4 – Systematic violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index


The ITUC affiliate in Djibouti is the Union Djiboutienne du Travail (UDT).

Djibouti ratified Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948) in 1978 and Convention No. 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949) in 1978.

In practice

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Repression against railway workers09-07-2019

Railway workers employed by the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) suffered a multi-week suspension after protesting low wages, insecure jobs and poor working conditions including a lack of drinking water, toilets and accommodation. The Chinese state-owned company refused to abide by Djibouti’s labour code and did not respond to a request from national trade union centre UDT to discuss and resolve the problems.

“Djibouti has a very poor track record on workers’ rights, with workers who seek trade union representation often subject to rights violations, as well as ongoing repression against the leaders of the trade union centres UDT and UGTD. The ITUC calls on the government to immediately release the detained teachers and drop the fabricated charges against them. It must also ensure that the railway workers are reinstated and compensated, and that the Chinese conglomerate that employs them pays fair wages and provides decent working conditions,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

Teachers are being unfairly imprisoned26-06-2019

Six teachers were arrested in Djibouti on charges of having disclosed the contents of the 2019 baccalaureate examination. These educators are Mohamed Samireh, Abdoul-Mahin Hassan, Youssouf Mohamed Hamid, Moussa Djama Ali, Abdourazak Ibrahim, and Kassim Abdoulkader. They remained in custody for several weeks despite the court having issued a provisional release order, following an appeal by the public prosecutor.

A seventh teacher, Oumalkhaire Farah Robleh, expressed her support for her imprisoned colleagues on social media and was given a three-month suspended sentence for defamation. She only avoided a prison sentence due to being eight months pregnant.

The Comité syndical francophone de l’éducation et de la formation (Francophone Trade Union Committee for Education and Training; CSFEF), an organisation of education unions from the French-speaking world and part of Education International (EI), received news of the arrests from the two education unions affiliated to EI in the country, the Syndicat des enseignants et personnels de l’éducation (SEP) and the Syndicat des professeurs des collèges et lycées de Djibouti (SYNESED), along with the Union Djiboutienne des travailleurs (UDT). According to these unions, the accusations are totally unfounded.

“These teachers, four of whom are union activists, are highly competent and diligent professionals working in high schools in Djibouti. They had no way of getting access to the baccalaureate exam contents in advance,” stressed CSFEF President Jean-Hervé Cohen in a press release of 23 June 2019.

SEP deputy general secretary and founder of the Djiboutian League for Human Rights, Omar Ali Ewado, said: “…these teachers have been made scapegoats. The exam contents were never disclosed on social media. They did not attempt to bring about the ’destabilization of the education system’ by posting these contents on social media.” Djibouti has a very poor track record on workers’ rights and especially freedom of association.

In addition to the criminal proceedings being brought against them, the seven teachers have learned that they will also face disciplinary action that could lead to their dismissal.

In a joint letter to the president of Djibouti, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, EI and CSFEF, together with SEP and SYNESED, have demanded the immediate release of the teachers, an end to the disciplinary proceedings being brought against them, and a pledge to respect freedom of association for all teachers in Djibouti.

International trade union mission obstructed by the authorities10-10-2017

A visit by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), mutually agreed upon between the labour minister of Gabon and the ITUC during the ILO’s International Labour Conference in June 2017, was finally postponed until a later, undefined date, on 26 September, by the Ministry’s secretary general, just days ahead of the visit scheduled to take place from 2 to 4 October.
The Francophone trade union committee for education and training CSFEF (Comité Syndical Francophone de l’Éducation et de la Formation), and Education International (IE) were prevented from taking part in the visit. Jean Hervé Cohen of the CSFEF was not able to obtain a visa through Djibouti’s embassy in Paris, and Dominique Marlet from EI was turned back at the airport, despite holding a valid visa delivered by Djibouti’s embassy in Brussels.

