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2003-09-03 17:02:00
Embassy Djibouti
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 DJIBOUTI 001633 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/03/2013

REF: A. STATE 250486




Classified By: ADCM Haywood Rankin for reason 1.5 (b,d).

1. (C) Summary: In response to ref A demarche dissociating
the U.S. from Djibouti's on-going expulsions of foreigners,
Minister of Interior Wais deplored U.S. insistence on making
a public statement. He stressed Djibouti's good historical
record on handling refugees, noted that foreigners had been
given an extra 15 days to leave, and claimed (falsely) that
forcible expulsions had not yet occurred and that there had
been no human rights violations. In a subsequent meeting,
Chief of Staff Fathi admitted that the popular view in
Djibouti was that the U.S. had ordered the expulsions and
said that Djibouti was entirely responsible, but he displayed
no greater grasp of the potential negative repercussions of
pinning the expulsions on the United States. The Embassy
will promulgate a public statement, drawn from ref A, with
local and international news media. End summary.

2. (C) Charge had back-to-back, hour-and-a-half meetings
September 3 with Minister of Interior Abdoulkader Douale Wais
and Chief of Armed Forces General Fathi Ahmad Houssein. The
meeting with Wais, requested by Charge, was devoted entirely
to ongoing expulsions of undocumented foreigners and ref A
demarche. The meeting with Fathi was requested by Fathi and
dealt principally with what Fathi described as President
Guelleh's lack of clarity about the contents of U.S.
assistance. It was notable most of all for Fathi's frank
statement that Guelleh was urgent to learn precisely what
assistance Djibouti would be obtaining from the U.S., because
of elections upcoming in 2005. The concluding part of the
meeting with Fathi addressed the expulsions. General Zakaria
Cheick Ibrahim, number two in the Djibouti armed forces,
joined the meeting with Fathi just as the discussion on
expulsions commenced. (Note: It was Zakaria, in Fathi's
absence from the country, who made the request August 21 to
CJTF-HOA Commander General Robeson for the U.S. to provide
troops to help patrol the Djibouti land borders to ensure
that Ethiopians and Somalis now being expelled not return,
ref C.) Charge left with both interlocutors a copy of ref A
talking points, along with an Embassy translation of those
points into French. Charge was accompanied in both meetings
by ADCM, USLO Major Anderson, and political-consular officer


Wais and General Abizaid


3. (C) Wais opened with praise for the very close
cooperation between Djibouti and the United States in
combatting terrorism, emanating from the meeting of President
Guelleh with President Bush at the beginning of the year.
Wais said he wanted to reinforce this cooperation in every
way possible. In this vein, he said that he had requested a
meeting with General Abizaid during the recent Golden Spear
exercise in Ethiopia. He had informed General Abizaid of
Djibouti's deep concern about the large population of
clandestine immigrants in Djibouti. Somali immigrants were a
worry because Somalia had no government, and Ethiopian
immigrants were a worry because there might exist some of
them in Djibouti who collaborated with Oromo or Somali armed
fronts opposing the Ethiopian government. Wais said that he
had told General Abizaid that he did not want Americans in
Djibouti to be worried about problems from such immigrants,
nor did he want Djiboutians to be worried because the
Americans now were present in Djibouti in significant
numbers. He said that he had asked General Abizaid to help
Djibouti in its effort to control clandestine immigrants,
both on the border and within the country.

4. (C) Wais said that since the policy of expelling
clandestine immigrants had been announced July 26, tens of
thousands had peacefully and volutarily departed. Djibouti
had now extended the deadline from September 1 to September

15. With the departure of these illegal immigrants, the
problem would shift toward surveiling and controlling the
borders so that they did not return. Wais had already been
in close contact with the Embassy on improving border control
modalities. He looked forward to ever closer collaboration
to ensure that only properly documented persons entered the
country. Djibouti and the United States, he said, were
entirely in the same boat in the effort to consolidate


The Demarche


5. (C) Charge expressed his great pleasure in making his
first call upon arriving in Djibouti on Wais and his complete
agreement with Wais's positive characterization of the close
cooperation between the United States and Djibouti. However,
Charge said, the United States was deeply concerned about the
perception among the Djiboutian populace that the present
expulsions of undocumented immigrants were attributable to
the United States. The concern was sufficiently acute that
he had received instructions to address the issue at the
highest levels of the Djibouti Government. In addition to
leaving copies of these instructions, he would take the
opportunity to discuss each element with the minister in some

6. (C) Charge said that, as the minister knew, human rights
were a basic and a legislatively-mandated principle and key
element in the United States' relations with every country.
Human rights became even more important and closely watched
in any relationship in which the security element was large
and growing rapidly. For example, Charge noted, human rights
organizations that had not previously devoted much time to
Djibouti were now beginning to watch Djibouti very closely,
on account of the new U.S. military presence and close
collaboration. The United States recognized the sovereign
right of every state to control its borders and,
specifically, Djibouti's sovereign right to deport
undocumented aliens. As the minister had pointed out, we
were working closely with Djibouti to improve its border

7. (C) Charge said that the United States had had no role
whatever in the formulation of Djibouti's policy to expel
foreigners. We were deeply concerned about reports on human
rights abuses that were occurring as a result of these
operations. It might be that such reports were false, but
whether true or false, they came in the context of a public
perception that the United States was behind the operations.
While the United States recognized Djibouti's absolute
sovereign right to deport aliens, it held as a fundamental
principle that deportations be carried out in a fully
transparent manner and with full assurance of fundamental,
internationally-recognized human rights. Djibouti had thus
far engendered no focused hostility from within the U.S.
Congress or among human-rights groups, but unless it were
careful in its handling of its expulsion operations, that
situation could change. Moreover, there was the possiblity
of unfortunate accidents and unintended events -- for
example, deaths of deported persons in the deserts of
neighboring states -- which would be blamed, derivatively, on
the United States.

