Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08DJIBOUTI1032
2008-12-23 12:47:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Djibouti
Cable title:  

DJIBOUTI: SENATOR FEINGOLD DISCUSSES REGION,

Tags:  OREP PGOV PREL PHSA PTER PHUM EAID ECON KCOR 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO3484
RR RUEHDE RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDJ #1032/01 3581247
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 231247Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9841
INFO RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 0296
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 DJIBOUTI 001032 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E
CJTF-HOA FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/23/2018
TAGS: OREP PGOV PREL PHSA PTER PHUM EAID ECON KCOR
KWMN, ET, ER, SO, DJ
SUBJECT: DJIBOUTI: SENATOR FEINGOLD DISCUSSES REGION,
SECURITY, AND GOOD GOVERNANCE WITH GODJ

Classified By: Amb. James C. Swan for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 DJIBOUTI 001032

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E
CJTF-HOA FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/23/2018
TAGS: OREP PGOV PREL PHSA PTER PHUM EAID ECON KCOR
KWMN, ET, ER, SO, DJ
SUBJECT: DJIBOUTI: SENATOR FEINGOLD DISCUSSES REGION,
SECURITY, AND GOOD GOVERNANCE WITH GODJ

Classified By: Amb. James C. Swan for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)


1. (C) SUMMARY. During a December 18-21 CODEL in Djibouti,
Senator Feingold discussed Djibouti, Somalia, and regional
concerns with top GODJ and Somalia officials. In meetings
with President Guelleh, Foreign Minister Youssouf, and
members of Djibouti's civil society, the Senator focused on
the strong U.S.-Djibouti partnership, domestic issues of
security, development, and good governance, and wider Horn of
Africa developments. In addition, the Senator held a series
of meetings in Djibouti on Somalia issues, including with the
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Alliance for
the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS),as well as with leaders
from Somaliland and representatives of Somalia civil society
and private sector (septel). END SUMMARY.

-------------- --------------
POSITIVE PERCEPTIONS OF U.S.-DJIBOUTI PARTNERSHIP
-------------- --------------


2. (C) During separate meetings on December 20, Senator
Feingold thanked Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh and
Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf for Djibouti's strong
and "valuable" partnership with the U.S., and for hosting the
Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) at Camp
Lemonier. In response to the Senator's questions about how
ordinary Djiboutians viewed the U.S. and the U.S. presence in
Djibouti, Guelleh described the population as "friendly and
sympathetic" towards the United States. Both Guelleh and
Youssouf said that for the majority of Djiboutians,
CJTF-HOA's presence represented positive opportunities for
jobs, contracts, expanded contact with Americans, and

much-needed civil affairs projects such as wells and schools.
Youssouf was also quick to add that the GODJ and the
Djiboutian population appreciated not just CJTF-HOA's civil
affairs projects, but all USG support towards meeting
Djibouti's "development challenges," notably successful USAID
programming. Both Guelleh and Youssouf said that many
Djiboutians, especially those from the educated elite, had
disagreed with some recent U.S. foreign policy decisions,
notably in Iraq. However, Youssouf characterized these
policy disagreements as a "political circus debate," noting
that the general popular sentiment was that the U.S. presence
in Djibouti brought with it substantial benefits for the
country and its population.

--------------
ERITREA-DJIBOUTI BORDER DISPUTE
--------------


3. (C) Senator Feingold addressed the ongoing
Eritrea-Djibouti border dispute, and offered his sympathy for
the loss of Djiboutian forces during fighting in June.
President Guelleh told the Senator that while he was eager to
see a United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) on
the dispute, he was unsure of how much such an UNCSR would
truly "constrain" Eritrea, which he said was "still
occupying" Djiboutian territory. Guelleh told the Senator
that there had previously been "good relations" between
Djibouti and Eritrea, and said that he attributed the June
flare-up at the border to three factors: 1) Eritrea's
misguided perception that the U.S. military presence in
Djibouti threatened Eritrea; 2) Eritrean concerns that
Djibouti's helpful involvement in orchestrating Djibouti
Process talks between Somalia's Transitional Federal
Government (TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of
Somalia (ARS) was harmful to Eritrean interests; and 3)
Economic rivalry linked to the announcement of an ambitious
project to build a bridge between Djibouti and Yemen, to
include construction of a new economic hub city at the
bridge's terminus in Djibouti in the vicinity of Moulhoule,
near the Djibouti-Eritrea border.


