Confronting Contradictions: Myths and Realities of Djibouti


In its truest sense Djibouti is a cusp of contradiction – a small strategically located east African country that curiously straddles two worlds of contradiction. It is both:

  • A country forgotten by the world and yet courted by superpowers of the world (US, France, Italy, Japan and China) for its stability and geo-strategic location perfect for military bases
  • A booming economy with a rapid and sustained GDP growth rate of 7% and yet a large section of its population is extremely impoverished and vulnerable to death and diseases
  • A friend of international businesses, offering its strategic ports and trade free zones situated on the world’s busiest shipping routes and yet 70% of its own population is unemployed
  • A humanitarian haven for refugees and immigrants from war torn neighboring states (Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea) and yet denies basic human rights and civil liberties to its own people questioning the Djiboutian administration;
  • A presidential representative democratic republic based on a multi-party state yet in reality it is a dominant party authoritarian regime under the tight control of President Ismail Omar Guelleh who controls all information and resources to retain power and crush political opposition and other voices of dissent.

What People Think About Djibouti


For its strategic geopolitical location and relative stability in a volatile Horn of Africa neighborhood, the Republic of Djibouti located at the mouth of the Red Sea, attracts considerable international economic interests and hosts significant foreign military bases. Yet, the world knows little about the internal Djiboutian crisis categorized by centralization of power, curbing of personal freedom and zero tolerance to dissent and opposition. This is the concealed face of President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s regime that masquerades under democracy and its institutions.

Expensive country with Worst Infrastructure


According to the World Bank data, Djibouti is the most expensive country in Africa and ranks as the 60th costliest nation in the world. For the average Djiboutians this means that the cost of living or the amount needed to cover basic expenses, housing, food, taxes and healthcare is quite high.
While State imposition of taxes and custom duties keep prices of goods on the market shelves of Djibouti on a costlier side; on the other hand, unemployment in Djibouti is reaching alarming levels at over 43 percent and is a major contributor of poverty and poor purchasing power of the people.
For a developing country Djibouti has an exceptionally high population growth rate of 2.2%, making it the 40th fastest growing country globally. More than three-quarters of the steadily growing population of Djibouti resides in urban centers maintaining the country’s steady growth rate of urbanization. Yet Djibouti lacks basic infrastructure such as paths, trails, bridges and roads and access to transport services making it difficult for poor people to access markets and services.


Despite the rise in port construction, Ethio-Djibouti Railway, Trade zones, and road links for trade purposes, the domestic infrastructure remains poor. The Djibouti government has pledged expenditure of $15bn over the next five years to build a new infrastructure and improve upon the road, rail, and airport networks, but those investments are yet to be seen enacted.


The most alarming fact about the infrastructure of Djibouti is the increasing dependence on Chinese money aiding Beijing’s bid to dominate world markets that determine the future of distribution of economic and military power. In Djibouti it includes new free trade zones, 40% of which are owned by China, to encourage trade for favored industries and bolster market exports. China is also helping to build a railway line running between Djibouti and Ethiopia. Massive Chinese investments of over $15bn since 2008 for infrastructure projects like airports, roads, digital infrastructure in Djibouti creates diplomatic inroads for China into the African market. According to Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority, Djibouti has ‘no choice’ but to join hands with China for infrastructure development. Like Sri Lanka, Laos, Maldives, Djibouti may also come under China’s debt trap with its massive investments.


Djibouti Telecom has a monopoly on all telecom services, including fixed lines, mobile, internet, and broadband. Being a meeting point of several international cable systems that pass through the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, Djibouti Internet Exchange is one of the best connected in the region. Despite that, the connectivity and broadband services of Djibouti remains to be very expensive for its citizens. This clubbed with large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes among Djiboutians greatly impedes their full growth potential in any sector.

for a democratic transition for the republic of jibouti


We, the political parties, public figures, representatives of the civil society and politico-military organization, in our meeting on February 20, 2021 through video conference have adopted the Chart of the Transition put in place by the commission founded in July 2020.

Facing the lack of willingness to achieve a democratic change through fair elections and the possibility of facing all the current government fraudulent practices in the future elections, we have no other choice but to build a multifaceted balance of power to save the country from an irreversible collapse.

To prevent the currently raised specter in the country from leading to a chaotic situation, once the current government in power is overthrown, the need of a democratic transition imposes itself, following the outcome ofBourget Appeal of September 2018.

Our aim is to preserve the country from the chaos once the authoritarian system is removed from power and launch a democratic process and quickly establish strong national institutions.

This transitional mechanism will help the country transition from the clan based system established since the dawn of the independence, to a true national and democratic state.

This transition is intended primarily to end the crisis that lasted for nearly 44 years. This should primarily; during this period of at least (24) months put in place the necessary democratic reforms.

This mechanism will lead to the formation of the Transitional National Unity Government, bringing together all the political forces, the organizations and the civil society leaders who are in favor of the change. This mechanism will include the following:

  • The President of the Transitional Chart will assume the role of the Head of State.
  • The Prime Minister will be appointed by the President.
  • The National Council will be the legislative body during this period.
  • A National and Security bodyin charge of insuring the peace and the security and the Constitutional Council will be further developed in the chart.

This transitional government will be responsible to implement the resolutions of the transitional chart, particularly:

  • The Democratic reforms
  • The army, the security and the police institutional reforms
  • The citizenship
  • The electoral lists
  • A real decentralization of different regions
  • Reconstruction of areas destroyed by the war (Mainly in the northern regions)
  • The reparation of crimes and massacres committed by government forces against civilians in certain regions of the country.
  • Economic and social reform.

This democratization process will be followed by another phase of democratic consolidation; a constitutional commission will be appointed to draft a new constitution, which will be submitted to a referendum.

We are calling all the different political actors and the civil society to unite their energy behind this transition in order to build an alternative to this current system, while drawing the lessons from our past experiences and mistakes. Our country’s existence is at stake given the president’s stubbornness to remain in power and how much he is preoccupied in perpetuating this clan system.

In the first 6 months of the transition, we commit ourselves to fight as a priority against the famine, the extreme poverty, affecting the great majority of our population as well as fend off thirst and make change the exorbitant cost of the electricity.

Together, beyond political posturing, we have the obligation to change the situation and thus turn the page on these 44 years of family dictatorship.

A committee is set up to steer the initiation of this life-saving process:
Nante, On February 25, 2021

Political OrganizationsTitles
Aden AbdouARD
Mahdi Ibrahim GodARD
Maki HoumedgabaARD
Mohamed habib (Pere Robert)FPC
Nasser Ali HousseinFPC
Samatar Hassan MoussaFPC
Mohamed HoumadoFRUD
Mohamed KadamiFRUD
Ismail Abdillahi DoualehPND
Human RightsTitles
Omar Ali EwadoLDDH
Abdi Osman NourLDDH
Omar Ali HassanCaptain
Civil SocietyTitles
Abdourahman Mohamed Habib (Amigo)Activist
Anded-Wali HassanPolitical Personality
Hassan Abdillahi RoblehMJO Europe
Ilias HassanActivist
Zeinab Ismail AhmedActivist
Ismail YoussoufPolitical Personality
Mohamed Moussa Ainache’Political Personality
Mohamed Moussa ChehemActivisty
Mohamed QayadPolitical Personality
Nidal MahmoudCommunication
Said Omar BilehCommunication
Scroll to top