SEATTLE — Violations of human rights in Djibouti are an alarming concern within its borders and abroad. They have escalated to the point of surrounding nations determining whether or not Djibouti’s government has committed crimes against humanity. The most visible instances of these violations are made apparent through Djibouti’s corrupt government, the absence of freedom of the press, and crimes against women.
Many of the problems with human rights in Djibouti are rooted in its corrupt government. Given that the government is fully controlled by a single party (the Union for the Presidential Majority), the rights of citizens are nearly nonexistent due to the lack of political diversity. Citizens who openly disagree with legislation passed by the party are harassed, arrested or even tortured.
Another aspect of government corruption that affects human rights in Djibouti is fiscal irresponsibility. Stationed in one of the most ideal seaports in Africa, Djibouti’s economy should be sufficient in providing for the needs of the country. According to President Guelleh, the government receives $40 million in profits from its port. What is shocking about this statement is that this funding does not appear in the official records for Djibouti’s national budget. This has made citizens, as well as international aid donors, question how Djibouti is utilizing its funds if the majority of people in Djibouti are still living in poverty. Corruption in Djibouti’s government is a well-known issue internationally, yet no high-level civil servants have received punishment for their crimes.
This has made citizens, as well as international aid donors, question how Djibouti is utilizing its funds if the majority of people in Djibouti are still living in poverty. Corruption in Djibouti’s government is a well-known issue internationally, yet no high-level civil servants have received punishment for their crimes.
No independent media exists in Djibouti. In order for the UMP to promote governmental propaganda and to prevent formations of other political parties, the party has enacted several methods to keep opposing forces down such as abducting journalists, threatening news reporters from other countries and silencing human rights activists for promoting ideas which did not align with governmental ideals. Without the presence of the media to share their plight, the most vulnerable citizens of Djibouti are left without a voice.
Despite the presence of legislation that protects women from rape, domestic abuse, and female genital mutilation, many women living in Djibouti still suffer from these horrific violations. Djiboutian law sentences rapists to up to 20 years’ imprisonment but does not include spousal rape. Of the rapes that occur in Djibouti, many end up unreported because many women are aware of the unstable judicial system that overlooks these crimes.
Domestic abuse follows a similar trend in that it is commonplace in many Djiboutian households but goes unattended by the law. As for female genital mutilation, more than 78 percent of girls and women in Djibouti between the age of 15 and 49 have been subject to the practice, according to a 2012 Ministry of Health survey. Although the minimal, government-sponsored media outlets have promoted education to stop this practice, it is still a prevalent issue for women.
If human rights in Djibouti are ever to improve, then the government must take full action in enforcing its legislation. The Djiboutian constitution affords complete political rights to its citizens, yet many suffer due to the lack of initiative law enforcement takes to protect them. Instead of merely tolerating, or worse, ignoring the rampant corruption within Djibouti’s government, international aid programs must bring to light how and where Djibouti is spending its budget.
– Kaitlin Hocker