Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - Djibouti

Overview: Djibouti remained a vital platform for regional counterterrorism and CVE efforts in 2018. 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. The Djibouti-based Intergovernmental Authority on Development Center of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (ICEPCVE) expanded operations in Djibouti and the region by providing training and resources to counter terrorist radicalization and recruitment. Djibouti’s Armed Forces also continued participation in the U.S.-funded Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program and deployed soldiers to the AMISOM campaign. Djibouti is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. As in previous years, Djiboutian government officials, particularly law enforcement officials and members of the High Islamic Council, worked closely to detect and address terrorist activity. On December 16, Djiboutian security forces participated in activities leading to the capture in Djibouti of Peter Cherif, a suspect wanted in France in connection with the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks.

2018 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Djibouti in 2018.

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.  In 2018, the Ministry of Justice created a national committee of experts to begin work on a national strategy to combat terrorism. The Ministry of Justice also began to harmonize Djibouti’s legal codes to clearly define prosecutable acts of terrorism and establish a procedure for prosecuting acts of terrorism.  The government continued to use counterterrorism legislation to suppress criticism by detaining and prosecuting opposition figures and other activists.

In 2018, preliminary international coordination relating to the 2014 “La Chaumiere” bombing case concluded. The Government of Djibouti plans to begin criminal proceedings in 2019. According to government officials, lack of judiciary cooperation with neighboring Somaliland contributed to delays in the investigation.

Djiboutian law enforcement entities continued to prioritize counterterrorism efforts. 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 protection of soft targets, including hotels and grocery stores, measures first implemented after the May 2014 al-Shabaab attack in Djibouti City. Djiboutian law enforcement also continued to extend vehicle searches throughout the capital in an effort coordinated through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Djibouti’s law enforcement organization is composed of the Djiboutian National Police (DNP), the Djiboutian National Gendarmerie, the National Security Judiciary Police (NSJP), and the Djiboutian Coast Guard. In 2018, the DNP, National Gendarmerie, and the NSJP received training through the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program as well as the International Law Enforcement Academy in Gaborone. ATA assistance focused primarily on building technical capacity for improved crisis response and border security. The ATA program also provided technical assistance to the DNP and gendarmerie at Ambouli International, Djibouti’s largest airport. The program aims to improve the ability of airport security staff to identify and react to potential terrorist threats. The DNP, National Gendarmerie, and the NSJP also received training through the FBI’s Legal Attaché office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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 PISCES. While the airport and seaport remain important entry points, the vast majority of travelers cross into Djibouti by land at three border points, one of which is the Loyada crossing at the Somali border, which was upgraded with U.S. funding.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Djibouti is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a FATF-style regional body. In 2018, Djibouti’s FIU, the Financial Information Service (SRF), organized four workshops on AML/CFT for compliance officers and other relevant stakeholders, including law enforcement authorities, the Ministry of Justice, reporting entities, and regulators. The SRF, which was previously housed in the Central Bank of Djibouti, moved into separate offices and began operating independently of the Central Bank, although they still share a budget. The SRF increased its staffing and training, expanding its core functions and improving its ability to supervise, coordinate, and investigate money laundering and terrorist financing matters. The SRF referred several cases of money laundering to law enforcement authorities.

Countering Violent Extremism: In November, ICEPCVE hosted a conference for local and regional community leaders and law enforcement officials to discuss public security and community policing.  The forum focused on promoting preventive techniques to combat violent extremism at the community level. In May, ICEPCVE held a workshop for East Africa CVE researchers who received US $5,000 sub-grants to conduct CVE research in their countries.  ICEPCVE also hosted a “Digital Hub” on their website where researchers could exchange ideas and access a library with more than 100 scholarly articles related to countering and preventing terrorism in East Africa.

International and Regional Cooperation:  Djibouti is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Djibouti hosts the Intergovernmental Authority on Development headquarters. The Djiboutian military continued its participation in AMISOM, which includes military forces from Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda. Although not a member, Djibouti also participated in GCTF regional workshops and events.