|04DJIBOUTI442||2004-03-25 13:39:00||UNCLASSIFIED||Embassy Djibouti|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (U) The following text was compiled in report form per
reftel. Begin text:
Djibouti,s population is estimated at 600,000 inhabitants
from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Somalis make up the
majority, followed by the Afars and a minority of Arabs. The
population has ethnic, cultural and religious ties with
Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen. An important number of
French nationals and Ethiopian migrants also reside in
country. Djibouti gained its independence from the French in
The country's mixed economy has little industry and few
natural resources. Most people reside in Djibouti City where
poverty and unemployment rates are high. Outside the capital
city, the primary economic activity is nomadic subsistence.
The part of the annual gross domestic product not generated
by and for the foreign community is estimated at no more than
$250 per capita annually. Much of the country's wealth,
education and influence are concentrated in the hands of a
The Government (GODJ) limits citizens' rights to change their
government and restricts freedom of the press. It also
limits freedom of assembly, uses force to disperse
demonstrations and strikes, and restricts freedom of
Print, television, broadcast and electronic media services
exist in Djibouti. Most, however, are state controlled.
Accordingly, the President and his cabinet level officials
figure prominently in the headlines, which are received with
a degree of cynicism by the population. There is no confusion
about the President,s complete control over the country,s
largest media outlets. Post has good relations with the state
media and can normally facilitate coverage of events that
contribute to the positive portrayal of the United States.
The main state run paper is La Nation. Published in French
thrice weekly (Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday), its editor
is Adil Ahmed Youssouf and its circulation is about 4,000. La
Nation is read by most literate, metropolitan Djiboutians
regardless of their political affiliation despite its role as
the government mouthpiece. It is sold in newstands and by
street vendors. Distribution outside the city is limited to
the commissaires (district governors), school principals and
Al Qarn is the Arabic version of La Nation and has the same
editorial stance. Its editor is Moumin Hassan Barreh and its
circulation is considerably less than La Nation because it
targets the small Arabic speaking community and Arab foreign
missions (Djibouti is an Arab League Member). Al Qarn is
published twice weekly (Monday and Thursday) and is available
in newstands and with street vendors.
Le Progrs is published in French on Mondays and is the
governing party Rassemblement Populaire pour le Progres (RPP)
propaganda paper. Its editor is Mohamed Hassan Ahmed and its
circulation is about 300. It is available in newstands and
with street vendors in Djibouti City, but outside of town its
readership is almost non-existent.
Local officials do not as a rule hold press conferences.
Visiting U.S. officials are afforded the opportunity to
address the press during/after meetings with Djiboutian
officials or on site visits. The Embassy often utilizes
press releases to provide its information about U.S.
activities to the press. A large percentage of Djibouti,s
population is illiterate, hence TV coverage often reaches a
larger audience than the print media.
Djibouti has a state run television station that is regularly
viewed between 7-9 p.m. countrywide. Radio Television
Djibouti (RTD) is led by Director Abdi Atteyeh, although the
President and Minister of Communications retain editorial
control. RTD programs are broadcast in the local languages of
Afar and Somali as well as the two official languages, Arabic
Although RTD has a strong audience among those wealthy enough
to buy televisions, the most heavily watched programming in
Djibouti is the French channel &Canal Plus.8 Additionally,
Arab broadcasts from Egypt and Saudi Arabia including
&Al-Jazeera8 reach audiences in Djibouti.
Because of its small size and nomadic history, Djiboutian
society has a strong oral tradition that naturally feeds the
local popularity of radio. Radio remains one of the few
cost-effective means for the population to gather
information, and is often considered more trustworthy than
other outlets. It also reaches more people per capita than
any other medium.
RTD,s radio division is popular and includes programming in
news, education, culture and health. BBC Somali is also
extremely popular. The IBB presence in Djibouti currently
includes two FM transmitters and one medium wave radio tower
and broadcasts are in French, English and Arabic. Radio
broadcasts in the Somali language would reach the largest
part of the population.
The divide between state and independent print press is a
critical issue. The "independent" print press is often
accurately considered more "opposition" than "independent."
Ralit is published in French each Wednesday and is the
official mouth-piece of one party of the opposition
coalition, ARD (Alliance Rpublicaine pour le Dveloppement -
Republican Alliance for Development, President of which is
Ahmed Dini). Its circulation is about 500 and its outspoken
criticism of the government is popular with the general
Le Renouveau Djiboutien is published in French on Thursdays
and is the official mouthpiece of the MRD (Movement pour le
Renouveau Democratique). Its editor is the well-known
opposition figure Daher Ahmed Farah and its circulation is
estimated at 1000. Openly critical of the Government of
Djibouti, Le Renouveau Djiboutien is frequently banned by the
government and Farah was recently imprisoned for charges of
defamation of character levied against him after he published
an unflattering article about the country,s number two
The independent print press frequently serves a watch dog
type role over government operations; however, it is also
highly politicized. That said, it is still a good forum for
indirect promotion of American values such as human rights,
transparency and democracy. Embassy interaction with these
outlets is often a delicate political issue. We currently
engage them through our Washington File distribution, with
press releases and with invitations to background briefings.
Djiboutians in general have extensive experience with the
West, particularly the French. Although some journalists are
Western trained, the press corps is largely limited and
unprofessional. Existing Djiboutian media outlets offer few
opportunities for investigative reporting and there is no
system for educating those interested in journalism. The
Embassy has found that it is most likely to ensure accurate
extensive coverage of U.S. activities by providing the media
with copies of prepared texts. A few local journalists do
act as stringers for international news outlets such as the
BBC, RFI and VOA.
