Background

This is a country in the Horn of Africa. The French Territory of the Afars and the Issas became Djibouti in 1977 and changed its name to the "Republic of Djibouti" after its principal city. Djibouti joined the United Nations on September 20, 1977. Hassan Gouled APTIDON installed an authoritarian one-party state and proceeded to serve as president until 1999. Unrest among the Afars minority during the 1990s led to a civil war that ended in 2001 following the conclusion of a peace accord between Afar rebels and the Issa-dominated government. In 1999, Djibouti's first multi-party presidential elections resulted in the election of Ismail Omar GUELLEH; he was re-elected to a second term in 2005. Djibouti occupies a strategic geographic location at the mouth of the Red Sea and serves as an important transshipment location for goods entering and leaving the east African highlands. The present leadership favors close ties to France, which maintains a significant military presence in the country, but also has strong ties with the US. Djibouti hosts the only US military base in sub-Saharan Africa.



Politics

Djibouti is a republic whose electorate approved the current constitution in September 1992. Many laws and decrees from before independence remain in effect.

In April 2011, President Ismail Omar Guelleh was re-elected for a third term. In April 2005, Guelleh had been re-elected at the head of a five-party coalition that included the FRUD and other parties. Currently, political power is shared by a Somali Issa president and an Afar prime minister, with an Afar career diplomat as Foreign Minister and other cabinet posts roughly divided.

Djibouti has its own armed forces, including a small army, which grew significantly with the start of the civil war in 1991. With the 2001 final peace accord between the government and the Afar-dominated FRUD, the armed forces have been downsized. The country's security is supplemented by a formal security accord with the Government of France, which guarantees Djibouti's territorial integrity against foreign incursions. France maintains one of its largest military bases outside France in Djibouti. There are some 3,000 French troops stationed in Djibouti, including units of the famed French Foreign Legion.

The right to own property is respected in Djibouti. The government has reorganized the labor unions. While there have been open elections of union leaders in the past, some labor leaders allege interference in their internal elections. Others voice opposition to newly-implemented labor laws that apply to new jobs created in free zones and that are less favorable to labor.

In 2002, following a broad national debate, Djibouti enacted a new "Family Law" enhancing the protection of women and children, unifying legal treatment of all women, and replacing Sharia. The government established a minister for women's affairs and is engaged in an ongoing effort to increase public recognition of women's rights and to ensure enforcement. The government is leading efforts to stop illegal and abusive traditional practices, including female genital mutilation. As the result of an ongoing effort, the percentage of girls attending primary school increased significantly and is now more than 50%. However, women's rights and family planning continue to face difficult challenges, many stemming from acute poverty in both rural and urban areas. With female ministers and members of parliament, the presence of women in government has increased. Despite the gains, education of girls still lags behind boys, and employment opportunities are better for male applicants.

Education

The priority of Djibouti Government is Education. In 2009, she allocates 20.5% of its annual budget to scholastic instruction. Djibouti boasting a digital telecommunications network and connections to the rest of the world through undersea optical fibre that are much admired in the region. Two-thirds of the population is urban, and ICT services are readily available in urban areas . The country has a good relationship with most western donors. All these factors support Djibouti’s efforts to modernise their education sector.

The Djiboutian educational system was initially formulated to cater to a limited pupil base. As such, the schooling framework was largely elitist and drew considerably from the French colonial paradigm, which was ill-suited to local circumstances and needs.

In the late 1990s, the Djiboutian authorities revisted the national educational strategy and launched a broad-based consultative process involving administrative officials, teachers, parents, national assembly members and NGOs. The initiative identified areas in need of attention and produced concrete recommendations on how to go about improving them. The government subsequently prepared a comprehensive reform plan aimed at modernizing the educational sector over the 2000–10 period. In August 2000, it passed an official Education Planning Act and drafted a medium-term development plan for the next five years. The fundamental academic system was significantly restructured and made compulsory; it now consists of five years of primary school and four years of middle school. Secondary schools also require a Certificate of Fundamental Education for admission. In addition, the new law introduced secondary-level vocational instruction and established university facilities in the country.

As a result of the Education Planning Act and the medium-term action strategy, substantial progress has been registered throughout the educational sector. In particular, school enrollment, attendance and retention rates have all steadily increased, with some regional variation. From 2004–05 to 2007–08, net enrollments of girls in primary school rose by 18.6%; for boys, it increased 8.0%. Net enrollments in middle school over the same period rose by 72.4% for girls and 52.2% for boys. At the secondary level, the rate of increase in net enrollments was 49.8% for girls and 56.1% for boys.[33] The Djiboutian government has especially focused on developing and improving institutional infrastructure and teaching materials, including constructing new classrooms and supplying textbooks. At the post-secondary level, emphasis has also been placed on producing qualified instructors and encouraging out-of-school youngsters to pursue vocational training.

