Police crack down on rare protest in Djibouti

Police threw teargas grenades at a crowd to break up a protest in Tadjourah, Djibouti, on 14 May. Dozens of protesters had gathered to denounce alleged nepotism after the recruitment of 76 new civil servants linked to the construction of a new port in Tadjourah and placed stones and tyres on a main road to block traffic. According to a local civil society source, some protesters suffered gunshot wounds, including one who is severely injured.

According to one source present at the protest, one grenade hit a house which then burnt to the ground. RFI reported that around 80 arrests took place, although most were later released. Six individuals arrested at the protest were presented to the prosecutor’s office on 18 May and charged with threatening public order. They were later transferred to Gabode central prison for pre-trial custody.

“The use of unnecessary and excessive force during protests or peaceful gatherings in Djibouti strengthens the prevalent climate of repression in the country”, said Clementine de Montjoye, Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator for CIVICUS. 

“The government must drop all charges against the peaceful protesters and explicitly protect and promote the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in law and in practise.”

Protests in Djibouti are rare and the police have used excessive force to disperse crowds. In December 2015, at least 27 people were killed and over 150 injured when security forces shot live bullets into a crowd during a public gathering for a religious celebration. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Djibouti is severely restricted and Article 15 of the Constitution of Djibouti only broadly guarantees “the full enjoyment of public rights and freedoms”. The Penal Code broadly criminalises public assemblies considered likely to “disturb public order”. 

Civic space in Djibouti is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor, a tool that tracks the state of civil society in all countries.