History of Djibouti: Rise of Nationalism
History of Djibouti: Rise of Nationalism Last updated on Tuesday 20th April 2010
In 1949 the first anti-colonial demonstration was held in the territory and from 1951, there was a deputy from Djibouti in Paris. The first territorial assembly was established in 1957.
Hostility to French rule on the part of Issas and Somalis was made plain in a referendum in 1958 in which 25% voted "no". The French, supporting the Afars, put them in charge of the local council, headed by Ali Aref. Following arrests and wholesale expulsion of the Somali population, another referendum in 1967 produced a vote of 60.4% in favour of unity with France.
Riots followed the election and the United Nations urged France to grant the territory independence. The French, however, stood firm in their refusal to do so and in maintaining Ali Aref in power.
At the beginning of the 1970s, the situation shifted significantly. Hassan Gouled, head of the predominantly Somali African Popular Union, joined with the predominantly Afar League for the Future and for Order, headed by Ahmed Dini, to become the African People's League for Independence. This was the first inter-ethnic party in the colony.
The 1970s, a period of turbulence and unrest in what was still a French colony, culminated in the resignation of Ali Aref in 1976 followed by the return of many who had been expelled and the revision of the electoral register. In the election held in 1977, Hassan Gouled and his party easily won and an inter-ethnic government was formed. Gouled became Head of State and Ahmed Dini the Prime Minister.
Despite a promising start, this government did not survive and new one was formed in September 1978, again headed by Hassan Gouled.
This new government adopted an austerity budget and undertook extensive reorganization. For the first time, the development of the northern Afar region, heretofore ignored, became a priority. Economically the government sustained itself and its programmes because of continued heavy support from France as well as aid from fellow members of the Arab League, particularly Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Libya.