Djibouti: A Hotspot for Radicalization

July 21, 2016 by Janelle P in Africa

On the one hand, Djibouti has made considerable strides in the past decade in developing its port, economy and banking sector, making it attractive for foreign business and military investments. Within this context it is expected that Djibouti’s economy will continue to grow.

On the other hand, it is likely that Djibouti will continue to face challenges such as serious unemployment, a severe lack of skilled workers, chronic drought and potential famine, high electricity costs and young, underdeveloped government institutions. This mix of factors is currently already leading to poverty and political tension; a need is felt for more inclusive governmental policies, a more equal distribution of revenues across the population, an improved energy infrastructure and a significant decrease of corruption within the ruling elite.

In Djibouti, these issues, as seen across many parts of Africa, are compounded by a considerable demographic challenge in the form of its large youth population, which is particularly affected by the high unemployment.

It is expected that this trend will continue to lead to a continuation of repressive actions to keep the Djibouti society in line with elite interests. At present, it seems that Djiboutian society prefers democracy, this is combined with the government’s commitment to moderate Islam and combat radicalism –, as a form of protection against the rise of Islamic radicalism in the country. However, a pervasive interest in a more liberal political system could very well destabilize the current political system.

President Guelleh responded to anti-government civil unrest with a mixture of superficial liberal moves and repressive actions of a rather autocratic nature. The position of the church is vulnerable. Due to the interest of the international community in a strong security partner and a stable Djibouti, it is likely that the same international community will willingly overlook political repression and other forms of human rights violations in exchange for continued internal stability. This could further anger the population and foment increased levels of anti-government sentiment across the country and subsequently impact negatively on the church and Christians in Djibouti.

The Djiboutian state might well clamp down on groups they cannot control. Or Muslim groups could further radicalize and blame Christians – as allegedly associates of the West – of supporting the regime and defending its repressive nature. The fact that the region has become a hotspot for radicalization, the future of Djibouti would also largely dependent on developments in the rest of the region.

*Representative names and photo to protect persecuted Christians

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