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Country Reports

Djibouti Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh's family extends across sub-clans of the Issa and Issaq, dominating the economy and government. Power likely will be transferred to Guelleh's adviser, Naguib Abdallah Kamil, before the 2021 presidential election to consolidate support from majority ethnic-Afar voters. The ruling Union for a Presidential Majority (Union Pour la Majorité Présidentelle: UMP) controls 89% of parliamentary seats. IHS Markit forecasts Djibouti’s real GDP to contract by 6.5% in 2020, as key services are disrupted by COVID-19, especially trade, port activities, and military logistics for foreign governments. Djibouti's foreign reserves for import coverage reduced from 6.8 months on 2017 to 5.0 months in 2019. Access to large quantities of foreign exchange requires a local partner affiliated with the president's inner circle. Djibouti's fiscal base is not well-diversified and dependent on port logistics. A forecast budget deficit of 10.9% of GDP in 2019 probably will widen, indicating pressure to raise fiscal revenues. Immediate targets are French-owned renewable energy projects, which face contract cancellation and retendering to Chinese or Turkish investors if progress is not expedited. A legal framework for the privatisation of state-owned enterprises was tabled in July 2019, indicating that revenues will be raised from selling the state-owned airline, which is affiliated with President Guelleh's son, and telecommunications. Reduced port tariffs on Ethiopian exports will likely continue throughout Ethiopia's state of emergency over COVID-19.The judiciary and central bank are subject to political control. Legal protections for infrastructure developers are weak given the government can unilaterally cancel any contract with little justification. A truce in November 2019 between President Guelleh and Djibouti's wealthiest businessperson, Abdourahman Boreh, indicates that the privileged access of Chinese state-owned companies to the logistics and port sector will likely diminish. UAE-based DP-World's Doraleh Container Terminal contract was cancelled in February 2018 and the government lacks capacity to pay USD385 million in compensation ordered through arbitration.
Last update: September 19, 2020

Operational Outlook

President Guelleh's extended family dominates the construction, logistics, telecommunications, and tourism sectors through Issa and Issaq sub-clans. Parastatal companies affiliated with the health minister, who is challenging the president's succession plans, are likely to be targeted by an anti-corruption audit in 2020. Personalised commercial relationships expose foreign investors to bribery and corruption risks when dealing with Djiboutian contractors. Bribes are typically sought when bidding for tenders and companies in favour with the ruling family are typically given an unfair advantage. Private-sector labour unrest is rare and the government exercises punitive legal powers in response.

Last update: June 17, 2020

Terrorism

Moderate

Elements of the now largely dismantled anti-government FRUD-Armé are likely to exploit grievances among ethnic-Afar stemming from the political domination of the Issa clan. The Djiboutian military has neutralised the FRUD-Armé's capability to conduct small arms attacks against military assets and convoys in the Obock region. Separately, Djibouti's military participation in the regional African Union Mission in Somalia and hosting of French and US military bases make it an aspirational target for Al-Shabaab militants. However, the group has limited access to local support networks that are typically necessary to evade the security services during the planning and preparation phases. Western hotels are otherwise priority targets.

Last update: June 17, 2020

Crime

Opportunistic petty crimes are common, motivated by the high level of unemployment among youth. Most reported incidents have involved pick-pocketing and minor theft in which violence is uncommon and limited to cases in which those targeted resist. The rural population in some parts of Obock, Tadjourah, and Dikhil has access to small arms (such as hunting rifles), so violent crime does occur occasionally. Early prisoner releases to ease prison congestion during the COVID-19 pandemic will likely lead to an increase in petty crime after the lifting of lockdown measures designed to combat the spread of the virus.

Last update: June 17, 2020

War Risks

The primary interstate war threat to Djibouti stems from the government's dispute with neighbouring Eritrea over sovereignty of the strategic Doumeira Mountains. Progress towards a resolution is likely to be slow during 2020 as Eritrea has been unwilling to engage in United Nations-facilitated arbitration since the UN lifted sanctions against it in November 2018. An escalation to interstate war is unlikely, with China acting as a credible constraint to safeguard major economic and military investments in Djibouti. Escalation is unlikely, but a probable pathway would be elements of the Djiboutian government supporting ethnic-Issa protests along a key trade route in landlocked Ethiopia's Afar region.

Last update: June 17, 2020

Social Stability

Moderate

The opposition is not capable of effective anti-government demonstrations in large numbers in the capital, Djibouti City, primarily because the security forces exercise punitive powers. Any anti-government protests in Djibouti City ahead of the 2021 elections would likely last no longer than two days, and demonstrations outside the capital are unlikely because the ruling party has captured ethnic-Afar elites, reducing their incentive to support protest action. Afar residents in the Obock and Tadjoura state capitals probably will organise protests against government-backed land expropriation that involves Chinese, French, and Turkish companies. Anti-government protests in Tadjoura's capital would occur if the government supports Arta's ownership of the disputed Lake Assal region.

Last update: June 17, 2020

Health Risk

Very high

Vaccines required to enter the country

Yellow fever: There is no risk of contracting yellow fever in Djibouti. However, the government requires proof of vaccination for travelers arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease.

Vaccines recommended for all travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines recommended for most travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Malaria: There is currently no malaria vaccine. However, various antimalarial prophylactics are available by prescription and can reduce risk of infection by up to 90 percent. Different medications are prescribed depending on the risk level and the strains of the virus present in the destination. Antimalarial tablets need to be taken throughout the trip to be effective and may need to be taken for as long as four weeks following the trip.

Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).

Vaccines recommended for some travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Elevated

Djibouti is located in an active seismic zone.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Infrastructure

Transportation and hotel infrastructure is lacking.

Paved roads are rare and the majority of roads are in poor condition. In theory, landmines are no longer present in the country; however, to be on the safe side, it is advisable to not venture too far from marked roads. Travel in the interior of the country should been undertaken in a convoy of at least two vehicles.

The safety of train travel cannot be guaranteed. There is only one line linking Djibouti to Dire-Daoua in Ethiopia.

Finally, telecommunication networks are limited in the capital and practically nonexistent outside of the capital.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

The climate in Djibouti is hot and very arid.

Temperatures are the highest from May to October and this “hot season” can be grueling. The months from May to September are also very wet and humid. There is, however, no distinct rainy season.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +253
Police: 17
Fire Dept.: 18
Central Police Station: 35 38 91
National Gendarmerie: 35 10 03

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019