Institutions of higher learning in the country include the University of Djibouti. The University of Djibouti has three faculties and one institute.

Religion

Djibouti's population is predominantly Muslim. Islam is observed by 94% of Djibouti's population (about 740,000) (2010 estimate), while the remaining six percent follow Christianity.

Every town and village in Djibouti has a mosque where people go to worship. Tombs of their former religious leaders and those considered holy are known as sacred spaces. The most famous sacred space for Islam in Djibouti is the tomb of Sheikh Abu Yazid, which is found in the Goda Mountains. In addition to the Islamic calendar, Muslims in Djibouti also recognize New Year's Day (January 1) and Labor Day (May 1) as holidays.

The Republic of Djibouti names Islam as the sole state religion, the Constitution of 1992 provides for the equality of citizens of all faiths (Art. 1) as well as the freedom to practise any religion (Art. 11). Djibouti's Family Code (Code de la Famille) of 2002 prohibits Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men, unless the men convert to Islam. According to the International Religious Freedom Report 2008, while Muslim Djiboutians have the legal right to convert to another faith or marry outside of Islam, "converts may face negative societal, tribal, and familial attitudes towards their decision" and often face pressure to revert to Islam.

Between 7,000 and 8,000 Catholics live in Djibouti, of which some 300 are local Djiboutians, the rest being foreigners. The Christian population largely consists of foreign-born or expatriate residents. Djibouti has a Catholic diocese, 4 Catholic priests all of whom are foreigners – as well as about 40 Catholic missionaries.



Culture

Djiboutian attire reflects the region's hot and arid climate. When not dressed in western clothing such as jeans and t-shirts, men typically wear the macawiis, which is a sarong-like garment worn around the waist. Among nomads, many wear a loosely wrapped white cotton robe called a tobe that goes down to about the knee, with the end thrown over the shoulder (much like a Roman toga).

Women typically wear the dirac, which is a long, light, diaphanous voile dress made of cotton or polyester that is worn over a full-length half-slip and a bra. Married women tend to sport head-scarves referred to as shash, and also often cover their upper body with a shawl known as garbasaar. Unmarried or young women, however, do not always cover their heads. Traditional Arabian garb such as the male jellabiya (jellabiyaad in Somali) and the female jilbāb is also commonly worn. For some occasions such as festivals, women may adorn themselves with specialized jewelry and head-dresses similar to those worn by the Berber tribes of the Maghreb.

A lot of Djibouti's original art is passed on and preserved orally, mainly through song. Many examples of Islamic, Ottoman, and French influences can also be noted in the local buildings, which contain plasterwork,carefully constructed motifs and calligraphy.



Wildlife of Djibouti

The Wildlife of Djibouti, consisting of flora and fauna, is in a harsh landscape with forest accounting for less than one percent of the total area of the country. The flora and fauna species are most found in the northern part of the country in the ecosystem of the Day Forest National Park at an average altitude 1,500 metres (4,900 ft), including the massif Goda, with a peak of 1,783 metres (5,850 ft). It covers an area of 3.5 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi) of Juniperus procera forest, with many of the trees rising to 20 metres (66 ft) height. This forest area is the main habitat of critically endangered and endemic Djibouti Francolin, and another recently noted vertebrate, Platyceps afarensis. The area also contains many species of woody and herbaceous plants, including boxwood and olive trees, which account for sixty percent of the total identified species in the country.

Wildlife flora and fauna are also found in the country's wetland ecosystem which includes two large lakes, Lake Assal and Lake Abbe (only a small part of the flats of this lake are in Djibouti), and many salt pans which are flooded occasionally from the wadis and the coastal tidal wetlands. The coastal belt of Djibouti also has a diversity of marine life or aquatic ecosystem, including coral reefs.

According to the country profile related to biodiversity of wildlife in Djibouti, the country contains some 820 species of plants, 493 species of invertebrates, 455 species of fish, 40 species of reptiles, 3 species of amphibians, 360 species of birds and 66 species of mammals. Wildlife of Djibouti is also listed as part of Horn of Africa biodiversity hotspot and the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden coral reef hotspot.