Complaint submitted to the International Labour Organization02-07-2017

Trade unions affiliated to the UDT (Union Djiboutienne du Travail) and the UGTD (Union Générale des Travailleurs Djiboutiens) submitted a complaint to the director-general of the International Labour Office (ILO) in Geneva over the government’s manipulation of the trade union delegation during the ILO’s International Labour Conference in June 2017. In a letter dated 22 May, the general secretaries of the UDT, Adan Mohamed Abdou, and the UGTD, Kamil Diraneh Hared, denounced that in spite of sending the Djiboutian labour minister the list of two representatives nominated by their trade unions, the government appointed a false delegation of persons that did not belong to their trade unions and were therefore usurping the names of the UDT and the UGTD.

Trade union leaders arrested for expressing solidarity with Turkish trade unions 30-03-2017

Omar Ali Ewado, deputy general secretary of the primary school teachers’ union SEP (Syndicat des Enseignants du Premier Degré de Djibouti) and the SEP’s general secretary, Ahmed Khadar Nour, were arrested by Djibouti’s intelligence services, the SDS, on 19 and 21 March, respectively.
The two union leaders were accused of defamation and offensive conduct after sending a letter to the Turkish president through the Turkish embassy in Djibouti. The letter, drawn up by Education International (EI), was part of a global solidarity campaign with the Turkish education union Egitim-Sen, and in protest at the dismissals and arrests of Turkish teachers since the failed coup of July 2016. The Education Ministry reportedly initiated disciplinary proceedings against them for “abandonment of post” during their detention.
Thanks to the large-scale mobilisation of the international education community, the two union leaders were finally released on 27 March after spending eight days behind bars. These arrests form part of a long line of detentions targeting members of the opposition and civil society and were made within the context of a very worrying anti-union climate in the country. The authorities have given no explanation for the arrests.

Intervention in strike actions and anti-union discrimination19-08-2013

Dock workers who had gone on a legitimate strike were detained for 10 days. 9 union members and one union leader were dismissed as a result of the strike.

Intimidation of trade union leaders19-08-2013

Police are constantly watching the house of the General Secretary of the Union of Djibouti Workers. The General Secretary’s family received frequent threats so they had to move to Ethiopia.

Occupation of trade union office19-08-2013

The office of the Union of Djibouti Workers was occupied for one year by the Youth and Sports Ministry.

No access to effective systems to remedy violations19-08-2013

Union lawyers are intimidated by threats so that unions have limited access to lawyers to defend their cases in court.

Workers are excluded from freedom of association19-08-2013

Workers in companies such as Machida Transit and taxi drivers were prevented from establishing a union. Civil personnel in the French army were prevented from joining a union.

Promotion of yellow unions by the government19-08-2013

The government is providing financial resources to yellow unions which are represented in tripartite bodies and at international level.

Union accounts have been frozen19-08-2013

The government is a shareholder in many banks and has frozen unions’ accounts and prevented unions from receiving external funds.

Infringements of basic freedoms30-06-2013

The General Secretary of the Union of Djibouti Workers was stopped from traveling to Geneva in June 2012 by the President of Djibouti.

Harassment and repression immobilise unions31-12-2011

As in previous years, the ILO expressed its deep concern at the government’s blatant lack of any real will to address several cases of trade unions rights violations. Trade union representatives and members are subjected to constant harassment by the authorities. The government accuses trade union activists of being enemies of the state, and as a such, they are arrested, imprisoned, transferred or dismissed. Strikes are brutally repressed. Organisations are refused registration or are made so weak that in effect they can no longer operate.

Trade union activities impossible in companies operating in export processing zone31-12-2010

Trade union activities have become impossible in certain companies operating under the export processing zone regulations such as Port Secure Djibouti, Djibouti Container Services or Djibouti Labour Service. The absence of laws governing labour relations in the export processing zone, in the national legislation and in the specific export processing zone code, turns these companies into zones without rights. Workers who wish to remain anonymous, explained that their employers forbid all contact with trade unions and that they do not dare to demand better working conditions as the slightest complaint results in automatic dismissal.

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