8. (C) In addition to the points in his instructions, Charge
continued, he wanted to point out that there was a security
concern on the part of the CJTF-HOA emanating from the public
perception of U.S. instigation of the expulsions. It was
clear that many people, Djiboutian and non-Djiboutian, were
opposed to the operation. Some of these people could
conceivably direct their anger toward the United States,
given the wide perception of U.S. involvement. CJTF was
concerned that it might have to lower its profile, with
consequences for its civic-action and humanitarian projects
in Djibouti as well as liberty for its soldiers to move
outside the camp, with concomitant negative economic
consequences for Djibouti. (Note: This point was raised by
General Robeson during Charge's introductory call on him
September 2.)

9. (C) Charge, concluding, said that the United States would
make a public statement dissociating itself from Djibouti's
expulsion policy. In regard to the minister's request for
assistance of the previous week (note: Wais requested an
immigration information program, creation and enlargement of
transit centers, rehabilitation of former prisons, 20 trucks,
10 jeeps, and 300 tents, ref B), the United States would not
be able to address the items as an expedited package,
although it might be possible to discuss certain elements in
the future under propitious conditions.


Wais's Regret


10. (C) In response, Wais provided a lengthy review of what
he described as Djibouti's excellent and humane record in
handling refugees, including those from the 1977
Ethiopian-Somali war immediately after Djiboutian
independence, those later from the fall of Mengistu, those
from Siad Barre's attack on Somaliland, those from the
bloodshed and instability that flowed from Siad Barre's fall,
and also refugees from war and instability in Eritrea and
Yemen. The present operations did not touch any of these
refugees, nor did they touch those foreigners who were at
present requesting asylum. These operations affected only
those persons who were present in Djibouti with no legal
standing whatever. Considering the respect and dignity which
Djibouti had always afforded all persons who had ever entered
its territory and who could provide the least indication of
refugee or asylum status, Wais deplored and regretted that
the United States now sought to make a public statement of
this kind. False rumors and disinformation were an
unfortunate part of the world today. It was necessary to
operate not by rumor but on the basis of reality. The
Charge's officers in the Embassy should have properly
informed Washington on these issues and undertaken full
discussions with Djibouti before embarking on such a public
statement. The Charge was free to go where he liked, when he
liked, throughout Djibouti to see for himself the falseness
of these rumors. The government had not yet started
operations at all, but merely invited illegal foreigners to
leave; no one had been touched or harmed. So many people had
already departed the country, following his many broadcasts
on television and radio, that he did not think there would be
any need for a mass expulsion operation.

11. (C) Charge said that the present demarche and public
statement were in no way intended to criticize Djibouti in
its handling of refugees in the past. The issue was the
association of the United States as author of a policy which
engendered much opposition and much bad press. Djibouti's
relations with the United States would now be held to a
higher standard than previously and it was in the interest of
both nations that the United States not be associated with
this policy. Our public statement would serve both nations'

12. (C) Wais said that Djibouti remained confident in its
policy and proud of its record on human rights. It would not
change its policy. He hoped that American preoccupations
about the expulsions policy would dissipate when it became
clear that rumors of human-rights violations were completely
false. He hoped that officers in the Embassy would portray
accurately for the Charge Djibouti's exemplary record and the
extraordinary warmth with which the Djiboutian people had
welcomed the U.S. military into their midst.


Less Defensive Chief of Staff


13. (C) At the conclusion of the separate, follow-on
meeting with Chief of Staff General Fathi, Charge raised the
issue of expulsions and the particular problem the United
States had with being portrayed as responsible for them.
Fathi immediately interjected that, indeed, people in
Djibouti did believe that the U.S. had ordered the
expulsions. Charge remarked that this perception created a
serious problem for the U.S. politically, to which Fathi
seemed surprised and asked why?

14. (C) Charge furnished Fathi with ref A talking points and
offered a precis of the demarche. In sum, he said,
associating the U.S. with the expulsions could only diminish
the considerable support that Djibouti's relations with the
U.S. now enjoyed in the Congress and among human-rights
groups. Fathi remarked that problems with Congress were an
issue for the United States not Djibouti, to which Charge
demurred. The Embassy was going to put out a public
statement underlining that the United States had nothing to
do with the policy. Fathi said that it was incumbent on the
Embassy to set the record straight with policy-makers in
Washington. Charge replied that reports in the press carried
far more impact than anything that an embassy might report.
Then, Fathi exclaimed, it was for the embassy to invite in
journalists and set them straight. Indeed, the policy to
deport illegal foreigners was a Djiboutian decision by the
Djiboutian government. Such foreigners represented forty
percent of the population, at a time when the unemployment
rate was increasing. If a Djiboutian went to Ethiopia or
Yemen he was not permitted to work, so why should Ethiopians
or Yemenis come to Djibouti? Charge repeated that the
United States completely recognized Djibouti's sovereign
right to make this policy. Fathi said, "We are responsible
for it, and we take the responsibility."

15. (C) Comment: Wais took this demarche much harder than
Fathi, as he had much more at stake in the policy. It caught
Wais unawares, and his surprise and the difficulty he had in
comprehending the rationale for the demarche and public
statement are a measure of how poorly he comprehended the
human-rights ramifications of the expulsions and the
implications for the Djibouti-U.S. relationship. The entire
Djiboutian power elite may share much the same lack of
comprehension. Wais's assertion that the expulsions had not
yet started was simply false. We suspect that Wais was
behind media leaks pointing to U.S. complicity. Fathi
notably made no attempt to associate the current expulsion
policy with a security need. Rather, he emphasized the
economic and employment dimension, in contrast to Zakaria's
earlier emphasis on security (ref C).