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04DJIBOUTI380 2004-03-14 12:34:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Djibouti
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L DJIBOUTI 000380 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2014

Classified By: Pol/Econ Officer Erinn Reed for reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).

1. (U) On Saturday, March 13, the Buses' Union
members went on strike, causing a total disruption
of the bus transportation in the capital city of
Djibouti. The overwheming majority of the
inhabitants in the capital rely on bus
transportation, primarily in the form of 11 or 21
passenger minivans. The strike was made to protest
the increase of diesel fuel, which has gone from
DJF 71 to DJF 100 (approximately 40 cents to 56
cents) per liter within the last four years. The
bus drivers are blaming the government for the
high cost of fuel because of the close to 100
percent tax levied on diesel fuel. An additional
reason that contributed to the strike is the
recent decision by the mayor of Djibouti City
to deviate the bus route from the road passing in
front of the high school, which was convenient for
both buses and students.

2. (U) Students, who also rely almost wholly on
buses, joined the strike because they missed their
classes. Some students threw stones at private
car owners who refused to give them rides. Others
blocked roads by burning tires and other materials.
The police responded with tear gas and
confrontations with the students. The Government
did not make offical reports of injuries, but there
were light injuries on both sides. The mayor of
Djibouti City strongly condemned the strike,
indicating that the Buses' Union did not inform the
Ministry of Interior in advance, as required by law
for protests. The buses returned to work the next
day, Sunday, March 14th, while still in
negotiations with the Government.

3. (C) In discussing the strike with Captain
Abdoullahi Youssouf of the Djiboutian army,
Emboff asked why there were still a few
buses running and if those individuals would be
alienated by the striking drivers. Youssouf
responded that they were already a part of a
separate faction and in fact probably had more
to do with the strike than the increase in
diesel fuel. He went on to explain that
certain high ranking members of the Djiboutian
security apparatus, specifically the police
force, owned a number of the buses used in the
route taxi business. These taxis, he explained,
were exempt from the constant harrassment many
bus drivers faced from the police for payment
of registration or license or whatever other
fine of the day was in vogue. He continued on
that these "protected" taxis were also usually
uninsured and protected from any liability.
These issues, in conjunction with the raise
in diesel prices, had driven other drivers to
the streets.

5. (U) COMMENT: Buses charge DJF 40 (23 cents)
for one trip. The government fixes this rate
because buses are the only means of
transportation for most of the inhabitants of
Djibouti City. In addition, many people would
not be able to afford bus transportation if
the rate was increased and would protest.
While the general bus strike only lasted one
day and the uprising of students was quickly
dispersed, the situation made government
authorities nervous. The situation could have
quickly degenerated into further unrest. If
the price of diesel continues to climb, the
Government will need to find a lasting solution
or face incidents of protest. The strikes are
another example of the frustrations that
accompany increased competition, rising fuel
prices, and inconsistent regulation in Djibouti.