Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Djibouti

Delivered in Plenary - 4 July 2013

Mr President

As perhaps one of the few Members of this House who has actually visited Djibouti, I can advise colleagues that, having been to this country, it does have a lot to recommend it, by way of a marvellous combination of French and Somali cuisine and culture on the Red Sea. Nevertheless, it remains beyond doubt that there are serious deficiencies in its governance and that Djiboutiís authoritarian leadership regularly suppresses fundamental freedoms and restricts the actions of civil society and political opponents.

In my role as rapporteur for the Horn of Africa, I have always been clear that this regionís stability, security and prosperity must be accompanied by the construction and consolidation of truly democratic institutions and by the authoritiesí full respect for human rights and the rule of law. To this extent, we have numerous concerns about the allegations of widespread fraud in the recent elections, by violence against demonstrators and by the alleged ongoing detention of around 60 political prisoners. Nevertheless, we must also take into account the reports of election observers in Djibouti who regarded the vote in February as transparent and further noted that it was the first vote to feature multiple opposition candidates, which of course is something we should celebrate. This surely bodes well for the future, provided that the Djibouti authorities commit to further reforms and meaningful change.

Djibouti is a small state which could flourish and which deserves our full support in the European Union. It has contributed significantly in the fight against terrorism and maritime piracy. There are bases from Japan, from European countries, also the EU NAVFOR Atalanta CSDP anti-piracy mission regularly docks there, and we must continue to offer its forces support in this regard. But this must be accompanied by diplomatic pressures to release the political dissidents and free up the instruments of political opposition and democratic engagement.

As the former French Somalia, Djibouti has certainly proved more successful and stable than its former Italian counterpart. My personal dream is also to see Djibouti, Somaliland and Somalia stand side by side in the Horn of Africa as safe, prosperous, independent nation states. I believe we should do everything in our power to help the countries of this region to get there.