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Independent Djibouti

In 1975, the French Government began to accommodate increasingly insistent demands for independence. Independence was a long-standing, contentious issue between the Issa and Afar peoples. The Issa community favored independence, while the Afar people favored continued status as a French territory. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) supported autonomy for Djibouti, which applied additional pressure on France to grant Djibouti independence.

Eventually, the Issa and Afar peoples joined a unified political movement for independence (the Ligue Populaire Africaine pour líIndependence) led by Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who was linked with the Issa people. 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 May 1993 multiparty elections.

In 1981, Djibouti held its first presidential elections since independence. ll political parties were banned from participation in the election except for Hassan Gouled Aptidonís Peopleís Rally for Progress (RPP). Consequently, Aptidon ran unopposed and was reelected. The same was true for the Parliamentary elections in 1982; all candidates ran unopposed. Afar dissatisfaction with Aptidon grew in the late 1980s.

Insurgent Afars in the north formed the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD) in 1991 in frustration with some of Aptidonís policies. FRUD claimed that the Issa-dominated central government did not respect the rights of the Afars. The Afars called for the creation of a new state from parts of Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Eritrea; FRUD gained control of some areas of the north and west.

Fighting intensified until 25 February 1992, when 250 French troops were deployed to help quell the violence. Though the Afars declared a unilateral cease-fire, fighting continued. By July, a government counteroffensive resulted in FRUD occupation and the imprisonment of many opposition leaders. By the end of 1993, 35 percent of the central governmentís budgetary expenditures was used to support the military occupation of the north by Issa troops.

By 1993, FRUD had lost much to the government offensive. In 1994, FRUD leadership split over the issue of government negotiations. A more moderate wing then entered into negotiations and called a ceasefire. In March 1995, in compliance with the peace accords, the majority of FRUD disarmed, and the military integrated a segment of the insurgents into its ranks.

Upon Aptidonís retirement in 1999, Ismail Omar Guelleh was elected president. On 7 February 2000, representatives of the Djibouti government and the remaining FRUD combatant rebels signed a peace accord calling for the immediate release of prisoners by both sides, as well as for reforms to decentralize and enhance democracy. FRUD leader Ahmed Dini returned to Djibouti in March.

In early 1992, the constitution permitted the legalization 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 Rassemblement Populaire Pour le Progres (People's Rally for Progress--RPP), which was the only legal party from 1981 until 1992; the Parti du Renouveau Democratique (The Party for Democratic Renewal--PRD); and the Parti National Democratique (National Democratic Party--PND).

Only the RPP and the PRD contested the national assembly elections, and the PND withdrew, claiming that there were too many unanswered questions on the conduct of the elections and too many opportunities for government fraud. The RPP won all 65 seats in the national assembly, with a turnout of less than 50% of the electorate.

In early November 1991, civil war erupted in Djibouti between the government and a predominantly Afar rebel group, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD). The FRUD signed a peace accord with the government in December 1994, ending the conflict. Two FRUD members were made cabinet members, and in the presidential elections of 1999 the FRUD campaigned in support of the RPP.

In February 2000, another branch of FRUD signed a peace accord with the government. On May 12, 2001, President Guelleh presided over the signing of what was termed the final peace accord officially ending the decade-long civil war between the government and the armed faction of the FRUD. The peace accord successfully completed the peace process begun on February 7, 2000 in Paris. Ahmed Dini Ahmed represented the FRUD.

In December 2000, the police initiated a short rebellion after Police Chief Yacin Yabeh Gaab was fired. The police rebels sealed off access to the presidency, cut telecommunications, and took over the radio and television stations. They urged Djiboutians to join the rebellion; however, because of Ramadan, few people were listening to their radios. The revolt ended after a standoff between the police and the army led to a gunfight in which two people were killed. The army prevailed, and Yabeh was arrested and convicted of conspiracy and breaching security.

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Page last modified: 25-11-2015 16:18:18 ZULU