Republic. Gained independence from France in 1977.
Head of state:
President Ismail Omar Guelleh since 1999 (re-elected in 2005).
Head of government:
Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed since 2013.
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Djibouti was originally inhabited by nomadic tribes, the main ones being the Afars and the Issas, who are strongly linked to Ethiopia and Somalia respectively. In 1862, the French signed a treaty with the Afar leaders, giving them land on the north coast. During the rest of the 19th century, Djibouti gradually became more firmly associated with France.
In 1945, French Somaliland (as the area was called) was declared an 'overseas territory' and in 1967, it became the French territory of the 'Afars and Issas'. In 1977, the French agreed to withdraw and the country achieved independence.
Controlling access to the Red Sea, Djibouti is of major strategic importance. During the Gulf War it was the base of operations for the French military, who continue to maintain a significant presence, contributing directly and indirectly to more than half the country's income.