Socioeconomic situation (This Response replaces an earlier version dated 11 January 1999.) [DJI31019.FE]

Available data indicates that Djibouti's economy is doing poorly. At the end of 1996, the country's foreign debt stood at US$217 million (La Lettre Hebdomadaire de la FIDH Sept. 1997, 5). The unemployment rate fluctuated between 40 per cent and 50 per cent (ibid.; CIA Factbook 1998 1998, 4). The decrease in per capita consumption over the past six years is estimated at 35 per cent (ibid.).

According to Africa Confidential, in 1996 the country faced a wide range of problems: resettling people displaced during clashes between the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (Front pour la restauration de l'unité et de la démocratie, or FRUD) and the army, rebuilding infrastructure destroyed during those clashes, demobilizing soldiers and reintegrating them into society, and implementing International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions, such as reducing the public sector workforce and wages (5 July 1996, 5-6).

A professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris who is a specialist in Djibouti affairs provided the following information about the country's economic situation during a telephone interview with the Research Directorate:

Up until the early 1990s, Djibouti's economic situation compared favourably with that of other countries in the region, partly because of the significant French presence there. However, the country is under strong external pressure to rationalize its economy and democratize its political system. International financial institutions and donor countries are attaching stringent conditions to development aid and loans. In particular, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is demanding reductions in the size of government. And since "clientelism" persists within the administration in general, the downsizing of the public sector as a result of the wave of budget cuts is not necessarily being carried out on the basis of objective criteria. This is made all the easier by the fact that in Djibouti people know each other: they know which clan others belong to and which political party they support (Professor 8 Dec. 1998).

In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate on 11 December 1998, a representative of the Djibouti Human Rights Association (ARDHD) stated that the hiring policy in the Djibouti administration is based more on who you know and on recommendations than on objectively established criteria (11 Dec. 1998). Those who have close relationships with the decision makers do best in promotions, recruitment and downsizing (ibid.).

In a 22 December 1998 telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a specialist in Djibouti affairs who has published several works on the country also noted the existence of "clientelism" in public service recruitment. In his view, social and family relationships are more important than objective hiring and promotion criteria. He commented that it is entirely possible that members of opposition political parties or members of some clans are bearing the brunt of the workforce reduction in the public service resulting from the budget cuts and France's gradual withdrawal from involvement in Djibouti (Specialist 22 December 1998).

Finally, at a press conference held on 13 September 1998, the president of the Democratic National Party (Parti national démocratique, or PND) listed [translation] "the ills which afflict the Djibouti state: tribalism, "clientelism", corruption, maladministration, incompetent people in positions of power, lack of honest and transparent elections" (Awaleh 13 Sept. 1998, 5). The PND leader maintained that many Djiboutians, faced with this [translation]"dramatic" situation, have been forced to leave the country. (ibid., 7). He stated that [translation] "tens of thousands of Djibouti families have emigrated to Canada, Holland, Belgium and England. Many others are preparing to do the same" (ibid., 7).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Africa Confidential (London). 5 July 1996. Vol. 37, No. 14. "Djibouti: My Uncle, the President."

Association pour le respect des droits de l'homme à Djibouti (ARDHD). 11 December 1998. Telephone interview with representative.

Awaleh, Aden Rohleh. 13 September 1998. "Conférence de presse," [Internet] [Accessed 24 Dec. 1998]

La lettre hebdomadaire de la FIDH [Paris]. September 1997. No. 248. "Djibouti, 20 ans après l'indépendance: une république en perdition."

Professor, École des hautes études en Sciences sociales. 8 December 1998. Telephone interview.

Specialist in Djibouti affairs. 22 December 1998. Telephone interview.

United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). 1998. CIA Factbook 1998 [Internet] [Accessed 13 Nov. 1998].

Associated documents