral fraud. Frudge had not won the success in the
north that the party had hoped for. In addition, voters'
interest in the election was low, not even one in three
In August of the same year, the military conducted a
campaign against alleged armed groups. Several members
of the opposition party Republican Alliance for
Democracy (ARD) were arrested. The ARD then launched a
campaign for civil disobedience in protest against the
government's harassment of oppositionists.
Prior to the parliamentary elections in February
2008, the UAD demanded that a proportional electoral
system be introduced instead of one-man electoral
circuits, which the opposition considered favored the
RPP. Prime Minister Dileita, however, considered that
such a change would jeopardize the "ethnic balance"
between Issa and Afar.
In the run-up to the election, a series of protest
actions were carried out. Criticism was raised against
the electoral system and the broken promise of a census.
Several trade union leaders and opposition politicians
were arrested in connection with the protests.
Authorities claimed that all arrested were criminals.
As a result, the UAD chose to boycott the
parliamentary elections. The only opposition party to
run for election was banned from doing so, which meant
that the UMP received 94 percent of the vote and all 65
With full control of the National Assembly, in April
2010, the government was able to change the constitution
so that President Guelleh could stand for a third term.
The reform was criticized not only by the opposition but
also by large sections of the population. One of the
critics was Abdourahman Boreh, the country's foremost
business leader and former head of the Djibouti port
authority. Boreh, who had left the country, was
sentenced in June 2010 in his absence to 15 years in
prison for terrorism and tax fraud. As a result, his
plans to run for office in April 2011 were halted.
The wave of popular protests that swept across North
Africa in early 2011 and the Middle East also reached
Djibouti. In February, thousands of young people and
unemployed people demonstrated in the capital Djibouti.
They protested that Guelleh might run in the upcoming
presidential election. The demonstrations were wounded
by the police with the help of water cannons and tear
gas. More than 100 people were arrested, including three
In April 2011, Guelleh was elected president for a
Election success for the opposition
Following a change in the 2012 election system, which
meant that 13 of Parliament's mandates would henceforth
be distributed proportionally, the opposition chose to
stand with candidates in the 2013 parliamentary
Several opposition parties joined forces in an
alliance called the National Rescue Union (USN) in an
attempt to challenge the dominance of the RPP. Opinion
polls before the election suggested that for the first
time, there could be an even fight for the majority in
the National Assembly. However, when the UMP was
proclaimed victorious, the disappointment was great
within the opposition, and the message was met by street
protests. However, the new parliament received the
strongest representation so far for the opposition - one
third of the seats.
President Guelleh appointed a government of 24
ministers, led by Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil
Mohamed, who was previously Minister of Defense.
However, the suspicions of electoral fraud led to USN
deciding to boycott parliamentary work. Not until the
New Year's Eve 2014, after 18 months of negotiations,
did the USN agree with the government that the
alliance's candidates should take their seats. They also
agreed that a new, independent election commission
should be formed.
In June 2015, however, the USN stated that
cooperation with the UMP in the National Assembly was
deadlocked because no democratic reforms were launched
or no independent electoral commission was established.
The USN demanded that a third party be hired as a
mediator, but nothing happened.