On Sunday (8 May) the people of the small French Protectorate of Afars and Issas, will go to the polls in a referendum to decide the country's future.
On Sunday (8 May) the people of the small French Protectorate of Afars and Issas, will go to the polls in a referendum to decide the country's future. It will decide whether the country will become independent of continue its association with France.
SYNOPSIS: The Territory lies on the Gulf of Aden at the entrance to the Red Sea, crammed between Ethiopia and north-east Somalia. Its only major town is the port of Djibouti, which is used by French military and commercial shipping. Local observers believe the referendum will result in an overwhelming majority for independence. This could put the Territory's long-term stability very much in the balance.
The politicians are campaigning vigorously and drawing good crowds. Mr. Hassan Gouled is the leader of the Popular African League for Independence, and he is expected to become the first leader of an independent administration. The current President of the Council of Government is Mr. Abdallah Mohammed Kamil, who came to power last November after defeating Mr. Ali Aref and his supporters.
He is responsible for seeing that the referendum is properly conducted, and his government will act as caretaker until the new administration takes over. Meanwhile, Mr. Gouled has recently received the support of Mr. Ali Aref, the former President of the Council of Government.
This development has opened the way for a government of national unity being formed when independence is declared. The total population of the Territory amounts to just under a quarter of a million people, and of these, a hundred thousand will be eligible to vote. If, as expected, they decide for independence, the proclamation of independence will take place on the 27th of June.
The expected result of the referendum will mean that France will leave Djibouti after maintaining a presence there for more than a hundred years. France will then have relinquished its last colonial possession in Africa after 350 years. The new National Assembly is expected to be made up of 65 seats with 29 going to Djibouti -- populated mainly by Somalians -- and 12 for the Afars people in Tadjouran.