Government of Djibouti refutes a Congress blog

On behalf of the Government of Djibouti, the below statements serve as direct responses to the many inaccuracies found in a Oct. 21 Congress blog in The Hill, titled Djibouti: Obama’s national security gamble.

On Djibouti’s "tendency to play the States against other great powers for greater financial gain."

Djibouti has strong relationships with a wide range of governments and international organisations in matters relating to economic and social development and regional security. This includes various partnerships with countries such as the USA, EU and GCC nations, Japan and China, and with international organisations such as NATO, the World Bank and the UN.

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In particular, Djibouti has had diplomatic ties with China for 35 years and it is natural that the country has continued to build its relationship the world’s largest economy over recent years. They are an important investor in Djibouti and across the region, and as well as investing in key infrastructure and other sectors such as energy and agriculture, they have also committed to supporting a number the country’s education and healthcare development initiatives. They have also deployed anti-piracy task forces to the Gulf of Aden since 2008.

The Government of Djibouti is committed to continuing to work with a wide range of international partners to attract inward investment and maintain regional stability.

On Abdourahman Boreh and the DP World Concession

To develop the country’s port facilities and spur the country’s economic growth, the Government of Djibouti created the Djibouti Port and Free Zone Authority (the DPFZA) to oversee and supervise all port facilities. In 2003, the Government appointed Abdourahman Boreh, a Djiboutian businessman, as chairman of the DPFZA.

During his time as chairman between 2003 and 2008, Boreh obtained significant shareholdings in several of the projects; awarded construction, security, and other service contracts on these projects to companies he owned; and demanded commissions from other individuals and companies involved in the projects.

Boreh left the country to avoid his significant tax liabilities. He was never a true presidential candidate, being ineligible as he holds dual Djibouti and French nationality, and never a political figure. He was subsequently convicted in Djibouti for tax evasion, fraudulent insolvency, and related criminal offences. After the government learned of Boreh’s illegal activities, it investigated his activities leading to a claim being commenced in the Commercial Court in London in 2012.

The government’s continued investigations revealed evidence indicating that DP World paid bribes and gave other financial incentives to  Boreh while he was a negotiating the Doraleh Container Terminal Concession Agreement with DP World, as well as afterwards. Boreh had been appointed as the government representative in those negotiations to protect Djibouti’s interests.  The resulting agreement unfairly favoured DP World.

Although the Government of Djibouti sought to resolve the matter through direct discussions, negotiations broke down, leaving Djibouti with no choice but to request arbitration to declare the Concession Agreement and related project documents rescinded for illegality and corruption. This arbitration process is ongoing. Pending the outcome of the arbitration being heard in London, DP World is continuing to run the facility.

On Abdourahman Boreh having “found himself accused of orchestrating a terrorist grenade attack”

The Republic of Djibouti recognizes that evidence, including telephone transcripts, which led to the criminal conviction of Boreh on charges of instigating terrorism, contained a dating error.

While the Republic of Djibouti remains convinced that Boreh has a case to answer, it rejects achieving this through proceedings that that could compromise due process and constitutional safeguards, both from a Djiboutian and international legal standpoint.

The Republic of Djibouti further wishes to emphasise that because Boreh’s conviction by the Djiboutian criminal court was in absentia, he is entitled to a full re-trial.  This right has never been called into question under Djiboutian law.  Additionally, Boreh is entitled to be assisted at trial by his choice of counsel.

In order to conduct a full review of the evidence and enable the grant of a new trial, the Attorney General has filed a request before the Supreme Court, following a request from the Ministry of Justice to re-open the case. In any case, the experts appointed by Boreh and his lawyers will be entitled to challenge the evidence presented.

The Republic of Djibouti awaits the outcome of these proceedings, but does not rely on the terrorism conviction against Boreh.

On the “unanticipated change of location” of the U.S.’s unmanned aircraft programme

Djibouti’s main concern is maintaining stability and security in the region, and as an ally of the U.S. and Europe, it will continue to provide whatever support is needed to ensure that is the case. Djibouti did engage with the U.S. around concerns about the proximity of the airbase to the civilian population and the use of unmanned aircraft on a facility that includes the civilian airport. The government has worked closely with the U.S. to implement a viable, and mutually agreeable solution.

On the U.S. “more than quadruple[ing] their fees for Camp Lemonnier’s lease…[to]… $133 million per year”

This figure is incorrect. In May 2014, following President Guelleh’s meeting with President Obama, a 20-year lease for Camp Lemonnier was signed for $63 million (increasing from $38 million) with an additional $7 million designated for development aid.

Olhaye is ambassador of the Republic of Djibouti to the United States and Permanent Representative to the United Nations for Djibouti.

The piece was changed on Dec. 18 to reflect developments in Boreh's terrorism trial.