17. French Somaliland (1956-1977)

 

Pre-Crisis Phase (June 23, 1956-August 24, 1966):  Following the adoption of the Overseas Reform Act of June 23, 1956, French Somaliland became an Overseas Territory of France.  The first territorial assembly was convened in French Somaliland on July 22, 1957, and an eight-member executive committee of ministers was elected.  The Front for the Liberation of the Somali Coast (Front de Libération de la Côte des SomalisFLCS) was established by Mahamoud Harbi and Adan Abdulle in 1958.  Some 75 percent of voters favored becoming part of the French Community of Overseas Territory in a referendum held on September 28, 1958.  Legislative elections were held on November 23, 1958.

Crisis Phase (August 25, 1966-May 8, 1977):  French government policemen and Djibouti nationalists clashed in the city of Djibouti on August 25-26, 1966, resulting in the deaths of three civilians and one government policeman. Twenty-seven individuals were arrested for their involvement in the demonstrations. The French government deported some 6,000 ethnic Somalis to Somalia between August 1966 and March 1967. Djibouti nationalists demonstrated for independence on September 13-21, 1966, resulting in the deaths of 21 individuals.  On September 21, 1966, Governor-General Louis Saget announced the French government’s decision to hold a referendum on the status of French Somaliland.  Five individuals were killed by French government troops near Djibouti between October 1 and November 21, 1966. Eighteen individuals were arrested for their involvement in the demonstrations.  Some 60 percent of voters, mostly ethnic Afars, favored remaining as an overseas territory of France (known as the French Territory of the Afars and Issas) in a referendum held on March 19, 1967. French government troops suppressed demonstrations in the city of Djibouti on March 20, 1967, resulting in the deaths of eleven individuals. Four individuals were killed by French government troops on April 6, 1967.  French Somaliland was renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas on July 3, 1967.  Legislative elections were held on November 17, 1968, and the Afar Democratic Rally (Rassemblement Démocratique AfarRDA) won 20 out of 32 seats in the assembly.  Legislative elections were held on November 18, 1973.  The Majorité coalition, consisting mostly of ethnic Afars, won most of the seats in the assembly.  Eleven individuals were killed in political violence in Djibouti on May 25-26, 1975. On December 31, 1975, the UN General Assembly called on the French government to withdraw from the colony.  On February 4, 1976, French military personnel killed six FLCS militants who had hijacked a bus carrying some 30 children on February 3, 1976.  Two children were killed during the rescue attempt.  The Organization of African Unity (OAU) sent a 15-member fact-finding mission (Egypt, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zaire) to the region from April 29 to May 11, 1976. French government troops fired on demonstrators in Tadjourah on May 2, 1976, resulting in the death of one individual. Thirteen individuals were killed in political violence in Djibouti on July 10, 1976.  Abdallah Mohamed Kamil was elected prime minister by the Chamber of Deputies on July 29, 1976.  Representatives of the French government and Djibouti nationalists held negotiations in Paris beginning on February 28, 1977.  The OAU facilitated negotiations between representatives of the French government and Djibouti nationalists in Accra, Ghana from March 28 to April 1, 1977.  Constituent Assembly elections were held on May 8, 1977, and the People’s Rally for Independence (Rassemblement Populaire pour Independence-RPI) won 65 out of 65 seats in the assembly.  Some 99 percent of Djibouti voters favored independence from France in a referendum held on May 8, 1977. The United Nations (UN) sent three observers (Norway, Sri Lanka, Venezuela) to monitor the referendum. The OAU and League of Arab States (LAS) sent observers to monitor the referendum and legislative elections.

Post-Crisis Phase (May 9, 1977-June 27, 1977):  The Constituent Assembly elected Hassan Gouled Aptidon as president on June 24, 1977. French Somaliland (Djibouti) formally achieved its independence from France on June 27, 1977.

[Sources: Africa Research Bulletin (ARB), April 1-30, 1976, May 1-31, 1976, May 1-31, 1977; Banks and Muller, 1998, 260-265; Butterworth, 1976, 364-365; Facts on File, March 23-29, 1967, July 17, 1976, May 14, 1977; Keesing’s Record of World Events, September 24-October 1, 1966, December 3-10, 1966, April 8-15, 1967, March 19, 1976, June 18, 1976, August 27, 1976, June 24, 1977, August 12, 1977; Langer, 1972, 1281; Tillema, 1991, 92, 93-94.]