25/05/07 (B396) The center for public integrety. A lire un article de fond qui dresse, en Anglais, un bilan sans concession du régime de Guelleh, de la corruption et des blocages dramatiques dans le fonctionnement des institutions publiques. Cet article serait utile aux lecteurs qui souhaitent faire partager la vision du régime à des relations anglophones …

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l’articel :

repressive regime, not its people, has prospered since 9/11

Alain Lallemand
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

— Allow us to introduce you to Djibouti, the United States’ new East
African ally in its campaign against terrorists:

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Its territory is slightly
smaller than the state of New Hampshire. It is arid and torridly hot, 9,000
square miles of volcanic rock sticking out like a sore thumb on the Horn of
Africa. It exports practically nothing that is locally produced and has almost
no arable land. Once a French colony, its post-colonial trajectory has been
wobbly and worse, including a civil war between ethnic groups that ended only
five years ago. To think of Djibouti as a nation in the Western sense would
be deeply misleading: Its institutions are at best weak and at worst nonfunctioning;
its budget is a confusing, unreliable mess. And its strongman president, Ismail
Omar Guelleh, seems to care little about economic development despite the
deep poverty that afflicts his people.


The World Factbook —
Central Intelligence Agency

U.S. Military
Aid Rank Amount
Three Years Before 9/11 (1999-2001) 100 $1.7 M
Three Years After 9/11 (2002-’04) 28 $53.3 M

on Influence (FARA)
1999-2004 $154,950


What Djibouti has
going for it is a strategic location that Western military powers, especially
U.S. terrorist hunters, crave: It’s at the mouth of the Red Sea, directly
across a narrow strait from Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden’s
father and a country with a history of Islamic extremism. To its south lies
the disintegrated state of Somalia, seething with warlords and Islamists,
which the U.S. says is home to al Qaeda training camps.

So there’s little surprise that the United States made a deal with Djibouti
to lease a former French Foreign Legion outpost for what the Central Intelligence
Agency’s Factbook describes as "the only U.S. military base in sub-Saharan
Africa" and moved in special operations teams as well as troops to carry
out humanitarian missions.

Indeed, it was reportedly
from Djibouti that in 2002 a U.S. Predator drone took off across the Bab al
Mandab strait for an attack in Yemen that blew up a jeep and killed six men,
including one the U.S. identified as an al Qaeda operative. And from where
a U.S. AC-130 gunship reportedly took off for a January 2007 mission to attack
what the U.S. has identified as al Qaeda outposts in southern Somalia near
its border with Kenya. The raids received press attention around the world,
but the base is also useful in ways the United States prefers remain unseen.

International reported last year that CIA jets known to have participated
in "extraordinary renditions" — the kidnapping of terror suspects
who are then transported for questioning, outside of any legal process, to
friendly countries that may permit torture — had landed in Djibouti.

The report tells of a former "ghost detainee," Muhammad Abdullah
Saleh al-Assad, who believes the aircraft that took him from Tanzania to Afghanistan
(or possibly Pakistan, al-Assad wasn’t sure) stopped over at Djibouti, where
he was interrogated.

in all walks of life say they have no idea what goes on inside the 88 acres
known as Camp Lemonier. The camp houses the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force-Horn
of Africa (CJTF-HOA), about 1,500 civilians and military troops whose primary
mission is "detecting, disrupting and ultimately defeating transnational
terrorist groups operating in the region — denying safe havens, external
support and material assistance for terrorist activity." The secrecy
may help fuel rumors among Djibouti’s population — predominantly Muslim
and mostly ethnic Somalis already angered by the war in Iraq — that
U.S. intelligence agents use Djibouti to make deals to support secular warlords
who fight Muslim militants in Somalia and to serve as a secret detention and
interrogation center.

A Somali
guard at a modest-looking building outside of France’s current military installation
near Camp Lemonier described for a reporter from the International Consortium
of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) how prisoners came and went from the building,
including three Arab prisoners, accompanied by Americans, in 2005. Another
source told of seeing two Somali warlords and five of their fighters spend
a week of rest and relaxation at a middle-class downtown hotel during the
height of the Somali civil war in 2006. At the end of the week, a car from
the U.S. Embassy dropped off one of the warlords with an envelope full of
U.S. dollars to pay for the rooms and to give to the fighters to pay their
airfare back to the fighting in Somalia.

