Djibouti - US Relations
The United States partners with Djibouti to help mitigate internal and external security threats. The United States established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Djibouti in 1977, following its independence from France, and had consular representation in the former colony of French Somaliland since 1929. Since independence, Djibouti has had two presidents: Hassan Gouled Aptidon, first elected in 1977 and ruled for 22 years until 1999, when the current president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, was elected. The country had a single legal party from 1981 to 1992. Additional political parties became legal and formed beginning in 1992. The country’s nearly decade-long internal conflict between the government and a rebel group officially ended in 2001.
Djibouti is located at a strategic point in the Horn of Africa and is a key U.S. partner on security, regional stability, and humanitarian efforts in the greater Horn. The Djiboutian government has been supportive of U.S. interests and takes a proactive position against terrorism. Djibouti hosts a U.S. military presence at Camp Lemonnier, a former French Foreign Legion base in the capital. The U.S. military also has access to port facilities and the airport by a bilateral agreement.
The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Food for Peace program maintains a warehouse for pre-positioned food assistance commodities in Djibouti, serving as a hub for rapid response in parts of Africa and Asia. International Broadcasting Bureau facilities in Djibouti transmit Arabic-language programming, and Voice of America Somali Service broadcasts to the Horn and the Arabian Peninsula.
Djibouti’s economic growth is hindered by a rapidly expanding workforce that is poorly matched to the economic needs of the country, resulting in high unemployment (48 percent), and a lack of qualified applicants for jobs in certain sectors. Other obstacles to growth include: high electricity costs and chronic water shortages, poor health indicators, food insecurity, and governance challenges. U.S. assistance aims to help improve health and education and to promote stability, which is critical to improving Djibouti's capacity to provide basic services to its people in the long term.
In education, USAID programming supports Ministry of Education efforts to train teachers, build its systems for managing strategic information, improve primary level reading achievement, and increase access to education, especially for girls. USAID is responding assisting with curriculum development and plans a pilot primary-level English language program.
In the area of health, USAID focuses on the health risks associated with Djibouti’s position as a migratory pathway and critical cross-border trade route. Programs focus on HIV/AIDS prevention and other support to the Ministry’s efforts to treat and prevent HIV, malaria, TB and polio. The U.S. is the largest donor to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria for Djibouti, contributing 30% of the total grant. In 2011, 1338 people were receiving ARV treatment for HIV, which represents 30% coverage on a national level. Unfortunately, 80% of HIV infections in Djibouti are diagnosed in the final stages of AIDS. Djibouti also faces the challenge of the third highest TB prevalence rate worldwide. A significant number of cases, approximately 100 per year, are diagnosed as multi-drug resistant TB, which is much more difficult to treat.
Through USAID’s Food for Peace PL 480 Title II program, we are also responding to the food insecurity that touches many Djiboutians hit hard by drought and other factors with food assistance. The U.S. contribution to the World Food Programme for Djibouti in 2013 is more than $4 million in various food commodities.
Djibouti is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). In 2009, a joint venture between Dubai Ports World and the Government of Djibouti led to the construction of a modern container terminal, which enabled the growth of their logistics and services sector. U.S. exports to Djibouti include vegetable oil, wheat, machinery, and foodstuffs. U.S. imports typically transit Djibouti from origin countries farther inland, like Ethiopia. These imports include coffee, vegetables, and perfumery and cosmetics. Additionally, Djibouti’s port serves landlocked Ethiopia which receives substantial U.S. food aid. The United States has signed a trade and investment framework agreement with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, of which Djibouti is a member.
The U.S. government remains concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens, whether visiting or residing in Djibouti, and perceived U.S. and foreign interests. Attacks may target official government facilities, including embassies and military installations, as well as soft targets such as restaurants, clubs, hotels, and other commercial entities. The Government of Djibouti continues to pursue members of Al-Shabaab involved in a May 2014 terrorist attack.
On May 24, 2014, two suicide bombers attacked a restaurant popular with foreigners in Djibouti’s city center. One person was killed and several others were severely injured. Al-Shabaab claimed initial responsibility and stated that it intended to conduct similar attacks in Djibouti against both native and foreign targets in the future. Such threats have recurred repeatedly since 2011 following Djibouti’s commitment to contribute military forces to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
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