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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04DJIBOUTI460 2004-03-29 06:04:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Djibouti
Cable title:  

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY; GUELLEH'S LABOR POLITICS

Tags:   ELAB ECON PREL PINR DJ 
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DJIBOUTI 000460 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/E, DRL HARPOLE, LABOR FOR ILAB BOB YOUNG,
LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHERS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/24/2014
TAGS: ELAB ECON PREL PINR DJ
SUBJECT: KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY; GUELLEH'S LABOR POLITICS

REF: A. DJIBOUTI 380


B. 02 DJIBOUTI 392

C. 01 NAIROBI 2689

D. DJIBOUTI 299

Classified By: CONOFF CHASE BEAMER FOR REASON 1.4 (d)

SUMMARY
--------



1. (C) Recent worker discontent in Djibouti brings the
spotlight back to the subject of workers' rights in this
commercial city-state. The International Labor Organization
has long maligned the Government of Djibouti for its labor
policies but clever manipulation of key players, strong arm
tactics, and financial clout have kept a lid on this
Pandora's box. Moreover, the Government has instituted a
policy in recent years to install government appointed shadow
unions in place of freely elected labor unions, and succeeded
in efforts to fracture and weaken the legitimate labor
movement. The country has witnessed worker flare-ups in two
key sectors of the Djiboutian economy. Either President
Ismail Omar Guelleh wants personal political recompense for
his intervention in those flare-ups in light of upcoming
elections, or his circle of trust has grown small and he
views these outbreaks as potential security threats. End
Summary.

RECENT EVENTS


--------------------------





2. (C) Per reftel A, March 13 saw public transportation shut
down in Djibouti as bus drivers and bus owners protested
increased fuel prices. Adan Abdou, elected Secretary General
of the Djiboutian Workers Union (UDT), told Conoff that the
bus drivers had been trying to unionize for some time but had
been forbidden registration by the Minister of the Interior
and had been pressured financially by bus owners to keep
quiet. They lost patience as they saw their profit margin
further diminished by a 4 DF increase per liter
(approximately US$.08 per gallon) in diesel prices.



3. (C) President Guelleh sent a negotiating team to resolve
the problem. The four member team consisted of the
President's brother, Said Omar Guelleh, the President's son,
Liban Ismail Omar, the National Security Advisor and Chief of
Intelligence, Hassan Said Khaireh, and one of the inner
circle members of the elite Republican Guard, Captain Mohamed
Djama. Sources report that the 4 DF price increase was
immediately repealed and that the representatives of the
striking drivers were promised a return to 1998 fuel prices.
Kamil Hassan, Secretary of the opposition Republican Alliance
for Democracy (ARD), former International Visitor
participant, and key player in the 2001 Dini-Guelleh peace
accords, told Conoff that when the Mayor of Djibouti arrived
at the meetings he was dismissed perfunctorily by Said Omar
Guelleh and told to mind his own business. The State
newspaper, La Nation, published an article on Monday, March
22nd titled "After the strike, Elections!" The article went
on to comment that "the bus workers have been in a profound
identity crisis for years...and suffered from real anarchy"
before closing with the line that "elections for an organized
union within regulations will be held on Friday, the 26th of
March."



4. (C) Port employees report that a strike by the dock
workers was narrowly averted this week due to the
intervention of the Chief of Service for Human Resources
Houssein Kasim. Apparently tension has been brewing at the
port between the aforementioned Said Omar Guelleh, Chief of
Technical Service, and Dubai Ports International installed
Director General, Dutch national Johannes De Jong. Guelleh
has long been recognized as the de facto manager of the port
and is apparently bristling at some of De Jong's efforts to
gain better control of the facility. Workers, meanwhile,
have a list of complaints that include the formal recognition
of their labor union, some manner of medical and disability
coverage, and the standardization of pay scales amongst
different shifts. Adan Abdou told Conoff that the workers
were prepared to strike this week when Human Resources head
Kasim brought it to the attention of the Director General who
agreed to a negotiating session with the workers. This, in
turn, apparently irked Guelleh who preempted the Director
General with an aside meeting with the workers on March 22 to
address their concerns.

LABOR BACKGROUND


--------------------------




5. (SBU) The Government of Djibouti has a history of trade
union repression. The harassment of duly elected trade union
officials as well as the establishment of shadow trade unions
whose leaders are appointed by the government are chapters in
what is now a decade-long saga. The ILO has restricted
Djibouti's access to international conferences due to the
Government of Djibouti's interference in trade union
formation. Broken promises made to the ILO include
reintegrating fired union members into their state positions
and halting interference in union affairs with the creation
of shadow unions.



