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05DJIBOUTI31 2005-01-09 11:37:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Djibouti
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E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: The great economic disparity between the capital,
Djibouti city, and the regions outside Djibouti's capital is
a major concern to the regions' inhabitants. This disparity
led to a civil war in the early 1990's and continues to
greatly affect the country's politics. Post constructed this
regional profile of Djibouti to better understand the
development issues most important to the populations in each
of Djibouti's four existing districts as both presidential
and regional elections approach in 2005. It is divided into
three parts: A snapshot of each district, district living
conditions, and political expectations and leanings. END




2. (U) Djibouti is currently divided into the capital city,
commonly referred to as Djibouti-ville, and four regional
districts: Ali-Sabieh and Dikhil in the south, and Obock and
Tadjourah in the north. Vital statistics follow:

Ali Sabieh
Location: South
Population: 18 589
Major economic activity: Trade, agriculture and industry.
Tribe/sub-tribe: Issa/Fourlaba

Location: South
Population: 19 592
Major economic activities: Agriculture, livestock and tourism
Tribe/sub-tribe: Issa/Odahgob, Afar/AdaiRasoul

Location: North
Population: 12 471
Major economic activities: Agriculture and tourism
Tribe/sub-tribe: Afar/Hassobas

Location: North
Population: 3 297
Major economic activities: Fishing and tourism
Tribe/sub-tribe: Afar/Adai'li


Living Conditions


3. (U) The great economic disparity between Djibouti's capital
and its internal regions affects the regions' populations to
an extreme degree. The majority of economic activity in
Djibouti is concentrated in and around the capital, Djibouti
City. There is a limited overall benefit from trucking
routes to Ethiopia that pass through the districts of Dikhil
and Ali-Sabieh. Social sectors, such as education and
health, are also more developed in the capital. The
population of Djibouti is estimated at around 594,000 with
67 percent concentrated in the capital city. The population
of the four regions together total less than nine percent of
the total population of Djibouti. The sparse population in
the districts is an excellent indicator of the
underdevelopment of the outlying regions, which in return
reveals the major impetus for the majority of the population
to seek subsistence in the capital city.

4. (U) In general, the districts' output in the national economy
is very low. Rarely do products go from the regions to the
capital. On the contrary, most of the needs of the
district's population are brought from the capital city,
Djibouti-ville. Until recently, there was no industry or
manufacturing present outside the capital. In 2004, the
government began projects to bring manufacturing and
production to the district of Ali-Sabieh in order to court
political favor. A water bottling plant was inaugurated in
early 2004 and a cement production facility has started. To
date, the production level of these two plants has been

5. (U) Extreme poverty, unemployment and access to potable water
of utmost concern for most of the district residents.
Unemployment rates range from 61 percent in Obock and
Tadjourah to 71 percent in Ali-Sabieh, the same district
that hosted the three biggest public and semi-public
investments in the districts during recent years. Despite
some recent investment in the districts, there has not been
a strategy to ensure the local population is benefiting from
jobs created by the new ventures. Even among districts, the
disparity of employment opportunities is growing. All recent
investments have been centered on the southern districts of
the country, due to its rich soil and unpredictable
political leanings. Little government attention has been
directed toward the northern region, and as a result there
are no viable jobs available in these districts. Most
northern residents eke out a living in the struggling
fishing industry or subsist as goat, camel or sheep herders
and as small-scale farmers of date palms or vegetables.
Poverty is not declining in the regions despite the
establishment of civil society organizations that claim to
struggle against it.

5. (U) Even with a massive national effort to spread employment
opportunities across the districts, serious obstacles
confront any attempts at progress. One of the most-dire
needs in all of the districts is water. Nearly 47 percent of
the inhabitants of Tadjourah do not have access to potable
drinking water. The same is true for 27.5 percent of the
population of Obock; 21 percent of Dikhil and 5.5 percent of
Ali-Sabieh. The amount of the total family budget spent on
food is nearly 70 percent in all four of the districts. Most
people who live outside the city feel it is useless to talk
of economic opportunities or progress until their most basic
needs can be assured.

6. (U) Access to health care and education are also severely
lacking in most areas of the country outside the capital
city. In each region, there is one health center and one
primary education establishment, located in the district
capital. Primary education is compulsory but access to
schools is very difficult. In the country as a whole, the
current education system has the physical capacity to
accommodate only 30 percent of school-aged children. The
primary education rate in the districts is roughly the same
in all four regions, ranging between 55 and 60 percent. The
percentage of children that go on to secondary school is
significantly lower due mainly to the necessity for children
to go to the capital to study the university preparatory or
vocational curriculums.

7. (U) Daily lifestyle well-illustrates wealth in Djiboutian
society. For those in the capital city, and those in the
districts that are not nomadic, home-ownership is the main
indicator of wealth. For the nomadic portion of the
population, wealth rests with the size of the herd. Nomads
value their animals in a hierarchy. The goat, which provides
milk and meat for the family, is the most valued, followed
in descending order by cows, sheep and camels. If all the
country's wealth were measured by housing, Obock would be
the poorest district with only 575 houses for an estimated
population of 3,200 people. Under this measure, the two
richest districts would be the southern district of Ali-
Sabieh (2969 houses for 18,500 people) and Dikhil (2829 for
19,592 people).

