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djibouti-mapPopulation: 859,652

HDI Ranking: 164/187

HDI Score: 0.445

After initial attempts at devolving some administrative and fiscal control, the Djibouti government pushed for a major decentralization campaign at the end of the civil war and held the first regional elections in 2006. However, the tepid decentralization process in Djibouti has been mostly superficial, with the government maintaining centralized authority. Local participatory government is hindered from a lack of resources, a strong civil society, institutional coordination, as well as the exclusion of the local population in decentralization initiatives.

Local governance at a glance

  • Djibouti is split into five administrative regions and one city, and subdivided into 11 districts. In 1977, Constitutional Law established 20 municipalities throughout the country with 12 in Djibouti City. Djibouti City has three Communes and one elected Mayor (Kellam, 2005).

  • Ministry of Interior and Decentralization provides legal guidelines and structure to assist local authorities on effective local governance procedures (Arial Programme, n.d.).

  • There are no legislated gender quotas for officials at the municipal level (Quota Project, 2010).

Civil society actors

Capacity building institutions

  • The Governance and Decentralisation Project was spearheaded between the Djibouti government and the International Foundation For Electoral Systems (IFES), which provided pragmatic training courses and workshops to improve the reach and effectiveness of elected municipal officials (Arial Programme, n.d.).

Fiscal control

  • Economic decentralization is non-existent. The central government allocates 2% of the public budget to local governance, but municipal authorities have no control over the finances (IMF, 2014; Brass, 2008).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • In order to reduce poverty, the Djibouti government began decentralizing administrative management duties in 1992 (UNCDF, n.d.).

  • After Djibouti’s civil war, the Djibouti government passed a fiscal decentralization plan in October 1995 to improve development and delivery of public services (Peace Accords Matrix, 2012).

  • From 1997-2002, The Djibouti government, with the help of the UNDP Local Government Rehabilitation Project, created the District Rehabilitation Committee with “Planning Units” in each district to develop the institutionalization of local governance and increase citizen participation (Kellam, 2005).

  • The Djibouti government decided to expand its decentralization process after political unrest ended in 2001, and the country held its first regional elections in March 2006 (Arial Programme, n.d.).

  • In July 2002, Djibouti’s National Assembly signed the Decentralization and Status of the Regions Act (174/AN/02/4ème L), establishing, in theory, the five regional authorities outside Djibouti City with legal rights and duties, as well as financial autonomy (Peace Accords Matrix, 2012).

  • In 2007, the central government and The African Capacity Building Foundation  together contributed a $700, 000 (USD) grant aimed at enhancing both the abilities of local governmental bodies and citizen participation in local development to alleviate poverty (African Press Organization, 2008).

  • Between 2008-2013, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), along with UNDP and the European Union, implemented the Appul a la Decentralization et aux Collectivities Locales (PADCL) project to assist the Djibouti government in delegating administrative and budgetary power to certain municipal authorities. The program supervised the Obock and Dikhil regions managing expenditures of a local development fund to expand infrastructure in rural areas (UNCDF, n.d.).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • In reality, transfer of administrative power to regional authorities has been superficial; political control remains instead in the hands of the presidentially appointed District Commissioner and local governments are incapable of handling governance responsibilities (Brass, 2008).

  • Local stakeholders and leaders are not sufficiently educated on decentralization laws nor are there specific mandates in the available legal framework to authorize the involvement of local people (Kellam, 2005).

  • The civil society sector in Djibouti is generally weak and underdeveloped without adequate training programs, funding or resources in local communities (IRI, 2005; Kellam, 2005).

  • The absence of both coordination between institutional structures and specific action plans for stakeholders involved the decentralization process at the local and national levels have been key issues (Kellam, 2005).

  • The Djibouti government seriously impedes citizens’ right to participate in or reform their government. The government restricts freedom of speech, assembly and association, and harshly suppresses criticism against national policies and authority (US Department of State, 2013).

  • Djibouti’s ruling Union for Presidential Majority (UMP) party dominated the regional elections and maintained seats in all five administrative regions outside of Djibouti City in 2012 (Somalilandpress, 2012), illustrating a lack of  representation of other civil society populations in local government.

Recent posts on this website about this country:


List of sources (in order of citation):

Kellam, Henry, 2005: ¨Decentralization Assessment Report.¨

Arial Programme, n.d. “Djibouti, General Information on Government”

Quota Project, 2010. “Djibouti

IMF, 2014. (V. Davis personal communication, January 15)

Brass, Jennifer, 2008: ¨Djibouti’s unusual resource curse.¨

UNCDF, n.d.. “UNCDF In Djibouti.¨

Peace Accord Matrix, 2012. ¨Decentralization/Federalism

African Press Organization, 2008. “Djibouti /The African Capacity Building Foundation

IRI, 2005. ¨Djibouti : 2005 Pre-Election Assessment Report¨

US Department of State, 2013. ¨2012 Human Rights Reports; Djibouti.¨

Somalilandpress, 2012. “Djibouti: Preliminary results of the regional and municipal elections