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Djibouti: Marginalization of the Furlaba by President Guelleh in favour of the Mamassan within the government; dismissals of Furlaba senior civilian and military authorities; events of 7 December 2000, instigators and government retaliation

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Direction des recherches, Commission de l'immigration et du statut de réfugié, Canada
Publication Date 20 November 2001
Citation / Document Symbol DJI38046.F
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Djibouti: Marginalization of the Furlaba by President Guelleh in favour of the Mamassan within the government; dismissals of Furlaba senior civilian and military authorities; events of 7 December 2000, instigators and government retaliation, 20 November 2001, DJI38046.F, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to an article in the Somaliland weekly The Republican, the 15 most influential political figures in Djibouti who make up Djibouti's power circle are almost all closely related to President Ismail Omar Guelleh (30 Dec. 2000a). Many of them were born into the Issa Mamassan sub-clan, the President's clan of origin (The Republican 30 Dec. 2000a.). Among them are Hassan Saeed, director general of the Security Directorate; General Zakaria, Army Chief of Staff; Colonel Mahdi Sh Osman, commander of the presidential guard and the paramilitary police force; Colonel Abdi Kahin, commander of the Nagad maximum security prison; Colonel Hassan Jama, former commander of the Air Force, who is currently in the "Armed Forces combined command"; Jama Ali Ghelle, director general of Djibouti's electricity company; and Dr. Saeed Sheik, director general of the Medical Drugs Agency (ibid.). Only one of these figures was born into the Issa Furlaba sub-clan: Mohammed Qumane, national treasurer, who is married to former president Hassan Gouled's niece (ibid.).

An article that appeared in the July-August 2000 issue of Nouvel Afrique-Asie states that members of the Mamassan clan – to which President Guelleh belongs – have control over the most important government functions, including the public treasury, security, port-related activities and electricity. According to this article, an increasing number of Issa clan members are opposing this monopolization of power, which has been exacerbated by the deterioration of the economy (Nouvel Afrique-Asie July-Aug. 2000).    

An article dated 14 December 2000 in Mandeeq, a Somaliland newspaper, states that Djiboutian authorities arrested some 50 people suspected of being involved in the aborted coup attempt that was led a few days earlier by Djibouti's police chief, General Yacin Yabeh Galab. All the people arrested were of the Issa Furlaba sub-clan, to which General Galab also belongs (Mandeeq 14 Dec. 2000). Among them were professionals from the government and the private sector, women, and elderly people from the Furlaba sub-clan (ibid.).

An article in The Republican states that, on 16 December 2000, Djiboutian army units were sent to the town of Ali Sabieh, in southern Djibouti (30 Dec. 2000b). The population of this town, which is mostly Furlaba, was suspected of having supported the coup attempt fomented by General Yacin Yabeh Galab (The Republican 30 Dec. 2000b).

President Guelleh's dismissal of General Yacin Yabeh Galab prompted a show of force by the police, who on 7 December 2000 positioned themselves at strategic locations in downtown Djiboutiville, in particular in front of the president's office and residence, and occupied the national radio-television premises (AFP 8 Dec. 2000; ibid. 7 Dec. 2000). Following a shoot-out between military personnel and the police, which apparently caused five deaths (ibid. 8 Dec. 2000), General Galab took refuge at the French air base in Djibouti and was handed over to the Djiboutian government by French authorities (MDP 29 Dec. 2000). The former police chief and 12 of his officers were then accused of murder, conspiracy and treason (AFP 14 Dec. 2000; IRIN 2‑8 June 2001), which are crimes punishable by 15 to 20 years of imprisonment (AFP 14 Dec. 2000). In June 2001, General Galab was released on bail so that he could receive medical attention while awaiting his trial (IRIN 2-8 June 2001).

In an information note dated 11 November 2001, the Djiboutian Human Rights League (Ligue djiboutienne des droits humains, LDDH) deplored the slow progress of justice for the 13 officers and sub-officers of the National Police Force (Force nationale de police, FNP) arrested and incarcerated at the Gabode prison on 13 December 2000. The LDDH also demanded a fair trial for these officers [translation] "that is not tainted by unacceptable irregularities and continual violations of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in particular, of the articles concerning the length of temporary detentions" (LDDH 11 Nov. 2001).   

No other information about the Issa Mamassan sub-clan's grip on Djiboutian power at the expense of the Issa Furlaba sub-clan and the consequences of General Yacin Yabeh Galab's failed coup attempt could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

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 additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 14 December 2000. "Djibouti Police Chief Charged with Murder After Mutiny." (Horseed Online Newspaper) [Accessed 16 Nov. 2001]

_____. 8 December 2000. "Mutinerie : l'ex-chef de la police de Djibouti en fuite mais 'localisé'." (NEXIS)

_____. 7 December 2000. "Des policiers en colère dans Djibouti-ville, des coups de feu entendus." (NEXIS)

Integration Regional Information Network (IRIN). 2-8 June 2001. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). "Horn of Africa: IRIN-HOA Weekly Round-up 40-Djibouti: Leader of failed Coup Attempt Released."    [Accessed 16 Nov. 2001]

Ligue djiboutienne des droits humains (LDDH). 11 November 2001. Note d'information nº 24/01/LDDH.

[Accessed 19 Nov. 2001]

Mandeeq [Hargeysa, in Somali]. 14 December 2000. "Djibouti: About 50 Arrested in Connection with Aborted Coup - Somaliland Paper."    (BBC Worldwide Monitoring 14 Dec. 2000/NEXIS)

Moulin du pont (MDP). 29 December 2000. "Le gouvernement djiboutien en alerte." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2001]

Nouvel Afrique-Asie [Paris]. July-August 2000. No. ooooo130-131. Sy Savané Mamadou Saliou. "La marche hésitante vers la paix." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2001]

The Republican [Hargeysa, in English]. 30 December 2000a. No. 142. "Djibouti - A Safe Heaven [sic] for International Drug Money Laundering." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2001]

_____. 30 December 2000b. No. 142. "Massive Search for Weapons in Djibouti." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2001]

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Confidential [London]

Africa Research Bulletin [Oxford, U.K.]

IRB Databases

Resource Centre country file: Djibouti

Internet sites including:

Amnesty International

Association pour le respect des droits de l'homme à Djibouti (ARDHD)

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

La Liberté (Djiboutian opposition newspaper)

World News Connection (WNC)

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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