4. (C) Similarly, ForMin Youssouf agreed that Eritrea might
have been motivated by jealousy over the Port of Djibouti's
economic success as Ethiopia's main lifeline to the sea, a
false fear that the U.S. was using Djibouti as a "Trojan
horse" to conspire with Ethiopia against Eritrea, and a
desire to thwart the TFG-ARS Djibouti Process. Youssouf told
the Senator that Eritrea needed to accept the idea of "status
quo ante," withdraw from the border area, and open a dialogue
with Djibouti--either directly, or through a third party.
However, Youssouf noted that when the disagreement first
surfaced, Eritrea had quickly rebuffed Djibouti's initial
attempts to resolve it through dialogue. On the question of
the over 73 Eritrean defectors/deserters now in Djiboutian

DJIBOUTI 00001032 002 OF 004


custody, Youssouf indicated that the GODJ did not/not plan to
return them to Eritrean control. "These people are asylum
seekers," he said. "How can we return them when we know they
will be killed?" In contrast, he added, Eritrea has denied
the existence of any Djiboutian prisoners of war, and has
refused access to the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC).

--------------
SOMALIA
--------------


5. (C) Noting the Senator's planned meetings on Somalia,
Guelleh said that he thought the international community was
"close to finding a lasting solution for Somalia" through the
Djibouti Process, and stressed the need for a continued
strong USG commitment--including potential support for state
building, security forces, and civil society in Somalia--to
avoid another devolution into fighting. The Senator assured
Guelleh that he would work to garner additional moral and
material support from the USG, and said that he planned to
engage with President-Elect Obama's team on this issue.


6. (C) Senator Feingold and ForMin Youssouf also discussed
Somalia issues at some length. Youssouf called the latest
political developments "very disturbing," and criticized TFG
President Yusuf for "creating more confusion in the political
process" through his dispute with TFG PM Nur Adde. The GODJ
had met with Prime Minister Nur Adde the previous day, and
with President Yusuf last week, ForMin Youssouf said, and had
felt that President Yusuf's message had been simply, "it's
me--or chaos in Somalia." ForMin Youssouf told the Senator
that the goal would now be to "contain" Yusuf from becoming
an "obstacle," and correctly predicted that the emergency
December 21 Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)
ministerial would turn Kenya's bilateral decision to impose
sanctions on President Yusuf into a collective IGAD action.
Noting that this was a "critical time" for IGAD countries,
Youssouf also said that despite some past disagreements over
Somalia policy, Djibouti and Ethiopia were now generally in
"100%" agreement on foreign policy issues.


7. (C) On the GODJ's role in the Djibouti Process, Youssouf
said that Djibouti's majority ethnic Somali population gave
the GODJ insight into inter-Somalia politics, while
Djibouti's small, unthreatening size led many to consider the
GODJ as "more neutral" than other parties. Currently,
Youssouf said, the GODJ was trying to "sensitize the
international community" on the urgent need to bolster Somali
security forces on the ground to avoid a potential security
vacuum in the wake of an Ethiopian withdrawal. Youssouf said
that he thought Somali security forces would be able to
control the security situation, but only if Ethiopia withdrew
in an "organized way." In addition, Youssouf said, the
international community might not be responding as easily as
might be desired, perhaps because of perception that the
political process was not moving forward as quickly as it
should.

--------------
SOMALILAND AND PUNTLAND:
RECOGNITION VS. REGIONAL INTEGRATION
--------------


8. (C) In discussing President Yusuf, President Guelleh told
the Senator that he was concerned that Yusuf might "create a
new secession of the Puntland region." Responding to the
Senator's question about Djibouti's relationship with
Somaliland, Guelleh said that although Djiboutians and
Somalilanders were "part of the same family" and Somaliland
had consistently pressed Djibouti to be the first to
recognize Somaliland as an independent state, he had "told
them many times that it would be very difficult to defend the
idea of an independent Somaliland within the African Union
(AU) or the UN." President Guelleh also noted the potential
incompatibility of a fragmented Somalia with Djibouti's
vision of greater regional integration. Still, Guelleh told
the Senator, recognition remained a "sensitive question," as
Somalilanders "cannot imagine any other solution." When
asked by the Senator why Djibouti had such strong
reservations about Somaliland independence, ForMin Youssouf
said that despite warming Djibouti-Somaliland trade
relations, regional experience had led the GODJ to believe
that a "balkanized" Somalia could provoke instability, and
retard efforts to deepen regional economic cooperation.


