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Cablegate: Djibouti, Just Another Saturday

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 000381

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2014
TAGS: MARR MOPS PGOV PREL PM PINR DJ
SUBJECT: DJIBOUTI, JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY

REF: DJIBOUTI 299

Classified By: CONOFF CHASE BEAMER FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

SUMMARY
--------

1. (C) Emboff met Djiboutian Army Captain Abdullahi Youssouf
for coffee on March 13. The primary focus of the meeting was
to gain insight into the status of recent Djiboutian military
discontent (see reftel). Conversation also touched on the
railroad explosion in the late evening of March 12. The
consensus upon discussion of the topics was that the
Djiboutian military pay problem was quieted for the moment
but not resolved and that the railroad attacks were becoming
increasingly embarrassing but remained largely a mystery. End
Summary.

MILITARY DISCONTENT
-------------------

2. (C) In a conversation on March 13 with Djiboutian Army
Captain and Commander of the Djiboutian Demining program,
Captain Abdullahi Youssouf, Emboff sought to get an update on
the reported (see reftel) discontent amongst the rank and
file military in the country's interior. Youssouf confirmed
that the military units in the districts of Dikhil, Obock,
and Tadjoura had refused to accept their salaries on February
28 due to a paycut from the Chief of Staff. Youssouf
commented that Djiboutian Chief of Staff General Fahti was
forced into this decision by the Minister of Finance, Elmi
Bouh, who continued to cut the resources made available to
the Djiboutian military. Youssouf noted that while
intervention by senior military officers in the districts and
with the Presidency had calmed nerves and resulted in a
restoration of that month's salary cut no one had seen a
budgetary restoration at the level of the Ministry of
Finance. Soldiers and officers alike were unsure how events
would play out at the end of this month when the same crisis
will arise.

3. (C) When Emboff queried Youssouf on the possibility that
the new "Civilian Corps" proposed by President Guelleh had
placed undue financial strains on the military tasked with
training them, Youssouf replied that this was not the case.
Youssouf commented that the new project was funded
independently. He said the project is aimed at engaging some
of Djibouti's unemployed and undereducated youth. It will
train 2,000 Djiboutian youth in basic vocational skills over
the course of two years and then reinsert them into the
Djiboutian economy. The military is charged with the initial
"formation" of the pilot group of 500 youth in order to
instill "discipline", according to Youssouf. After their
basic training course with the military the youth will be
assigned to one of any number of Djiboutian public
institutions from the Telecom to his own military engineering
unit in order to gain a trade or skill. During the two year
apprenticeship the government has committed to feeding the
youth and paying them a 10,000 DF (approx. $60 U.S.) per
month stipend.

RAILROAD EXPLOSION
------------------

4. (C) The latest in what has become regular bombings of the
Djibouti-Ethiopia railway occurred in the late evening of
March 12. The detonation took place in Djibouti city not far
from where the railroad passes behind the French Military
Hospital. The charge was placed on the track itself and
detonated only three minutes after the passing of the train
according to sources. USLO chief received reports that a
piece of the steel rail landed near a convenience store
several hundred meters from the detonation, implying a degree
of professionalism in the placement of the charge. No one
was injured in the blast. Captain Youssouf commented that
since the Djiboutian authorities had taken extra precautions
to protect the train itself from attack the "terrorists" were
clearly now expanding their sabotage efforts to the rail.
(Comment: Mission officers have not noted the "extra
precautions" to which Youssouf refers. End Comment) He said
that he was under significant pressure from above to respond
to such incidents but was uncomfortable with the degree of
training his deminers had to handle such ordinance. His
sense was that the more "embarrassed" Djiboutian leadership
became over their inability to solve the
intelligence/investigative riddle these ongoing bombings
posed, the more pressure he and his mid-tier colleagues would
continue to feel. Hypotheses for motive range from
disgruntled ethnic Oromos expelled in the Government's latest
immigration policy to Ethiopian Government complicity to
support their trucking industry. In any scenario, Mission
security personnel do not feel this issue impacts directly on
U.S. interests.
BIO
---

5. (C) Captain Youssouf is an impressive up and comer in the
Djiboutian Armed Forces. He was the driving force behind the
successful completion of Djibouti's demining campaign and
their declaration of "mine safe" status. He is 34 years old
and married with two children. His Father was Afar and his
mother Issa. He speaks Somali, some Afar, French, and good
English. He is close to and well respected by General
Zakaria, the Djiboutian Military number 2. He recently
returned from a tour of duty at Centcom's Coalition City in
Tampa, Florida.

COMMENT
-------

6. (C) Budgetary differences between Finance Minister Bouh
and former Police Chief Yacin Yalah Galab were at the heart
of the 2001 "Coup d'Etat." It will be interesting to watch
events unfold as we approach pay day at the end of this
month.

7. (C) The saga of the Djibouti-Ethiopia railway continues in
relatively benign fashion. The most significant disruptive
impact of the bombings is the interruption of vegetable
imports from Ethiopia which directly affects the average
Djiboutian consumer. When the train is delayed or unable to
transport vegetables the volume of vegetables arriving in the
city decreases dramatically which drives up prices.
Interestingly, it also diverts the remaining volume of
vegetables that arrive to truck traffic. Hence the rumors
that truck owners may have an interest in disrupted rail
service. End Comment.
RAGSDALE

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