U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Djibouti
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Djibouti, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa391c.html [accessed 20 June 2013]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
DJIBOUTIDespite 1992 constitutional changes that permitted the creation of four political parties, President Hassan Gouled Aptidon and the People's Rally for Progress (RPP), in power since independence in 1977, continue to rule the country. Two main ethnic groups hold most political power: Somali Issas (the tribe of the President), and Afars. Citizens from other Somali clans (Issak, Gadabursi, and Darod), and those of Yemeni and other origins, are limited in their access to top positions. In 1994 the Government and a faction of the Afar-led Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD) signed a peace accord, ending 3 years of civil war. In the accord, the Government agreed to recognize the FRUD as a legitimate political party. The Government named two FRUD leaders to cabinet positions in 1995; however, part of the FRUD rejected the peace accord and remains opposed to the Government. Two other legal political parties have existed since 1992, the National Democratic Party (PND) and the Party for Democratic Renewal (PRD); neither holds a parliamentary seat or a cabinet level post. In December the ruling party coalition that includes the FRUD party won all 65 seats in legislative elections. The elections took place without international observers, and the opposition claimed massive fraud. Presidential elections are scheduled for 1999. President Gouled implied that he would not run. The judiciary is not independent of the executive. The 8,000-member National Police Force (FNP) is responsible for internal security and border control, and is overseen by the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry of Defense controls the army and the gendarmerie, and a small intelligence bureau reports directly to the President. Civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces, but there were instances in which the security forces acted independently of the Government's authority; some members committed human rights abuses. Djibouti has little industry and few natural resources. Services provide most of the national income. Minor mineral deposits remain mostly unexploited. Only a tenth of the land is arable and 1 percent is forested. Outside the capital city, the primary economic activity is nomadic subsistence. People are free to pursue private business interests and to hold personal and real property. The part of the annual gross domestic product not generated by and for the expatriate community, which includes some 10,000 French citizens, is estimated at no more than $250 per capita annually. The Government's human rights record continued to be poor. Citizens have not yet been allowed to exercise the right to change their government. Members of the security forces committed at least one extrajudicial killing. There were credible reports that some members of the security forces beat and otherwise abused detainees and sexually assaulted female inmates. Prison conditions are harsh. The Government continued to harass, intimidate, and imprison political opponents and union leaders. The Government continued to arrest and detain persons arbitrarily and infringed upon citizens' right to privacy. Police occasionally jailed or intimidated journalists. The Government limited freedom of assembly, and freedom of association is restricted. Discrimination against women persists, and the practice of female genital mutilation continued to be widespread. Discrimination on the basis of ethnic background persists.