Djibouti is a republic with a strong elected president and a weak legislature. In February 2008 President Ismail Omar Guelleh's five-party coalition, the "Union for a Presidential Majority," which includes the former opposition rebel movement, won all 65 seats in a National Assembly contest. Three opposition parties boycotted the race. International observers from the African Union (AU) and the Arab League considered the election generally free and fair. In June 2008 Eritrean troops exchanged fire with Djiboutian troops at Ras Doumeira peninsula, along the Djibouti‑Eritrea border, and near the strategic Bab‑al‑Mandeb Strait between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. At the end of 2008 Eritrean troops continued to occupy the country's territory, despite condemnations by the UN, Arab League, and the AU. Djiboutian civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces. Although the government's human rights record has improved, serious human rights problems remain, including harsh but improving prison conditions, corruption, official impunity, arbitrary arrest and detention, prolonged pretrial detention, and restrictions on freedom of the press, assembly, association and on privacy rights.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
Supporting the country's efforts to increase democratic transparency and accountability is a top U.S. Government priority. As the country prepares for key 2011 presidential and regional elections, the U.S. Government will assist by strengthening electoral institutions and processes, increasing voter participation, promoting voter education, and ensuring vigorous and diverse democratic debate. The U.S. Government also plans to support election-related programs that provide technical assistance and training for officials; civil society members; political parties, and the media. The goal is to support a pluralistic, fair, broad-based, and representative environment. Recognizing that the country's ongoing decentralization is a crucial step towards giving greater democratic voice to ordinary citizens, the United States supports the country's fledgling regional governments as they take on increasing responsibility. The United States also supports a more vocal role for the country's civil society.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The U.S. Government uses programming to strengthen political and electoral processes. When the country held legislative elections in February 2008, the United States contributed both material assistance and expert technical advice and training. The United States donated computers and other equipment to the Electoral Commission and provided a team of election specialists who trained more than 300 leaders of polling stations and Electoral Commission staff members and delegates.
The current election assistance built on an ongoing program of U.S. support for strengthened electoral processes, productive political competition, and consensus-building. Looking ahead to the 2011 elections, the United States continues to provide programming that ensures credible election administration and effective oversight, encourages political party development, and promotes voter education. The U.S. Government works with a broad range of government and civil society actors including civil servants, elected officials, political parties, community associations, and the media.
The U.S. Government continues to support local civic groups, school parent-teacher associations, and local health committees that help oversee rural health clinics. These actions underscore the goal of helping civil society to become a more active participant in the electoral process, a stronger partner in the country's development, and a more robust source of oversight and support to social institutions. The U.S. Government also worked with the government to provide anticorruption programming for civil servants, parliamentarians, and civil society through technical assistance, training, and support for public service messages in the media.
To ensure that core messages on democracy and human rights reach the widest possible audiences in the country, the U.S. Government works with Radio/Television Djibouti to air radio programming addressing the themes of democratic values, good governance, equal opportunity, and human rights.