The tiny French possession of Djibouti becomes independent on June 27 but there are already fears for the future of the small country, which is strategically placed at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.
The tiny French possession of Djibouti becomes independent on June 27 but there are already fears for the future of the small country, which is strategically placed at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The Arab League met at its headquarters in Cairo on Monday (2 May) to hear a report from a fact-finding mission which returned recently from the territory.
There has been a simmering conflict between Ethiopia -- which relies heavily on the port at Djibouti as its only outlet -- and neighbouring Somalia, over a large area of Ethiopia which is claimed by Somalia. The majority of Djibouti's 230,000 population are members of Somali tribes. Neither Ethiopia nor Somalia claims Djibouti, but both countries want a government favourable to its interests.
SYNOPSIS: The League, which represents most of the Arab world, is concerned that violence could erupt when independence comes to the country, which lies in a volatile area. Deputy Secretary-General of the Arab League, Dr. Mohamed El-Farra, reported back to the League after his visit to Djibouti to assess the situation there.
With Secretary-General Mahmoud Riad presiding, the League council meeting heard Dr. El-Farra praise the French authorities for their progress in implementing measures necessary for a referendum and elections on Sunday (8 May). Dr. El-Farra and his mission listened to all parties and organisations in Djibouti and exchanged viewpoints with the French High Commissioner there. The council asked Mr. Riad to form a committee to monitor progress of the referendum and the subsequent parliamentary elections. The council decided too that it would extend aid to the country after independence. The League's concern over the future of Djibouti stems from both its strategic importance and the desire of the more influential Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan and Syria, to create a band of Arab or Muslim states down the length of the Red Sea, thus creating a 'sea of peace'.