10/04/05 (B293) DJIWATCH – Texte en Anglais du memorandum qui a été remis à S.E. Paul Cellucci, Ambassadeur des Etats Unis auprès du Canada, avec copie à Mme C. Rice, Ministre des Affaires étrangères des USA.

Association against human rights violations in Djibouti
210-17 Willow Ottawa,
On K1r 6V5 Tel (613) 864-9031

April 4, 2005

Attention to:

Paul Cellucci
U.S. Ambassador in Canada

Berry Newman

Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs

Condoleezza Rice

Secretary of State

ON DJIBOUTI By Djibwatch


The Republic of Djibouti
is a small East African country located between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.
This former French colony became independent on June 27, 1977. Djibouti territories
cover 23 000 km2 with a population of 700 000 inhabitants mainly Afars, Arabs
and Somali. Its privileged geographic location at the cross-roads of Africa
and Arabia, on the banks of the Red Sea, this maritime link is important for
the international trade. Djibouti gets a real strategic and geopolitical value
which justifies the presence of thousands western soldiers, two important
military bases. France has been keeping its most important base in Africa
(about three thousands soldiers) since Djibouti became independent in 1977,
and as part of anti-terror force the United States of America (USA) has stationed
about 1500 soldiers (camp lemonier) while Spain and Germany have hundreds
of servicemen. Djibouti benefits from the military presence (France alone
gives about 30 millions euros per year and USA 15 millions dollars as well)
and the presence expenditures. Djibouti port activities have increased since
the hostility begun between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998. Djibouti port became
a vital link to the sea for Ethiopia.


However, Republic of Djibouti
suffers from a serious under-development. Unemployment rate is more than half
of the potentially working population, health care and education system are
stricken, roads are in bad condition, water and power supply unreliable…
Youth faces idleness and hopelessness, AIDS wreaks havoc (11.7% according
to 2000 UNAIDS’ survey) and migration is a real phenomenon. According
to UNDP report issued on July 14/2004 poverty rate have almost doubled between
1996 and 2002. About 75% of the population has lived with less than 3 US dollars
a day in 2002 for 45% in 1996! Poverty, illiteracy, diseases and hunger still
remain widely spread. Extreme poverty (with less than 1.8 US dollars a day)
has risen from 9.6% in 1996 to 45.2% in 2002! In the same way, democracy and
civil liberties guaranties have never been effective along with a very poor
human rights record (ref. USA State Department annual report on human rights)


In fact, the country is
victim of a severe ill-governance because of a corrupt and autocratic system.
Most of national economy is in the hands of the regime and its few faithful.
While the head of state is in control of the private sector through his family
members and friends, the national treasury, public services and state owned
companies are managed like his own private business. Let us cite, for instance,
the port and airport of Djibouti that are key part of the national economy.
In a secret contract, only known by the head of state, his friend and businessman
Mr Abdourahman Boreh and their foreign partners, port and airport have been
put under DPI (Dubai Ports International) management. No other Djiboutian
know what has been agreed in the deal whereas it is about two highly national
properties and, as such, constitutionally submitted to national control.