Diifu is the only group in country actively pursuing the
development of a truly independent press. A group of about 15
enthusiastic young adults, Diifu hopes to one day publish
regularly in Afar, French, English, Arabic and Somali.
However, it faces many political and financial challenges.
Post believes that support for Diifu is currently our best
method of encouraging an independent press with broad access
to many groups in the community.
Aside from local media, one must note the active
international media environment in Djibouti. Djibouti is the
single largest per capita recipient of US foreign assistance
in Africa and has the only US military installation on the
continent (CJTF-HOA). Because of this important geopolitical
position, the country receives the continued attention of a
wide-spectrum of media. In addition to local media
responsibilities in the last year, Post hosted such high
profile international media as the New York Times, CNN, The
LA Times, AP, ABC, le Figaro, USA Today, Radio France
International, Fox News, BBC, The London Times and Reuters.
Media responsibilities as they pertain to the Global War on
Terror are shared with the Public Affairs section for
CJTF-HOA at Camp Lemonier. Embassy Djibouti and CJTF-HOA PA
currently have a good, cooperative working relationship which
we believe promotes a unified message and broad range of
coverage in the international media.
Telecommunications remains one of the largest barriers to
promoting information flow and business investment in
Djibouti. The country is well positioned to develop its
internet connectivity and availability as it is home to a
large hub -- the South East Asia - Middle East - Western
Europe #3 (Sea-Me-We3) transoceanic cable connection between
Europe and Asia. The connection apportioned to Djibouti on
Sea-Me-We3 is so small it is nearly obsolete, however. The
root of the internet connectivity problem is the inadequate
telephone network in Djibouti and the high cost of telephone
lines, which prohibit many from having dedicated land lines
for Internet. Problems with reliability of the lines also
plague both internet and telephone communications. Internet
access is rare in schools and businesses, although there is a
small thriving group of internet cafes in the city. Although
the price of internet service in Djibouti is still
prohibitive, more and more educated youth are using these
cafes to obtain their information.
The Judicial System ) Very Important
After independence, Djibouti retained in large part the
French Napoleonic code judicial system. The French did not,
unfortunately, train any local judges and GODJ relied on the
French judges for many years after independence. A number of
local judges were gradually trained over the years but the
shortage still exists.
The existing Judiciary does not operate independently of the
executive branch. Promoting transparency and independent
operations is a priority to eliminate executive interference
as well as tribal influences on judicial decisions.
Political Parties ) Very Important
At independence, government opted to keep one official
political party in order to prevent disintegration along
tribal affiliations. The RPP was born in March 1979 and Mr.
Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who was President of the Republic at
that time, was elected its first President. Since its
inception, one clan -- the Issas -- have completely dominated
the RPP. In reaction, the second largest ethnic group -- the
Afars -- formed their own political party, the &Front pour
la Restauration de l,Unit8 (FRUD). The political climate
became so tense that it culminated in civil war from 1991 to
The Djiboutian Constitution, finalized in 1992, lifted the
ban on political parties by allowing political pluralism with
a maximum of four parties for a transitional period of ten
years. By January 2002, eight parties grouped in two
coalitions were represented in the parliamentary elections.
However in the 2002 legislative elections, the ruling party
coalition won all 65 seats, amid opposition claims of massive
fraud. PD programs must focus on political pluralism,
grassroots democracy and transparency in order to promote
free and fair elections.
Djibouti is a republic with a strong presidency and a weak
legislature. In 1999, the country elected its second
president since gaining independence in 1977. Ismael Omar
Guelleh, the candidate of the RPP, won the election with 74
percent of the vote. PD must target issues of transparency,
free and fair elections and grassroots democracy in
preparation this year,s first-ever regional elections and
for next year,s presidential election.
Security and Defense ) Very Important
Security, defense and the Global War on Terror remain the
thrust of many of our MPP goals and public affairs programs.
Strategy includes highlighting our many anti-terrorism
programs and trainings here including, ATA, mil-to-mil
training and CJTF-HOA civil affairs projects. In addition, PD
must continue to focus messages of respect for human rights
and due process on security and defense services.
NGOs ) Marginally Important
The NGO community is small and has cordial ties but does not
act in conjunction with the Embassy. While we believe that
donor and NGO projects should be more closely coordinated,
the NGO community is not a target for our PD activities.
Academic Institutions ) Very Important
PD Djibouti has an active relationship with the country,s
only university, Pole University. We believe this to be one
of our most important venues for engagement thanks to the
demographics of the audience (educated Muslims aged
17-27),and their enthusiasm for access to English language
resources. While Post,s relationship with the student body
is excellent, the relationship with the administration
remains complicated because of the large percentage of
funding provided to the institution by the French.
In addition, one of our easiest entry points into the
community is the English night schools, which have few
resources or training but high enrollment from all walks of
Many of our USAID programs focus on improving the quality of
education in country, and many of our PD resources should be
focused on highlighting that involvement with the Djiboutian
Mosques ) Increasingly Important
Despite the fact that the country is 98 percent Muslim, Post
currently does not engage the religious community in an
effective way. Two PD strategies for doing so include
increased distribution of Arabic language materials and
targeting grants to moderate Islamic groups in country.
The American Community ) Increasingly Important
Post provides American Citizen Services to US citizens in
Djibouti and Northwest Somalia. With the addition of CJTF-HOA
and its attached contractors, the American community serviced
here has grown drastically. The 2006 MPP focuses on better
access to our American constituents with information on
voting, passports, adoptions and other consular services. Our
main strategy for doing so remains the Camp Lemonier
newsletter, as well as public presentations at the Camp.