6. (SBU) Per Reftels B and C, in 1999 the Government of
Djibouti disbanded the duly elected Union Djiboutienne du
Travail (UDT, Djiboutian Workers Union) and Union Generale
Djiboutienne du Travail (UGDT, General Union of Djiboutian
Workers) and held a shadow congress which elected
representatives recognized by the Government. According to
the "old" (read legitimate) UDT, those active in unions are
regularly harassed and fear for their jobs and the safety of
their families.



7. (SBU) At the end of September 2002 after pressure from the
ICFTU and the USG (including discussions of workers' rights
provisions under AGOA) the UDT (the largest national trade
union Congress with 21 affiliates) was permitted to hold a
free congress for elections. This congress was composed of
both the "real" UDT and the Government "shadow" UDT. Ahmed
Djama Egueh and Adan Mohamed Abdou were elected as President
and Secretary General, respectively. One month later,
elements of the Government held a second congress and
appointed Said Mamoud Hassan, the Minister of Labor's cousin,
as the President of a "shadow" UDT.



8. (C) Most recently, according to UDT Secretary Sulaiman
Djama, the Government claimed that UDT Secretary General
Abdou must step down due to his role as a ranking member of
an opposition party. In July of 2003 the elected President
of the UDT made a private accord with President Guelleh
stipulating that if Abdou was removed from UDT office the
Government would permit all of those union members who had
previously been fired from their jobs for union activity to
be rehired. This would occur despite Government officials
having already committed to these actions in previous
negotiations with the ILO. Abdou was publicly removed by the
UDT President after a press release made by Egueh.
Unfortunately for Egueh, none of the UDT member
representation accept his move and while Abdou still sits for
meetings, Egueh has been isolated. No one has been
reemployed. The movement is fractured however, which may
ultimately have been President Guelleh's goal.

GOVERNMENT VIEW


--------------------------





9. (SBU) The Minister for Employment and National Solidarity
Mohamed Barkat Abdillahi told Regional LaborOff in October,
2003 that the only two legitimate unions in Djibouti were
those elected in 1999 in the "First congress where leaders
who truly represent workers took control," and those that
were again re-elected in October 2002. (Note: the Government
called both of these congresses and hand picked the
"election" winners. End Note) The Minister believes that he
has good relations with both unions and with the employers
association (Note: He is one of the largest employers as he
owns a large insurance company, AMERGA and a construction
company, Concorde). The Minister claims that the rights of
unions have always existed in Djibouti and that the main
problem he faces is that certain union leaders want to remain
in power forever irrespective of the wishes of the workers.
He also said that he "deplores the attitude of the ICFTU-AFRO
for its archaic and colonialist attitude that supports those
who want to hold onto power."



10. (SBU) Regarding the Government's desire to have UDT
Secretary General Abdou step down, the Minister quoted

SIPDIS
Article 31 of the UDT Constitution as saying that leaders of
the union cannot also be political leaders. UDT
representatives interpret Article 31 of their constitution to
read that no UDT official can hold public office and UDT
office simultaneously. They point to January, 2003
legislative elections when their second secretary was elected
to Parliament on the Rassemblement Populaire pour le Progres
(RPP) ballot and subsequently stepped down from his UDT post.
Only after his election to Parliament did this RPP official
resign his UDT post implying that Secretary General Abdou
need not resign his UDT post simply because he is a ranking
member of the opposition ARD.
COMMENT


--------------------------





11. (C) The impact of USG demarches threatening the
withdrawal of AGOA participation for Djibouti have had little
effect on their labor policy as Djibouti does not take
advantage of AGOA benefits. The USG would have to leverage
its other interests in Djibouti in order to have any real
impact on Djibouti's abysmal labor record. More interesting
than the standard poor worker conditions in Djibouti however
is the choice of mediators recently employed by President
Guelleh. One has to wonder why two members of his immediate
family, his Director of National Security, and one of his
personal "heavies" would be asked to intervene in an affair
as mundane as a public transportation strike. Perhaps
Guelleh is losing confidence in his cabinet's ability to
direct effective policy or, more likely, he is looking for
clear lines of credit to interest groups that he can cash in
when Presidential elections occur in 2005. A third
possibility is that with the recent discontent in his armed
forces (see reftel d) he wanted to silence trouble quickly
and thus sent in the big guns. End Comment.
RAGSDALE