We have to remind that
Djibouti has been ruled since its independence in June 1977 by the same party
(People rally for progress). The head of this party is currently Ismael Omar
Guelleh, former chief security under his uncle and predecessor Hassan Gouled
Aptidon who chose him as his successor in 1999. Since then, he’s been
the president of the Republic, head of state, head of government but also
chief of public administration, armed forces, police, justice, intelligence
and political security, state owned companies, etc. The 65-seats national
assembly has always belonged 100% to same the party and Djibouti is a country
with only two elections: -Presidential elections every six years, -Legislative
polling every five years. For the parliament election, one round and one list
first-past-the-post (scrutin de liste majoritaire à un tour) has always
been in force! This is one of the main reasons why the parliament seats were
always taken by the same and only party (RPP) .On the last polling in January
10/2003, the opposition coalition (Union for alternative democracy)has won
officially almost 40% of the seats. It seems that the opposition then led
by the late Ahmed Dini Ahmed won the elections but the regime rigged them
once again. In Djibouti, no decentralization, no elected local authorities,
although it was scheduled by the constitution since September 1992 (the first
of the post-colonial era ) and by the peace accord signed on may 12/ 2001
between the regime and the armed opposition called Front for the restoration
of unity and democracy (FRUD). As another proof of his deliberate and permanent
refusal, the head of state didn’t keep his promise for holding regional
elections by the end of 2004. Broken Promises without any explanation. Neither,
as we’ve mentioned there is no free and fair elections in Djibouti, and
Mr Ismael Omar Guelleh is preparing to self-elect for another mandate on April
8/2005, despite the popular inspirations of fundamental democratic rules.
The regime is for its own benefit, in complete control of electoral process.
All the democratization agreements with opposition through its armed components
are not yet implemented, the regime simply ignores its. The last one, is the
peace and democratization agreement it has signed with the late Ahmed Dini
Ahmed president of FRUD on may 12, 2001. Despite its promises to the Djiboutian
people and international community (United States of America, European Union,
France, etc.) to respect the agreements, Mr Ismael Omar Guelleh has introduced
a veiled multiparty system. In practice, there is no change and the one party
system totally continues to function.


Opposition is constantly
victim of persecutions from the regime and its members are often thrown in
prison. Every opposition movement has seen some of its members imprisoned
in the terrible prison of Gabode located in the capital, in conditions that
International federation for human rights (FIDH) and International observatory
of prisons have condemned in 1999. It is not rare for an opposition party,
despite being legal, to be stripped of its legal recognition and to see its
name and attributes going to a few agents of the regime. The Party for democratic
renewal (PRD) was one of the parties that experienced this practice in 1997,
since then it has changed its name for MDR (Movement for democratic renewal
and development) in November 2002 after the unlimited multiparty was introduced
in May 12/2001 agreements. The democratic national party (PND) of Mr Aden
Robleh Awaleh, who has joined the regime since then, met also this sort of


As mentioned above, civil
liberties are only written in the books. The trade unions have simply been
declared illegal as have been opposition parties. None of the two central
unions (Djiboutian union of labour and general union of Djiboutian workers),
any individual one has been spared by the arbitrary outlaw to the benefit
of regime structures. Unionism fate in our country, with the refusal of union
freedom and leaders redundancies along with other persecutions, is well known
by the world labour community (International labour organization (OIT), International
labour bureau (BIT), free unions international confederation (CISL), International
of education, etc. Clubs and associations are also recognized only if they
belong to what the regime calls “Djiboutian national associations network
(RENAD in French)”. This is an instrument through which it controls clubs
and associations. Freedom of speech is not more respected. No free radio and
television, and the state owned media are the voice of their master. The independents
press comes down to two small bulletins of opposition ( Le Renouveau of MRD
and Realité of ARD). They are constantly harassed. Le Renouveau chief
editor and director Mr Daher Ahmed Farah, for instance is often victim of
imprisonment and the news paper is continuously suspended, seized and fined.


This situation leads of
course to many popular frustrations and is likely to result in a desperate
and dangerous reaction. Popular resistance, rather pacific till now, may turn
violent. The case of FRUD (it has still armed presence in bushes), that started
armed struggle in 1991, testifies to the way things turn out. This time, as
it seems, the majority of all national communities are united and seeking


Still, Djibouti has so
many advantages that it can be an example of functioning democracy and harmonious
development for the rest of the region. Its small size, and manageable population
inter-related, a pastoral culture which gets it willing to dialogue and democratic
compromise, a national unity renewed thanks to the popular awareness of the
regime long used “divide and rule” and to opposition unity, qualified
women and men who only wish to be valued and to serve their beloved country,
a genuine economic potential…all these are factors in a position to make
the Republic of Djibouti function. That is why Djiboutian people turn to the
democratic world, in particular to the US whose values of democracy and humanism
they share. They believe US, through its world influence and its aid to Djibouti
could help democratize this small country. They strongly believe it because
they know the regime, which is aware of its illegitimacy, could not afford
not to pay attention to Mr Bush pro-democracy commitment. Here is the speech
president bush gave in November 2003 at American Heritage foundation “Our
mission in Iraq and Afghanistan is clear to our service members — and clear
to our enemies. Our men and women are fighting to secure the freedom of more
than 50 million people who recently lived under two of the cruellest dictatorships
on Earth. Our men and women are fighting to help democracy and peace and justice
rise in a troubled and violent region. Our men and women are fighting terrorist
enemies thousands of miles away in the heart and center of their power, so
that we do not face those enemies in the heart of America. Our men and women
are fighting for the security of America and for the advance of freedom, and
that is a cause worth fighting for”


