• Short Summary

    France's President Georges Pompidou arrives in Addis Ababa today (17 January) to discuss with Ethiopia the future of the Territory of the Afars and Issas.

  • Description

    France's President Georges Pompidou arrives in Addis Ababa today (17 January) to discuss with Ethiopia the future of the Territory of the Afars and Issas.

    With Britain's withdrawal from Aden, there's possibility that France might relinquish the tiny East African colony, and Ethiopia doesn't want to see that happen.

    The port of Djibouti is vital to Ethiopia. About half of the country's imports and exports pass along the Addis Ababa to Djibouti railway. If France does and her ties with the little East African colony, it leaves Ethiopia as the only non-Arab power in the Red Sea.

    But when M. Pompidou gets settled around the conference table on Thursday (18 January) with Ethiopia, it's expected he will tell Emperor Hails Selassie that the French will stay in her colony as long as the local population want it that way.

    The French President said yesterday in Djibouti (16 January) that the link between France and the territory was the result of the wishes of the population. But when M. Pompidopu arrived there, there wasn't much evidence of this. The crowds to welcome him were sparse and the security precautions were elaborate.

    However, the picture changed yesterday (16 January when he left. Thousands of people lined the streets chanting "Pompidou, Pompidou", and they waved the tricolour French flag.

    SYNOPSIS: The battle for the tiny French territory of Afars and Issas has begun. Not a military one.... it's strategic effort. With Britain's withdrawal from Aden, there's a chance that France might relinquish Djibouti. President Pompidou says he won't but if the French finally call it quits and leave Africa for the last time, Ethiopia and the Somali Republic are jockeying for the head of the queue to move in and take over. Even though Ethiopia is keen to do just that, it also doesn't want to lose the French presence in the area. Economically, Djibouti doesn't do much. Despite its French colonial charm, tourism hasn't exactly boomed.

    But hand in hand with the pretty, almost placid front, Djibouti has problems. Hunger and unemployment haunt the native quarters. Shops are closing, and shipping is on a downhill slide. In 1966, over three thousand ships called at Djibouti. Last year it was under one thousand. There are only three secondary schools and one hospital in the entire territory, and even today, France contributes more than 90 per cent of Djibouti's budget. It gives about 12 million pounds in technical help every year and pays out nearly one million pounds a year for roads, schools and hospitals.

    France also pays for Djibouti's army and the territory's civil servants. The whole situation may change after President Pompidou's talks with Ethiopia, due to start tomorrow. General de Gaulle made a presidential visit to Djibouti in 1966, and it sparked off widespread rioting for independence. Mindful of those riots seven years ago, elaborate security precautions were in force when the French President's aircraft arrived on Monday.

    But there was not trouble. The crowds were small when the French President arrived, and there was no sign of a demonstration. The following day the scene was dramatically different. Thousands of people turned out to see M. Pompidou, and three times during an open motorcade through the streets of Djibouti, he stopped and walked among the people.

    President Pompidou is due to fly back to Paris on Friday morning.

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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