Djibouti: A November 1991 government attack on Obock city, the number of casualties and the treatment of the Afar in Obock by the current government (1991-1998)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||1 October 1998|
|Citation / Document Symbol||DJI30297.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Djibouti: A November 1991 government attack on Obock city, the number of casualties and the treatment of the Afar in Obock by the current government (1991-1998), 1 October 1998, DJI30297.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ac1150.html [accessed 7 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
A professor of history at the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts, who specializes in the history and politics of Somalia, stated that the conflict in Obock in November 1991 almost culminated in a "civil war" (14 Oct. 1998). He explained that Obock is predominantly an Afar territory. He stated that the issue of contention was the distribution of power between the Issa and the Afar because the latter are treated as second class citizens in Djibouti. He also said that although the Afar are represented in the current government, their representatives do not wield any political clout, and the interests of the Afar are not met.
This information is corroborated by Reuter reports which state that Djibouti comprises a population of 500,000 people equally divided between the Issas and the Afars (6 Aug. 1992; ibid. 14 Feb. 1992). However, the government is dominated by the Issa and it refuses to accept "the validity of Afar demands" (ibid.).
According to Jane's Intelligence Review, there were clashes between the Djibouti National Security Forces and the Afar community in June and November 1991, and June 1992 in the towns of Obock and Tadjoura (1 Dec. 1992). Reuters reports that "An estimated 3,000 fighters of the Afar-led Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD) quickly captured most of north" (14 Feb. 1994).
The FRUD led by Adoyta Yussuf launched full-scale guerrilla activities in the northern towns of Tadjoura and Obock. Guerrilla forces intensified their attacks on November 11-12. Following FRUD's attack on Obock on November 15-16, the French army evacuated French nationals from Obock and Tadjoura. Government leaders insisted that FRUD guerillas were Ethiopian militia seeking to build a greater Afaria (Nance Profile n.d).
In response, government forces reportedly unleashed "brutal repression" on the local population causing about one third of Obock's 10,000 people to flee the area (Janes's Intelligence Review 1 Dec. 1992). In the aftermath of the conflict, fourteen Afar deputies collectively resigned from the Issa-dominated government of President Gouled (Africa Research Bulletin Jan. 1992, 10427).
Reports on the number of casualties are inconsistent. An 18 November 1991 AFP report states that six people, a woman and five men, including a Muslim cleric were killed. Another AFP report states that there were "several injured people" admitted to a military hospital in Djibouti (23 Nov. 1991), According to a military spokesman, "30 rebels were killed and two captured, while the government forces lost two dead and six wounded" (Reuter 15 Dec. 1991). In another report, the government claimed to have inflicted "massive losses," "routed the armed groups," which left "12 dead and one wounded." (BBC Summary 5 Dec. 1991).
Amnesty International 1991 states that after the outbreak of the fighting, government forces claimed to have captured 232 guerrillas (1992, 102). Other sources alleged however, that this figure included opponents of the government who had not been involved in the fighting. A FRUD spokesperson, Dr. Abatte Eboh, who had been engaged in talks with the government to end the fighting, was "arrested on 17 December and charged with seeking to overthrow the government" (1992, 102).
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.
Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series [Oxford]. January 1992. "Djibouti: Afar Resignations."
Agence France Presse (AFP). 23 November 1991. "Refugees from Violence-Hit Town Arrive in Capital." (NEXIS)
_____. 18 November 1991. "Six Said Killed by Troops in Northern Djibouti." (NEXIS)
Amnesty International. Amnesty International Reports 1991. 1992. "Djibouti."
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. "Jibuti Attack on Obock Barracks by foreign Troups repulsed." (NEXIS)
Jane's Intelligence Review [London]. 1 December 1992. Vol. 4. No. 12. "Domestic Unrest." (NEXIS).
History professor specializing in Somalia's history and politics. College of Holy Cross, Massachusetts. 14 October. 1998. Telephone interview.
Nance Profile. n.d. "The Afar." [Internet]
Reuters. 6 August 1992. "Hundreds Reported Dying of Starvation in Djibouti Revolt." (NEXIS)
____. 14 February 1992. Jonathan Clayton. "France and Former Colony Fall out Over Afar Rebellion." (NEXIS).
_____. "Djibouti Army Destroys Rebel Base." (NEXIS)