Geography. – It is officially called the Côte Française des Somalis and includes a territory that extends in a semicircle around the bay of Tagiura (280 km. of coastline), which after the Italian-French agreements of 1935 (following which the southern part of the sultanate of Raheita passed to Eritrea about 800 sq. km.) has an area of 21,163 sq. km. This territory is partly low and flat (there is indeed the absolute deep depression of Lake Assal, 174 m. Below sea level), and partly hilly and mountainous. In the northern part, in N. di Tagiura, the Guda Mountains exceed 1600 m. The climate is torrid and very arid: in the lowlands the hottest month (July) has an average of about 32 °, and the coolest month (January), of 26 °; the rains do not exceed 100 mm. annually, and much of the country, therefore, is desert or covered by a thin steppe. Woods, which however also have
According to top-engineering-schools, the population in 1931 was only 68,965 residents (and was calculated at 70,000 in 1935), of which 46,687 Somalis, 2992 Arabs, 18,552 Danachili, 499 Indians, 157 Abyssinians and 78 Jews. The Europeans were 628 (356 French), residing almost exclusively in Djibouti (11,366 residents), Capital of the colony, in which the centers of Tagiura (670 residents) And Obock, the ancient capital (250 residents) Are also noteworthy.). Djibouti is the maritime terminus of the railway that reaches Addis Abeba (783 km., Of which 90 in the colony’s territory) and which ensures most of the Ethiopian traffic to French Somalia. This line, completed in 1917, is operated by a French company (Compagnie du Chemin de fer franco – éthiopien); following Italian-French agreements, Italy acquired a stake in the company’s share capital.
Within the colony, communications are generally carried out by means of caravans. Important caravans are those for Assab and Harar. Various French, Italian, English, German, Norwegian, Swedish and Dutch shipping lines call at Djibouti, which is connected by cabotage services with Perim and Aden.
The colony is not suitable for agriculture, due to the almost total lack of water. A little legumes and tobacco are grown around Djibouti; from the acacias, frequent in the woods of the mountainous area, gum arabic is obtained. You raise sheep, goats, cattle and camels. Mining exploration is still superficial, but significant iron deposits are known. Potassium chloride is extracted from Lake Assal, of volcanic origin, and from the salt pans of Djibouti from 20 to 25 thousand tons. salt per year. The industries are represented by an ice factory, a power plant and the mechanical plants of the railway company.
The fishery provides a fair amount, and there is some export of dry and salted fish to Ethiopia. Sponges and pearl oysters are also fished.
Foreign trade is almost exclusively of transit and consists of coffee, skins, wax, ivory and precious metals for export, and cotton, oil, petrol, sugar, spirits, spices, cement, soap and imported vehicles, which of it usually has a higher value than that of exports (average for the period 1931-34, 157.4 million francs on import and 148.9 on export, for more than half of which is coffee) . France participates in the trade of the colony with just 7-8% of the value.
History. – The French occupation of the Somali Coast is of relatively recent date. Since the reign of Louis Philippe there had been contacts between the government of Paris and the Negus dello Scioa, and French missions (Rochet d’Héricourt, Lefebvre, D’Abbadie, etc.) had crossed central and southern Ethiopia, but none part of the East African coast had been occupied; and in Somalia itself Commander Guillaim’s long cruise had ended without concrete political results. Only when the action of Italy and England intensified on the coasts of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, did events precipitate the realization of a French colonial program in Somalia and it was then decided without doubt to put in place efficiency the port of Obock. L’ French action took place on the basis of a convention, which the government of Paris published, signed on 11 March 1862 between the French Foreign Minister and a representative of the Sultan of Tagiura; agreement that had remained unexecuted for over twenty years.
The mission was entrusted to a very tactful and energetic man, M. Lagarde. Having landed in July 1884 with 27 infantry men, the French official quickly succeeded in stipulating agreements and treaties that placed the sultanates of Raheita, Tagiura and Gobad under the French protectorate.
From 1884 to 1888 the Costa dei Somali was the subject of intense penetration work: Obock and Djibouti were the most affected centers. In 1897, a year of exceptional importance in French colonial history, the convention for the determination of the borders with Abyssinia was signed (the borders with the English possessions were established in February 1888; the delimitation of the borders with the Italian possessions dates back to the composition friendly ended in 1900).
After 1900, only an intense resumption of French missions in the border districts and in the interior of Ethiopia should be recorded in the history of the Somali Coast, initiatives recommended in order to establish new contacts and better reasons to further consecrate the treaty. commercial already previously stipulated. Missions that have remained largely ineffective and that are confused with a last odyssey in the history of this colony: the Franco-Ethiopian railway.