DJIBOUTI 00001032 003 OF 004


--------------
THREATS IN THE REGION:
TERRORISM AND PIRACY
--------------


9. (C) Senator Feingold asked President Guelleh and ForMin
Youssouf to comment on what they perceived as the most
important threats to security in the region. On terrorist
threats, President Guelleh said that radicalism had been
brought to the region by Saudi and Sudanese elements, and
that Somali culture was traditionally hostile to suicide
bombings and extremist influences. ForMin Youssouf also
characterized terrorism in Somalia as "circumstantial," and
said that Al-Shabaab was simply "surfing a wave" of
opportunity created by the Ethiopian presence. Nevertheless,
Youssouf agreed with the Senator that "desperation" could
lead people to use terrorist tactics, and said that Djibouti
had strengthened its security posture following the October
terrorist attacks in Somaliland and Puntland.


10. (C) On the ongoing threat of piracy off the coast of
Somalia, Guelleh told the Senator that he appreciated
continued high level dialogue with the USG on the issue, and
also welcomed recent greater engagement from the European
Union. ForMin Youssouf emphasized the impossibility of
decoupling piracy from the instability on land in Somalia.
"Chaos," he said, "can lead to all kinds of anachronistic
phenomena, such as piracy or even slavery." Most of the
pirates, Youssouf said, were drawn from former naval forces,
with some converted fishermen thrown in, and had "nothing to
do with Al-Shabaab."

--------------
FOSTERING GOOD GOVERNANCE
--------------


11. (C) During his visit, Senator Feingold discussed issues
of good governance, transparency, and human rights with
President Guelleh, Foreign Minister Youssouf, and members of
civil society:

---POLITICAL SPACE: President Guelleh told the Senator that
the opposition had "systematically refused to participate in
any election" for some time. However, Guelleh also explained
that his own ruling coalition, the Union for a Presidential
Majority (UMP),already represented an alliance of several
parties, including former rebel and opposition leaders. The
existence of this strong coalition, Guelleh said, weakened
the remaining opposition.

--PRESS FREEDOM: In response to the Senator's concerns about
the paucity of independent press outlets in Djibouti, Guelleh
responded that Djibouti was a small oral society which valued
"free speech more than free writing" and preferred to
exercise "liberty of expression" through debates in coffee
shops rather than through formal news sources. Guelleh also
said that the main factor inhibiting the growth of
independent press was the absence of a lucrative advertising
and distribution base.

--HUMAN RIGHTS AND WOMEN'S RIGHTS: President Guelleh
described traditional "tolerance" as Djibouti's greatest
asset, pointing out that there were no political detainees,
no death penalty in use, and no religious persecution.
President Guelleh also underscored the GODJ's current fo7Q$XQ;Wm56*QY] s involvement in political and economic
life, noting that he felt the "Arab world is suffering from
the lack of women's participation."

--CORRUPTION: Senator Feingold asked President Guelleh how
the GODJ was tackling issues of corruption. While noting
that bribery was not traditionally accepted in nomadic
Djiboutian culture, Guelleh said that addressing corruption
remained a top priority for his government. If not
aggressively deterred, Guelleh said, corruption could become
a "gangrene" that might deter foreign direct investment.

--NO THIRD TERM: When asked by the Senator if he were
considering amending Djibouti's constitution to run for third
term in office, President Guelleh said that he was "not
thinking about it myself." He told the Senator that he
agreed with the principle of a two-term limit, remarking that
"what a politician can contribute to the population in twelve
years of efforts is more than enough--after that it will
become routine"


DJIBOUTI 00001032 004 OF 004


--CIVIL SOCIETY ROUNDTABLE: Senator Feingold's questions
engendered a lively debate among diverse participants at a
December 21 roundtable on Civil Society, Good Governance, and
the Private Sector. Issues discussed included press freedom,
advancement of women, judicial independence, opposition
participation, perceptions of the U.S., and human rights.
Most participants supported the GODJ's perspective on freedom
of the press and civil society.

--------------
PRESS COVERAGE
--------------


12. (U) Local press enthusiastically covered Senator
Feingold's meetings with GODJ and Somalia officials.
Photographs and stories on the Senator's meetings nearly
filled the first three pages of the December 22 edition of
"La Nation," the national French language newspaper, and
coverage of the Senator's meeting with President Guelleh ran
as the lead item in Radio Television Djibouti's nightly news
broadcast December 20.

--------------
COMMENT
--------------


13. (C) Senior GODJ officials were keen to meet with the
Chairman of the Africa Subcommittee, and Senator Feingold's
visit allowed both for a frank exchange of views with the
GODJ on regional issues, and a prime opportunity to deepen
discussions on domestic questions of good governance.


14. (U) Senator Feingold cleared this cable.

SWAN