Overview: Djibouti remained a critical partner for the United States and the region in the fight against terrorism, and no terrorist incidents were reported in Djibouti in 2020. Since 2002, Djibouti has hosted Camp Lemonnier, the headquarters of AFRICOM’s Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and the only enduring U.S. military installation in Africa. Djiboutian law enforcement agencies continued to prioritize CT efforts throughout the country. As in previous years, Djiboutian government officials, particularly those in law enforcement and the Ministry of Islamic and Cultural Affairs, worked closely to identify and address terrorist activity. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is the regional organization for the Greater Horn of Africa, headquartered in Djibouti. IGAD’s Center of Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (ICEPCVE) provides training and resources to counter violent extremism throughout the region. Djibouti’s armed forces also deployed soldiers to the AMISOM campaign.
2020 Terrorist Attacks: There were no terrorist incidents reported in Djibouti in 2020.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There were no terrorism-related legislative changes in 2020. Djibouti has a legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related crimes and can try those charged of terrorism-related offenses in criminal courts, using its penal code. In November the Ministry of Justice issued life sentences to two accomplices in a 2014 suicide-bomber attack at a popular restaurant, La Chaumière. The government continued to use CT legislation to suppress anti-government criticism by arresting opposition figures and other activists.
Djiboutian law enforcement agencies consist of the Djiboutian National Police (DNP), the Djiboutian National Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie), the National Security Judiciary Police, and the Djiboutian National Coast Guard (Coast Guard) — all of which proactively detect, deter, and prevent acts of terrorism in the country. The DNP, the Gendarmerie, and the Coast Guard developed a biometric program that utilizes handheld biometric capture devices, which can generate a DNA profile. Once populated, the Gendarmerie and Coast Guard DNA database can be searched for identity and limited familial, including paternal, relationships. The DNP will manage and populate its own DNA database.
Djibouti continued to enhance border security and deter terrorist travel, with security protocols and increased use of criminal databases such as INTERPOL. The country also continued use PISCES to conduct traveler screening and process travelers through the international airport and seaports entry and exit points. While these entry points remain critical, the vast majority of travelers enter Djibouti by land at one of four border points, one of them at the Somali-Djibouti border. Djiboutian law enforcement agencies coordinate their CT functions and information sharing. The DNP controls border checkpoints, with support from the Gendarmerie patrolling between border posts, and the country’s armed forces are responsible for patrolling land borders in remote locations. To screen for potential security threats, law enforcement agencies also maintain checkpoints and conduct vehicle cordon-and-search operations within the capital city.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Djibouti’s financial intelligence unit (FIU) is Le Service de Renseignements Financiers (SRF). SRF oversees and enforces AML/CFT regulations. SRF conducted online trainings on detecting terrorism financing, including for financial institutions to identify potential terrorism financing threats among their NGO account holders. The FIU also signed MOUs with the Djibouti Tax Office and Djibouti Customs, intending to enhance cooperation between the two government agencies and SRF on countering terrorism financing. Djibouti is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), a FATF-style regional body.
Despite an economic slowdown brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in the second six months of 2020, Djibouti has achieved relatively steady economic growth over the past several years, and its strategic trading location in the Horn of Africa has facilitated the creation of an active trader and broker network. As the country seeks to increase investment and promote itself as a regional financial hub, it is increasingly susceptible to potential money laundering and other illicit financial activities. The country’s proximity to Somalia and Yemen remains a risk factor, as many Djibouti-based financial institutions continue to operate in neighboring countries that have weak or no AML/CFT legislation or other financial controls. In 2020 the World Bank funded a national risk assessment for money laundering and terrorist financing that covers all public and private institutions in the country and will continue until the end of 2021. There were no published law enforcement cases involving suspected terrorism financing in 2020.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Ministry of Justice continued to convene the National Anti-Terrorism Taskforce, consisting of a national commission of experts, including from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ICEPCVE. In 2020 the task force finalized work on a national Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) strategy. The task force also held several terrorism-related exercises on responses to and the prevention of terrorist attacks, enhancing protection of soft targets such as restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores.
Although law enforcement measures constitute the bulk of Djibouti’s national CT strategy, community engagement, including with youth, sports, and culture, is an increasingly important feature of its PCVE efforts. Law enforcement agencies continued to work with the High Islamic Council within the Ministry of Islamic and Cultural Affairs to identify and monitor activity that promoted violent extremism.
International and Regional Cooperation: Djibouti hosts IGAD’s headquarters offices and its executive secretariat. Additionally, the IGAD ICEPCVE is based in Djibouti and provided training and resources on PCVE throughout the region, including representatives from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The Djiboutian military continued its participation in AMISOM, which counts Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda as the other four Troop Contributing Countries.