Article published on 26 January 2024
last modification on 12 February 2024

FRENCH COAST OF THE SOMALIS (later, French Territory of the Afars and the Issas; then, Republic of Djibouti)

Historical account from 1890 to 1970.

In 1862, France buys the territory of Obock from the local sultan but does not occupy it till 1884. France being in rivalry with the Italians and the British, the territory becomes, in 1898, the Colony of the French Coast of the Somalis with Djibouti as its capital, a port of call for vessels from Indochina and an outlet to Ethiopia (the Djibouti-Addis-Ababa railway line is terminated in 1917).

In 1946, the colony becomes an overseas territory. The Somalis become French citizens, represented in metropolitan assemblies. In 1956, the blueprint law establishes a council of ministers subordinate to the Governor General. But, with the return of liberty, the ethnic conflicts between the Afars and the Issas intensify and, at the same time, the desire for independence increases. A referendum, in 1967, confirms the territory’s membership in the French Community. It becomes the "French Territory of the Afars and the Issas". A new referendum in 1977 leads to the independence of a new state, the Republic of Djibouti.


Historical account from 1890 to 1970.

A country as large as France, the Kingdom of Madagascar makes a treaty with France to become a French protectorate in 1885 but breaks it in 1894. A military expedition is organized. The troops land in Mahajunga but reach Antananarivo only eight months later, having lost 40% of the attacking forces (20 000 men) on the way due to disease and exhaustion. The lack of preparation is evident. Queen Ranavalona III accepts a new protectorate treaty.

In 1886, annexation is completed. Gallieni, assisted for some time by Lyautey, is the first Governor. He brings peace by quelling some uprisings and organizes the functioning of the government by creating subdivisions, by leaning on Malagasy functionaries, by authorizing free medical assistance and opening schools for primary school teachers, physicians, midwives…

Roads and railway lines are built. The ports are put into working order. Agriculture and breeding make exportation possible. The administration encourages modest Malagasy agricultural enterprises.

However, the aspirations to gain independence and the recognition of Malagasy culture become more and more insistent but are kept in abeyance during the Second World War. Besides, the French administration in place opts for the Vichy regime and only the landing of British and South African troops brings the island back to Free France (la France Libre).

The Brazzaville Conference in 1944 inspires great hope in the hearts of the nationalists. The disappointment that follows is at the origin of the popular uprising of 1947, which is severely repressed. From then on, the events leading to Independence are going to follow one after the other.

In 1951, a territorial assembly elected through universal suffrage is organized on the basis of a double electorate. A group of councillors (Un Grand Conseil) assists the High Commissioner.

The blueprint law of 1956 endows the territory with a governing council presided over by the Governor of the colony whose ministers are appointed by a territorial assembly elected through universal suffrage from a single electorate. In 1958, adhesion to the French Community is approved. In 1960, Madagascar becomes independent and is admitted into the United Nations Organization.


Historical account from 1890 to 1970.

The Island of Reunion, uninhabited when the French arrive in the middle of the 17th Century, bore the name of Bourbon Island until 1848. The island was populated with white colonists and workers brought from Africa, India and China.

In 1946, Reunion becomes a French Overseas Department whose main city is Saint-Denis.


Historical account from 1890 to 1970.

This archipelago in the Indian Ocean is composed of four islands : La Grande Comore, Mohéli, Anjouan and Mayotte. The French have been there since 1843.

An agreement between the great powers in 1890 unite these islands to France. In 1908, they are legally united with Madagascar. The common cultural link is Sunnite Islam.

In 1946, these islands are detached from Madagascar and represented in the French Parliament. A Territorial Assembly has existed since 1952. A regime of internal autonomy is instituted in 1961 and extended in 1968.

Independence is proclaimed in 1975. Mayotte, having refused Independence, remains in the French Republic under the exceptional statute of Territorial Community (collectivité territoriale).

SOUTHERN LANDS (for the record)

The French Southern and Antarctic Lands (T.A.A.F. - Terres australes et antarctiques françaises) consist of the Kerguelen islands, the land of Adélie, the archipelago of Crozet, Saint-Paul and Amsterdam. Their only inhabitants are some hundred scientists at the permanent station for the study of the earth and the atmosphere called Dome C. International treaties have made these lands demilitarized zones.