Country Report on Terrorism 2017 - Chapter 1 - Djibouti

Overview: Djibouti offered a vital platform for regional counterterrorism and countering violent extremism (CVE) efforts in 2017. Since 2002, Djibouti has hosted Camp Lemonnier, the headquarters of AFRICOM’s Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and the only enduring U.S. military installation in Africa. Djibouti’s Armed Forces also participated in the U.S.-funded Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program and deployed soldiers to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) campaign. Djibouti hosts the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Center of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, which serves as a regional CVE hub and resource for CVE research, development, and training. IGAD positions Djibouti as a regional leader on counterterrorism and CVE.

In 2017, the Government of Djibouti hosted several conferences:

  • A Ministry of Islamic Affairs-led conference with Muslim religious leaders from the Horn of Africa on strategies to address “extremist” messaging directed at youth;
  • A Ministry of Justice-led conference with the international organization of La Francophonie and the Association of Francophone Prosecutors on counterterrorism prosecutions; and
  • A Central Bank-led conference with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism.

As in previous years, Djiboutian government officials, particularly law enforcement and members of the High Islamic Council, worked closely to identify and address terrorist activity.

Djibouti joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in 2017.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Djibouti has a legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related crimes and can try terrorists in criminal courts using its penal code. As such, there were no significant changes on terrorism-related legislation in 2017. The Djiboutian government continued to use counterterrorism legislation to suppress criticism by detaining and prosecuting opposition figures and other activists. We refer you to the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for further information.

In 2017, the Djiboutian government made structural and judicial counterterrorism-related changes. The Minister of Justice appointed a new State Prosecutor, who reorganized the Prosecutor’s office to allow deputy prosecutors to specialize in terrorism-related cases. Djibouti also passed a comprehensive refugee law and two implementing decrees to ensure refugees have freedom of movement, education, work, and access to public services, including those related to criminal justice, which were not de jure rights for refugees prior to their passage. Recognizing that refugees account for more than three percent of the population, the government’s decision to provide them access to the criminal justice system serves as an effective long-term response to address the risk of any vulnerable population, including this one, to recruitment, radicalization to violence, and other terrorist-related activity.

Djiboutian law enforcement entities continued to prioritize counterterrorism due to Djibouti’s geographic location and an al-Shabaab attack in Djibouti City in May 2014. Djibouti maintained a system of checkpoints and conducted cordon-and-search operations within the capital, Djibouti City, and concentrated security forces at border control points to screen for potential security threats. Government officials enhanced the protection of soft targets, including hotels and grocery stores, measures first implemented after the May 2014 attack. Djiboutian law enforcement also extended vehicle searches throughout the capital in an effort coordinated through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Djibouti’s law enforcement organizations include the Djiboutian National Police (DNP), the Djiboutian National Gendarmerie, the National Security Judiciary Police (NSJP), and the Djiboutian Coast Guard. In 2017, the DNP, National Gendarmerie, and NSJP received training from both the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program and the International Law Enforcement Academy in Gaborone. ATA assistance focused on building technical capacity for improved crisis response and border security capabilities. The DNP, National Gendarmerie, and the NSJP also received training through the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Legal Attaché office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Djibouti’s law enforcement organizations routinely interacted with U.S. government counterparts and frequently sought U.S. input to identify potential terrorist suspects.

Djiboutian law enforcement personnel acknowledged the difficulty of securing their land and sea borders. The DNP controls border checkpoints and Djibouti’s armed forces are responsible for patrolling land borders in remote locations, with support from the Gendarme patrolling between border posts. Djibouti continued to process travelers on entry and departure at its international airport and seaport with the Personal Identification Secure Comparison Evaluation System (PISCES). While the airport and seaport remain important entry points, the vast majority of travelers cross into Djibouti by land at one of three land border points, one of which is the Loyada crossing at the Somali border, which was refurbished with U.S. funding.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: In 2017, Djibouti applied for membership to the Middle East and Northern Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF)), a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Its application is under consideration by MENAFATF members. The Central Bank of Djibouti houses a financial intelligence unit known as the Financial Information Service (SRF). Due to limited financial and human resources, the SRF has been unable to perform the core functions of a financial intelligence unit and has focused instead on banking supervision. The SRF referred no cases to law enforcement involving suspected terrorist financing in 2017.

Djibouti’s Central Bank places the responsibility for staying updated on sanctions lists with the financial institutions themselves. Many of the financial institutions operating in Djibouti have software packages that include links to UN sanctions lists, lists of designated terrorists, or terrorist entities provided by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and the European Union. The Central Bank monitors compliance with these lists through routine supervision and audits of the financial institutions.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2018 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): Law enforcement agencies worked with the High Islamic Council to identify and monitor activity that promoted terrorist ideology. Djibouti continued to host and provide oversight for the operation of the IGAD Center of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and has also prioritized economic growth to address the high unemployment among youth.

International and Regional Cooperation: Djibouti hosts the IGAD’s headquarters offices and Secretary General. The Djiboutian military continued its participation in AMISOM, which includes military forces from Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda.