France: Incident in Djibouti – “Vive la liberte,”
Laaska News June 27,2011
“Independence totale,” “Vive la liberte,” and in English, “French, go home.”
Friday, Sep. 02, 1966 (TIME)
Charles de Gaulle climbed aboard an Air France DC-8 last week and headed eastward around the world. His trip was to last 19 days, and it would undoubt edly bring the glory of enlightened Gaul to three continents.
In Ethiopia he was to confer with Emperor Haile Selassie on the future of Africa. In Cambodia he was to meet Prince Norodom Sihanouk, presumably
to condemn the war in Viet Nam. In Tahiti he was to watch the detonation of the eighth nuclear device of his celebrated force de frappe.
Finally, there would be a quick stopover at Guadeloupe, in the French West Indies, for a tour d’horizon of the problems of Latin America while his plane refueled.
But first there was Djibouti. Djibouti is the coastal capital of French Somaliland (pop. 100,000), a tiny toothmark of rocks, desert and hot wind located on the African side of the mouth of the Red Sea. Its only notable product is a wine concocted from the doom palm, its principal source of income a narrow-gauge railway from Ethiopia to Djibouti’s excellent port. Offered its independence in 1958, French Somaliland turned it down, and is now the only French colony in Africa. Three-quarters of the voters in a national plebiscite elected to retain their ties with France.
“French, Go Home.” Last week it seemed as if only the other one-quarter was on hand as De Gaulle arrived at Djibouti airport on a normal 100° day.
A French navy band thumped out ruffles and flourishes, the Foreign Legion detachment snapped to the garde-à-vous, and a thin line of civilians and dignitaries cheered and waved the Tricolor. But then things came apart. The crowds that lined Avenue 13 on De Gaulle’s motorcade route were screaming for freedom, carrying banners demanding “Independence totale,” “Vive la liberte,” and in English, “French, go home.”
When the motorcade had passed, the demonstrators started throwing rocks at the legionnaires, rioted for four hours before they got tired and went home. Next day the riots erupted anew, bringing hundreds of steel-helmeted troops and cops into the streets, and forcing De Gaulle to restrict his tour of the city to a 15-minute whisk along the heavily guarded Boulevard de Gaulle.
The President of France was unfazed. Somaliland, he said, during a brief ceremony in the Governor’s Palace, had chosen for itself the status of a French territory. “France respects this status and will continue to do so,” he said.
“I am a man who has lived much and has seen many varied situations. None of them astonish me, none will astonish me. Whatever happens, I will serve France. I am sure that you will serve her with me.”