Democracy and rights
Djibouti is governed by authoritarian methods
by President Ismail Omar Guelleh and his party coalition
the Union for Presidential Majority (UMP). Guelleh and
the circle around him have incited both political
opposition and free media. The regime is regularly
accused of violating human rights.
Much of the power is gathered by President Guelleh
personally. He has ruled Djibouti since 1999 and there
are no restrictions on how many times the president can
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Djibouti, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
Formally, the country has a multi-party system, but
the governing UMP almost completely dominates the
policy. Authoritarian funds limit the opposition
parties' ability to operate and have had a hard time
gaining influence since the country's independence in
Freedom of assembly and association is restricted and
the influential security service harasses the
opposition. In fact, personal relationships and, not
least, customer affiliation play a greater role than the
There are opposition groups in exile, especially in
France and Belgium, which in some cases have succeeded
in getting the EU and France to press for the government
to implement political reforms.
Politics is dominated by men. Sixteen of the 65 seats
(25 percent) in Parliament are reserved for women.
According to Transparency International, corruption
is widespread in the Djiboutian society. In its index of
corruption in the world, the 2019 organization placed
Djibouti as 126th out of 180 countries, that is among
the worst third (see the full list here). During the
2010s, the trend was that corruption in the country
gradually increased somewhat.
Freedom of expression and media
The media supply in Djibouti is almost completely
controlled by the state and used by the regime for
propaganda. There are no privately owned or independent
media left in the country. The few oppositional media
that exist exist from abroad as well as via the
Freedom of the press and opinion is guaranteed by the
Constitution, but the authorities have made a number of
interventions against the media's activities. For
example, newspapers have had their publishing licenses
revoked, regime-critical journalists have been
imprisoned or harassed by the authorities in other ways,
both legally and financially.
As a result, the media avoids sensitive topics, such
as human rights violations, military action, relations
with neighboring Ethiopia and French aid.
Djibouti can afford to watch foreign satellite TV
channels, such as the British BBC and American Voice of
America. Opposition groups in exile have their own
websites online, but the authorities limit access to
these internet sites as well as to regime-critical
In Reporters Without Borders index of freedom of the
press in the world, Djibouti is placed in the bottom
layer. In 2020, it was ranked 176th out of 180 countries
(see full list here), a deterioration of nine rankings
compared to 2013. Only China, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and
North Korea are ranked lower.
Judicial system and legal security
After independence, Djibouti's legal system was
adapted to Islamic Sharia law, while retaining parts of
the French system. Sharia is mainly used in family law.
In rural areas, customary law is applied.
The authorities often interfere in the work of the
courts. The president appoints the country's judges for
life. Corruption permeates the legal system.
The government has repeatedly been criticized for
violating human rights. It appears that police and
military act with brutality and that people are arrested
on arbitrary grounds. People who criticize President
Guelleh or his party alliance UMP are routinely harassed
and risk being arrested.
The conditions in the overcrowded prisons are harsh.
Torture is prohibited, but there have been reports of
prisoners being tortured and abused. The death penalty
was abolished in 1995.
Action against pirates begins
The EU will launch Operation Atalanta with Djibouti as its starting point.
The purpose of the operation is to stop piracy in Somali waters by military
Border battles with Eritrea
Border disputes erupt between Djibouti and Eritrea in the disputed area of
Ras Doumeira, where the border between the countries is not fixed. Djibouti
and Eritrea share the cape that forms the inlet and outlet for shipping to and
from the Red Sea. At least nine Djiboutian soldiers are killed. The United
States accuses Eritrea of "aggression" and of initiating the fighting.
New big victory for the government
In the election to the National Assembly, the ruling party alliance wins the
UMP again all 65 seats. The opposition alliance UAD boycott the election in
protest against the electoral system which it considers favors the ruling party