The ICIJ reporter,
one of the first Western journalists to explore Camp Lemonier and to interview
President Guelleh, was unable to confirm these stories and rumors he heard
but found both Islamism and anti-Americanism to be rampant in Djibouti. CJTF-HOA
humanitarian assistance projects in Djibouti and surrounding East African
countries, from building schools to drilling wells, have done little to cool
the anger.

feel that this is propaganda," Giorgio Bertin, the Roman Catholic bishop
of Djibouti, said of the humanitarian efforts. "Traditionally, our Catholic
presence is linked to France and to the pope, two elements opposed to the
war in Iraq. This has protected us. So, when U.S. troops asked if they could
help me by refreshing or rebuilding this or that, I had to decline: This would
have affected us in term of our image.

give to the population a very negative depiction of what’s happening,"
the bishop told an ICIJ interviewer. "If U.S. troops vaccinate people,
the Islamists interpret that as being a birth control campaign, a threat to

rental comes at a cost

The United States paid little attention to Djibouti before the September
11, 2001, terrorist attacks, although it leased Camp Lemonier for a modest
amount of money earlier that year. After the attacks, things changed fast.
By the following February, U.S. Gen. Tommy R. Franks was telling the House
Armed Services Committee that "we have seen credible reporting of al
Qaeda and its regional affiliate, AIAI, targeting Western interests in Djibouti
for its support of coalition operations," noting, "Djiboutian President
Guelleh expressed his solidarity with the U.S. following the 11 September

In September 2002,
when the Americans renegotiated the deal to include use of the nearby harbor
and the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport, Djibouti used its post-9/11
leverage to make sure it was sufficiently compensated. Although Djibouti’s
total U.S. aid is modest compared with the amounts some larger countries receive,
few other countries have seen a more dramatic increase in U.S. military aid
since 9/11: Djibouti’s take of U.S. taxpayer money in the three years after
9/11 stood at more than $53 million, a more than 30-fold increase from the
$1.6 million in the three years prior.

Last year, the Lemonier lease was again renegotiated, this time to
expand the base to nearly 500 acres. The lease had been costing the U.S. about
$30 million a year; the new terms were not disclosed. The State Department
has not responded to an ICIJ Freedom of Information Act request seeking details
of the lease payments.

on the outskirts of the capital, next to the Djibouti-Ethiopian railway, Camp
Lemonier is close to Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport and the French
military’s current base in Djibouti. It looks like a typical U.S. military
camp that happens to have been dropped in the middle of the desert. The U.S.
barracks serve as home for a group that is comprised roughly half of soldiers
and half — at the back of the camp — of employees of military
contracting giant KBR (a subsidiary of Halliburton soon to be spun off). Today,
the compound boasts a large restaurant, a large athletic facility, a swimming
pool, a hairdresser, a shopping center and even a local handicraft market.
The camp, where more than 400 local Djiboutians work, is one of the largest
employers in the impoverished country.

pre-9/11 aid was mostly State Department money for removal of land mines and
counterterrorism training. In the three years after 9/11, Economic Support
Fund, a catchall funding source Washington uses to funnel aid to key allies,
shot up from zero to $25 million. Foreign Military Financing increased from
$100,000 total in the three years before the attacks to more than $21 million
in the three years after. Djibouti was also the recipient of more than $5
million of the Pentagon’s new post-9/11 Coalition Support Funds.

lobbyists played a role in securing those additional funds for the Djiboutian
government. To advocate for its interests in Washington, the government of
Djibouti hired three high-profile lobbying and public relations firms: the
Gallagher Group; Foley Hoag LLP, a major Boston-based law firm; and BKSH &
Associates, which is headed by Charles R. Black, whose close ties to the Republican
Party span from the Reagan administration to the current Bush administration.
According to his official biography, Black served as an adviser to some of
the GOP’s most influential members, including former Sens. Robert J. Dole,
Jesse Helms and Phil Gramm, and he bills himself as "one of America’s
leading Republican political strategists."

to records filed with the Department of Justice, the Gallagher Group’s lobbyists
set up several meetings in 2003 between the Djiboutian ambassador and key
U.S. officials. The lobbying records describe the focus of the meetings as
discussing the countries’ bilateral relationship, Djiboutian cooperation in
the war on terrorism, foreign aid to Djibouti and military base rights.

U.S. military is not alone in paying for access to Djiboutian facilities.
The French pay about $38 million a year to rent a military camp and training
grounds; the Germans pay roughly $10 million. The Spanish also have a base,
but no figures are publicly available for the rent they pay.

All of
this income associated with base rentals and military assistance should place
Djibouti among the wealthiest nations of East Africa, far above the average
income levels of most sub-Saharan African countries.

from military aid and rent for base access, the U.S. Agency for International
Development chipped in $4.95 million for fiscal 2006 with programs focused
on education, health, food security, democracy and good governance.

does the money go?

That focus on good governance is certainly needed in Djibouti. Despite
all the aid money flowing in — augmented by earnings from Djibouti’s
port — the economy is seen as a disaster by institutions ranging from
the Djiboutian Human Rights League to the International
Monetary Fund, which refuses to support new lending programs to the country.

understand how a government works, it generally helps to follow the money.
But reviewing Djibouti’s annual budgets doesn’t help much.
They don’t
even mention some important revenue streams like port income. Being the favored
harbor of landlocked Ethiopia, the port’s activities are flourishing, with
a 300 percent increase in import and export shipments over the last 10 years.

how much income does the government get?

