The Djiboutian diaspora in Melbourne organised its first ever independence day festival on 08 July 2016. The event took place at a quiet inner city suburb of Thornbury, in Melbourne North. Over two hundred people attended the event, including many friends of Djibouti. The successful event was organised by Mouktar Mohamed Robleh, a Djiboutian who arrived in Melbourne just over two years ago and who is keen to raise the flag for his country, the republic of Djibouti.
“I thought it was important to bring the community together on an important day for the nation of Djibouti. Djiboutians need to be proud of their country and celebrate their country’s independence, in the same way other ethnic groups do in Australia, said Mr Robleh .
Approximately three hundred Djiboutians live in Melbourne, a very small community that remains largely unknown by many Australians, including even many African-Australian communities. Mr Robleh said he met many challenges in his efforts to organise the festival. Being a new comer, he had to spend a great deal of time to build links within the community and convince the elders, the youth and women to hold the event and honour their country.
A view of the event
“I came to Melbourne in 2013 and because there was not much happening in the Djiboutian community, I wanted to make sure that we have at least one opportunity every year to celebrate who we are and showcase our identity and culture to the broader Australian society”, stated Mr Robleh
Many Djiboutians who have attended the event have expressed their gratitude to Mr Robleh for his achievement in bringing the whole community together for the first time, even though many Djiboutians have been in Melbourne for over 30 years, and all the efforts made to be able to rally the support of the elders and other community influencers in the two dominant ethnic groups (Issa and Afar) together for the occasion.
Mr Robleh said he could not have done the event on his own and expressed his gratitude for the assistance that he received from his community to help put the event together. “I am very grateful to all community members who supported me in organising this celebration and in particular Mr Abdulkader Ali Moustapha, the Djiboutian Afar community leader who contributed a lot and helped galvanise the community to bring us all together. I am really proud of my community and our elders”, said Mr Robleh.
Mr Mouktar Mohamed Robleh delivering a speech during the event
Mr Roubleh is an activist and member of UMP DIASPORA, a group supporting the current administration in Djibouti. With no support from any government department for festival, he spent his own money to cover the cost of the event and was assisted by his Somali born wife to bring everything together for the successful event.
Most Djiboutians have arrived in Melbourne in the 80s from either Djibouti, Somali or Ethiopia. Djibouti is one of the smallest countries in Northeast Africa, with less than 1 million inhabitants. It is bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia and the remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The country was created by France in the late nineteenth century and occupies only 23,200 Km2, which is 331 times smaller than Australia or 10 times smaller than the state of Victoria. Today, Djibouti’s geographical location has attracted the interest of the US and China, in addition to the former colonial power, France. These superpowers have set up military bases and other ventures, benefiting from the strategic geographical location of the country’s coastline.