What Djiboutian people
expect from their Americans friends is to demand Ismael Omar Guelleh’s
regime to implement the 12 may 2001 peace and concord agreement it signed
up to with FRUD then led by the late Ahmed Dini Ahmed, agreement in which
it solemnly committed to some democratic reforms, in particular : 1- To implement
a full multiparty system (this is the sole item applied but with administrative
and political hindrances); 2-Decentralization of regions other than the capital
Djibouti city: this item is the subject of a major bill joint to the agreement;
3-An independent justice and the revival of the court for administration linked
cases which has not been –deliberately- working since 1996; 4- Joint
decision (Opposition/Government) on the special status of Djibouti city. Currently
the capital, which is home to about 80% of the population, is run by an appointed
district commissioner and his assistants! 5- Revision of the constitutional
council in its status and constituents: like the rest of state institutions
it’s just an instrument for the regime which appoints its members; 6-
Setting up of a national independent electoral commission in charge of the
entire electoral process from revising lists to the proclamation of the polling
results. It is to be made up –to parity (fifty and fifty)- of government
and opposition representatives under the chairmanship of an independent personality
accepted by the two sides. 7-Respect of civil liberties (trade union, speech,
press, etc.) and human rights; 8-Free and equal access to state owned Media
by all political parties (radio, television, newspaper, etc.)

This is how American
author, Blaine Harden, in his book, “Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile
Continent,” sees African leaders and Mr. Guelleh is no exception: “If
you took a quarter century of his excellencies the African leaders and tossed
them in a blender, you would come up with a Big Man who looks like this: His
face is on the money. His photograph hangs in every office in his realm. His
ministers wear gold pins with tiny photographs of Him on the lapels of their
tailored pin-stripped suits. “He names streets, football stadiums, hospitals
and universities after himself. He carries a silver inlaid ivory mace or a
fly whisk or a chiefly stool.

“He insists on being
called ‘ doctor’ or ‘conqueror’, or ‘teacher of the
revolution’, or the ‘big elephant’ or ‘the number one
peasant’ or ‘the national miracle’…

“His every pronouncement
is reported on the front page. He sleeps with the wives and daughters of powerful
men in his government.

“He shuffles ministers
without warning, paralyzing policy decisions as he undercuts pretenders to
his throne. He scapegoats minorities to shore up support.

“He rigs elections.
He emasculates the courts. He cows the Press. He stifles academia. He goes
to church.

“His off- the-cuff
remarks have the power of law. He demands thunderous applause from the legislatures
when ordering far-reaching changes in the constitution.

“He blesses his home
region with highways, schools, hospitals, housing projects, irrigation schemes
and Presidential mansion. “He awards competitive, overprized contracts
to foreign companies which grant him…large kickbacks.

“He manipulates price
and import controls to weaken profitable businesses and leave them vulnerable
to take over at bargain prices by his business associates. “He affects
a commitment to free-market economic reforms to secure multi-million dollar
loans and grants from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He espouses
the political philosophy of whatever foreign government gives him the most

“He is –and
makes sure that he is known to be—the richest in the country. He buys
off rivals by passing out envelopes of cash or import licenses or government
land. “He questions the patriotism of those he cannot buy, accusing them
of corruption or charging them of serving with foreign masters. His enemies
are “harassed” by “ youth wingers” from the ruling party.

“His enemies are
detained or exiled, humiliated or bankrupted, or tortured or killed. He uses
the resources of the state to feed a cult of personality that defines him
as incorruptible, all-knowing, physically strong, and kind to children. “His
cult equates his personal well-being with the well-being of the state.”

Djiboutian people are
looking forward to the democratic help of United States.