No one seems to know except, perhaps, President Guelleh. In an interview with
ICIJ, the president said that after splitting the revenue with the company
that operates the port, his government gets 7 billion Djiboutian francs, a
little more than $40 million. This amount is credible in terms of the volume
of port traffic, but it exceeds the entire "non-fiscal income" shown
in the official budget.

Not even
the Djiboutian Parliament has received an accounting. A confidential report
prepared in December 2004 by the Djiboutian Court of Auditors about the harbor’s
operations, obtained by ICIJ, reveals "a
certain amount of abnormalities and irregularities." For example, the
audit report states that yearly accountings of revenue and expenses are not
required; the company that operates the port has an "expensive"
management structure, and due to a lack of capital investment, the harbor
is suffering "progressive impoverishment."

That is
hardly the only irregularity. One prominent member of the political opposition
claims that thousands of state employees receive a salary without performing
any work or even bothering to come into the office. In local slang, these
employees are called "broken arms."

mismanagement is so rampant, in fact, that the administration is broke and
health standards are declining. While health care was free under the French
colonial authority, today admission to the emergency room has to be prepaid
by the patient and drugs are not available even while the Red Crescent Society
of Djibouti somehow manages to send 19 tons of medicine to neighboring Somalia.

The International Committee of the Red Cross does not provide direct medical
support to Djibouti, using the country mainly as a staging area for its assistance
to other nearby countries: "ICRC operates in war zones, and Djibouti
is not a war zone," says one ICRC official. The only free medical care
in the country is at the French military’s facility, Hôpital Bouffard,
which offers its 63 beds free of charge to Djiboutians working for the government.

where does all the money go?

A French government finance source based in Djibouti says he knows the destination
of a lot of it: "The presidency traps the revenues of the State, including
[revenues] from the harbor."

rights record abysmal

The Guelleh regime is so repressive that the U.S. State
Department’s Human Rights Practices report each year openly criticizes the
new U.S. ally in the Horn of Africa; its most recent report, released in March
2007, states plainly, "The government’s human rights record remained
poor, and it continued to commit serious abuses."
Guelleh’s citizens wallow in poverty, his regime harasses labor unions and
the police fire on crowds.

2005, the government sent bulldozers to destroy and burn the shanties in Arhiba,
an illegal slum near Djibouti City inhabited mainly by dock workers who try
to sleep as close as they can to the harbor. When families of the dockworkers
responded by throwing stones, security forces opened fire, killing four civilians
and wounding 10. Two and perhaps as many as five people were reported to have

That came
just a month after security forces opened fire on students violently protesting
price increases, killing an 18-year-old man.

labor unions are harassed by the government.
ICIJ met with
three labor union representatives who were imprisoned briefly in March 2006
on charges of "providing intelligence to a foreign power, leaking information,
and outrage to the president" for going to a training session in Israel
organized by the Israeli labor association Histadrut.

are allegations of torture and physical mistreatment of prisoners at the Gabode
prison. Hassan Cher Hared, one of the three imprisoned labor union representatives,
told ICIJ of "a room of less than one meter square, made out of concrete,
where you are kept almost naked, just in underpants, with a bottle of water.
This room is hermetically sealed. You have just a two-inch-large hole through
which to breathe. The guards sometimes put pepper in the hole."

imprisoned labor activists also told ICIJ about the style of punishment they
witnessed in Djiboutian prisons. "They have a specific chain, a double
one, like a cross with a hook in its middle," explained Mohamed Ahmed
Mohamed. "Your hands and feet are cuffed to the extremities of the chain,
and with the hook, they hang you on a tree inside the prison. Then they beat
you. The suffering is so intense that I saw an inmate defecate in
his trousers while being hanged. You cannot stand this for more than 10 minutes."

The nation’s
courts are of little use. In case you want to file a claim against the government,
you’re out of luck: The administrative court, or "Conseil de Contentieux,"
has not held a session for years. Last year the Djibouti bar association complained
in a letter to the minister of justice that judgments issued by all levels
of the courts in Djibouti take months or even years to be transcribed. The
letter further complained that the text of some judgments are published after
the deadline for filing an appeal has expired — and sometimes are the
opposite of the decision as read in court.

famous case illustrating how badly the justice system is broken arises from
a French investigation into the alleged assassination in 1995 of French magistrate
Bernard Borrel, former Counselor of the Djiboutian Minister of Justice.

French investigators now accuse associates
of Guelleh, who at that time was chief of staff of former Djiboutian president
Hassan Gouled Aptidon, of killing Borrel.
(Guelleh contends
Borrel committed suicide.) On a 2005 trip to Paris, Guelleh refused to answer
questions from the French prosecutor in charge of the case. Five month later,
Djibouti unilaterally suspended all judicial cooperation with France.

to ICIJ about the State Department human rights criticisms, Guelleh shrugged:
"These are the administration’s ‘juniors’ that collect rumors and give
themselves a good conscience. This is not [a big deal]."