Following a landslide victory in 1977 year’s referendum, Djibouti’s gained independence from France. Its strategic position in the Horn of Africa makes it a transit hub for regional migration flows. No wonder it is a multi-ethnic and multilingual country. This is also the reason why Djibouti draws foreign military attention from the US, China, Japan and Italy, along with the ever-present France.
The whirlwind of cultures is bewildering, economy should be blooming and yet poverty rates are skyrocketing, with about half of the population living in extreme poverty. This essay is a small display of the two facets that struck me most during my assignment in the country.
Firstly, the Government monopolises the drug market and the economy hugely benefits from it. Every day Djibouti opens its borders to tons of fresh Khat, the largely consumed narcotic plant whose health consequences remain unknown to the vast majority of the population. Mild euphoria, loss of appetite and light-headedness is what makes Khat leaves so desirable to the point of taking priority over a tight family budget. I saw almost every male including drivers and police officers nibbling a mouthful of Khat and sometimes giving me a bright green large smile.
Last but not least, heavy rains fell on Djibouti in late November and in particular between 22 and 23 November 2019 the equivalent of two years of precipitation occurred in one day. Not a big deal for an urbanized city, an unprecedented calamity for them. However, more than ten lives were severed in the capital city alone. About 21% of the population was affected so critically that UN and the main NGOs mobilised. The country was unprepared for the waist-high, stinking and muddy water that broke into their houses and shacks washing away any comfort. I saw people wearing the same drenched clothes for days, praying for the rains to stop. My eyes saw more than what my camera picked up. Harrowing until life slowly returned to normal.
I enlisted with an agency within the security sector when I was 19 years old, little did I know that I was about to discover so many places in my country and abroad in the line of duty. I am totally enthralled with people and their stories and I believe that my job as a professional is to do my utmost to come to their aid and as a greenhorn photographer is to tell their stories through pictures. Most of the pictures are shot with my iPhone with little or no editing.
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