8. (U) The economic activities of the different districts have a
common base in agricultural subsistence. However, the extent
of agriculture practiced and the variety of other activities
possible depend upon the district. Activities in the
northern regions, which have drier climate but abundant
coastline, are concentrated around fishing. The northern
district of Tadjourah also has two tourist sites that
generate small amount of income. The southern districts have
comparatively fertile soil, which leads many to concentrate
their activities in farming and herding. Raising livestock
is a major activity for the nomads in the southern region.
Its success is by genetic mixing of the herds caused when
livestock from Somaliland pass through the region in search
of grazing. Although Dikhil is the less-fertile southern
district, it has a history of being comparatively wealthy,
thanks to smuggling. Dikhil was once the hub for all
smuggled goods coming from Ethiopia and in the early 1980's,
was the most flourishing region, after the capital. However,
in recent years, the smuggling operations have shifted their
focus to the Djibouti-Somaliland border and the smuggling in
Dikhil has decreased. In absence of smuggling, the district
of Dikhil has quickly become one of the poorest regions of




9. (U) The population in the four districts has few political
expectations from elected officials. Each district is more
focused on basic needs than on political maneuverings. In
Ali-Sabieh the issue is water scarcity, which prevents
development of any kind. (Note: Water scarcity is one of the
biggest challenges everywhere in the country, including the
capital city. End note). The district of Dikhil is concerned
primarily with women's health and the availability of
veterinarians (since the district's livelihood is derived
mainly from livestock). Health problems and lack of road
connections, especially with Ethiopia, remain the biggest
challenge for Tadjourah in its search for development. The
population of Obock is seeking water and rehabilitation of
roads to connect Obock with Eritrea and the other cities
within Djibouti to improve quality of life.

10. (U) The regional councils are responsible for all matters
concerning the wellbeing of each district's population. They
are currently appointed by the central government, are
comprised of 14 members and are headed by the District
Commissar (DC). The councils each have a budget of 50
million FD (280 000 USD), which is currently supplied by the
central treasury. The DC heads the provisional regional
council, controls law enforcement agents, and has command of
military forces assigned to the district. He also signs
birth certificates and conducts primary immigration
investigations. The DC is not autonomous, however. He is a
servant of the ruling party and his investigations are often
directed by the central administration. The role of the DC
is much more significant as elections approach because of
his duties as the subordinate of the Ministry of Interior.
He gives primary authorization to identity cards and can
approve ad hoc voting cards. Once implemented, the new
decentralization law will restrain functions of the DC and
limit has portfolio to merely a representative of the State.
The administrative and financial control of the regions will
be turned over to elected regional councils.

11. (U) Two tribes predominate Djibouti's social and political
scene. The northern districts, Tadjourah and Obock, are
inhabited by Afars. Ali-Sabieh is comprised mainly of Issas.
Dikhil is a rare combination of all national communities:
Afar, Issa, Arabs and others. For this reason it is called
the "Town of Unity". The Issa community is generally viewed
as more open to modernization, while the more traditional
Afars are often considered more reluctant to change.

12. (U) In order to analyze the potential outcomes for the 2005
presidential elections, it helps to examine details from the
most recent elections:

Ali-Sabieh: In the presidential election of 1999, Moussa Ahmed
Idriss opposed Ismail Omar Guelleh. Guelleh won the
elections by 74 percent; however, the majority in Ali-Sabieh
voted against Guelleh's ruling party, an unprecedented case
in Djibouti elections' history. One explanation for this
might be that the district is known as "rebellious," and has
a general dislike for directives coming from the capital.
Because of this, Ali-Sabieh is considered by politicians to
be unpredictable and problematic. This might be one of the
reasons the political power focuses development projects in
that area, over other regions. The tribal composition of Ali-
Sabieh may also be a factor. The majority of Ali-Sabieh
inhabitants are Issa, sub-clan Fourlaba. This sub-clan is
known to be the most forceful rival to Mamassan sub-clan, to
which Guelleh's family belongs. In 1999, Guelleh's rival,
Moussa Ahmed Idriss -- an Issa, but not a Mamassan --
succeeded in winning the vote in Ali Sabieh.

Tadjourah: In the legislative elections of 2003, the opposition
Union for Democratic Alternance (UAD) coalition made its
strongest showing in Tadjourah. The UAD scored 18 bureaus
out of 27, winning nearly all the Tadjourah-ville vote, as
well as that of some of big villages of the district. The
Minister of the Interior explained that the Guelleh-
coalition won the district, nevertheless, because the nine
bureaus it won were theoretically the most populous.

Dikhil: Dikhil generally votes on the side of the ruling party in
both presidential and legislative elections. As a peaceful
and quiet district where Afars, Issas and other communities
get along well with each other, it has thus far been adverse
to conflict and has in the past voted in favor of the ruling

Obock: Obock is unpredictable, as it does not belong to one
particular Afar community. The district of Obock was the
hometown of the late Ahmed Dini, a popular opposition leader
who was exiled from Djibouti for 22-years1. Life in the
region is difficult, with poverty so firmly established that
voters do not believe their situation will change, no matter
the promises made during campaigns. That makes the region
more likely to vote against the ruling party than in other
districts, as in the 2003 legislative election, where the
UAD scored highly, walking off with most of the votes cast.

13. (U) In conclusion, the political leanings of the districts
are fluid depending, on each administration's promises and
the level of discontent among the people at any given point
in time. In that regard, no standardized prediction f
district leanings in the 2005 presidential election can be

14. (U) Khartoum minimize considered.

1 I think it's preferable to be erased.