April 8, 2011
Here is a profile of the former French colony of Djibouti which holds presidential polls on Friday. Independent candidate Mohamed Warsama is the sole challenger to President Ismail Omar Guelleh.
Djibouti’s port, run by Dubai’s DP World(DPW.DI: Quote), is the lifeblood of its economy. Djibouti hosts France’s largest military base in Africa plus a major U.S. base, and the port is used by foreign navies patrolling busy shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia to fight piracy.
Djibouti has few natural resources and little industry. The nation depends heavily on foreign assistance for its balance of payments and to finance development projects. An unemployment rate of nearly 60 percent in urban areas is a major problem.
Consumer prices in Djibouti rose 0.3 percent in February, pushing the year-on-year rate to 3.8 percent, driven mainly by the cost of tobacco and a popular mild narcotic called Khat, official data showed. Annual inflation was 2.8 percent in 2010.
Djibouti is one of the world’s poorest countries in terms of human development. Life expectancy is 56.1 years.
GDP – $1.14 billion (2010 est)
Growth – 4.8 percent (2010 est)
GDP per capita (PPP)
$2,800 (2010 est)
POPULATION – An estimated 800,000
ETHNIC GROUPS – Most Djiboutians are either Afars or Issas, of Somali origin and predominant in the south. There are also French, Yemeni, Ethiopian and other minorities.
RELIGION: Muslim 94 percent, Christian 6 percent.
LANGUAGE: French and Arabic (official); Somali and Afar widely used.
In the presidential election held April 8, 2005, Ismail Omar Guelleh was re-elected to a second six-year term in a one-horse race.
Closely related through the Somali Issa clan to Hassan Gouled Aptidon, Djibouti’s founding president following independence from France in 1977, Guelleh became the country’s second president after winning a 1999 election.
His sweeping victory then was widely regarded as fair by international observers.
However, parliamentary election in 2003, in which Guelleh’s Union for Presidential Majority took every seat, was marred by criticism that voting was rigged.