Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 11:55 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Djibouti

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Djibouti, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
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.

Population: 864,000
Capital: Djibouti
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The government and employers continued to base their actions on a labour law which is anti-trade union in order to repress independent trade union activities. Hundreds of dockers and railway workers were arrested during strikes.


Freedom of association is strictly regulated by a 2006 Labour Code that can at best be described as unfriendly to unions. When registering a trade union, the Minister of Labour takes into account not only the appropriate union documents, but also reports by the Labour inspector, thereby giving virtual discretionary powers to the public authorities. The Law on Associations also requires prior authorisation in order to register a union. Any changes in a union's statutes or leadership must go through the same procedures as when registering the union.

Furthermore, if one of the ministries demands the dissolution of a union, the Chief Public Prosecutor can approach a civil court to obtain said dissolution. Accession to union office means the almost automatic suspension of the employment contract, and any person convicted "by any court" may not hold a leadership position. The President has vast powers to requisition civil servants in essential services.


Background: In April, the pro President Ismaël Omar Guelleh parliament unanimously voted to change the Constitution allowing the head of state to run for another term in the presidential elections scheduled for 2011.

Trade unions harassed and weakened: In March 2010, the ILO expressed its deep concern at the government's complete lack of goodwill to settle several cases of trade union rights' violations. For several years, trade unionists and members have been subjected to constant harassment by the authorities. The government accuses trade union activists of being the enemies of the nation and as a result, they are arrested, imprisoned, transferred or dismissed. Strikes are brutally repressed. Organisations are refused registration or are made so weak that in practice, they can no longer function.

Trade union activities impossible in companies operating in export processing zone: Trade union activities have become impossible in certain companies operating under the export processing zone regulations such as Port Secure Djibouti, Djibouti Container Services or Djibouti Labour Service. The absence of laws governing labour relations in the export processing zone, in the national legislation and in the specific export processing zone code, turns these companies into zones without rights. Workers who wish to remain anonymous, explained that their employers forbid all contact with trade unions and that they do not dare to demand better working conditions as the slightest complaint results in automatic dismissal.

Mass arrests of railway workers: On three occasions during the year, the armed forces repressed railway workers' strikes. On 6 and 7 March, more than 164 railway workers were arrested and held for several hours. On 28 November, approximately ten workers were once again arrested by the police and released after 48 hours in custody. At the end of the year, salary arrears, the basis for the protest actions, reached seven months.

One hundred striking dockers arrested, their trade union continuously prevented from carrying out its activities: On 1 August, a docker's strike calling on the port authorities, the DP World group (Dubai), to pay a premium owed, was repressed by the armed forces. Approximately one hundred dockers were arrested and held for a short period. It must be pointed out that the docker's trade union has been virtually unable to carry out any activities for several years. According to a December press release by the Association pour le respect des droits de l'homme à Djibouti (ARDHD) and the Union djiboutienne du travail (UDT), all recent attempts to organise trade union elections have failed because of repression by employers and the Djiboutian authorities. Several dockers used "trade union alibis". Many others suspected of being leaders or just because they demanded their rights, had their dockers' cards withdrawn and were therefore unable to work.

UDT General Secretary stopped at the airport: On 12 December at Djibouti airport, police prevented Adan Mohamed Abdou, General Secretary of the Union djiboutienne du travail (UDT) from taking a plane to Morocco. They confiscated his passport and his ticket, informing him that they were following orders from their superiors. The trade union leader was due to participate in a regional conference in Rabat organised by the Organisation arabe du travail (OAT) and the ILO. The government is now in the habit of trying to keep dissenting voices away from tripartite international conferences and sending puppet trade unions representatives in their place.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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