Djibouti Armed Forces

The Djibouti Armed Forces (DJAF; Arabic: الجيش الجيبوتي‎, Somali: Ciidanka Dalka Jabuuti) are the military forces of Djibouti. They consist of the Djiboutian National Army and its sub-branches the Djiboutian Air Force and Djiboutian Navy. As of 2018, the Djibouti Armed Forces consists of 20,470 (2018 est.) ground troops, which are divided into several regiments and battalions garrisoned in various areas throughout the country. The Djibouti Armed Forces are an important player in the Bab-el-Mandeb and Red Sea.

Djibouti Armed Forces
Arabic: الجيش الجيبوتي
Somali: Ciidanka Dalka Jabuuti
French: Forces Armees Djiboutiennes
The Emblem of the Djiboutian Armed Force.svg
Emblem of the Djiboutian Armed Force
MottoGuul ama Dhimasho
Founded6 June 1977; 44 years ago (6 June 1977)
Service branchesLogo of the Djiboutian Army.PNG Army
Roundel of Djibouti.svg Air Force
Djibouti Naval Jack.png Navy
Gendarmerie Nationale Djiboutienne.jpg Gendarmerie
Commander-in-ChiefIsmaïl Omar Guelleh
Prime MinisterAbdoulkader Kamil Mohamed
Minister of DefenceHassan Omar Mohamed[1]
Chief of the Defence StaffGeneral Zakaria Cheikh Ibrahim
Military age18–49 years old
Available for
military service
391,797, age 18–49 (2010 est.)
Fit for
military service
268,730, age 18–49 (2010 est.)
Reaching military
age annually
(2010 est.)
Active personnel20,470 (2018 est.)
Reserve personnel12,220 (2018 est.)
Deployed personnel Somalia – 3,000[2]
 Sudan – 151 police
Budget$3.6 million (2011 est.)
Percent of GDP3.7 (2011 est.)
Foreign suppliers United States
Related articles
HistoryMilitary history of Djibouti: Djiboutian Civil War
Djiboutian–Eritrean border conflict
United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur
African Union Mission to Somalia
RanksMilitary ranks of Djibouti

In 2015 General Zakaria Chiek Imbrahim was chief d'etat-major general (chief of staff) of the Forces Armees Djiboutiennes. He assumed command in November 2013.[3]

Djibouti has always been a very active member in the African Union and the Arab League.


Historically, Somali society accorded prestige to the warrior (waranle) and rewarded military prowess. Except for men of religion (wadaad), who were few in number, all Somali males were considered potential warriors. Djibouti's many Sultanates each maintained regular troops. In the early Middle Ages, the conquest of Shewa by the Ifat Sultanate ignited a rivalry for supremacy with the Solomonic Dynasty.

A Djibouti Armed Forces commander.

Many similar battles were fought between the succeeding Sultanate of Adal and the Solomonids, with both sides achieving victory and suffering defeat. During the protracted Ethiopian-Adal War (1529–1559), Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi defeated several Ethiopian Emperors and embarked on a conquest referred to as the Futuh Al-Habash ("Conquest of Abyssinia"), which brought three-quarters of Christian Abyssinia under the power of the Muslim Adal Sultanate.[4][5] Al-Ghazi's forces and their Ottoman allies came close to extinguishing the ancient Ethiopian kingdom, but the Abyssinians managed to secure the assistance of Cristóvão da Gama's Portuguese troops and maintain their domain's autonomy. However, both polities in the process exhausted their resources and manpower, which resulted in the contraction of both powers and changed regional dynamics for centuries to come.

The 1st Battalion of Somali Skirmishers, formed in 1915 from recruits from the French Somali Coast, was a unit belonging to the French Colonial Army. They distinguished himself during the First World War, notably during the resumption of Fort Douaumont, Battle of Verdun in October 1916 alongside the Régiment d'infanterie-chars de marine and the Second Battle of the Aisne in October 1917. In May and June 1918, they took part in the Third Battle Of The Aisne and in July in the Second Battle of the Marne. In August and September 1918, the Somali battalion fought on the Oise front and in October 1918 he obtained his second citation to the order of the army as well as the right to wear a Fourragère in the colors of the ribbon of the Croix de guerre 1914–1918. Between 1915 and 1918, over 2,088 Djiboutians served as combat in the First World War. Their losses are estimated at 517 killed and 1,000 to 1,200 injured. During the Second World War a battalion of Somali skirmishers to participate in the battles for the liberation of France, it participated in particular in the fighting at Pointe de Grave in April 1945. On April 22, 1945, General de Gaulle awarded the Somali battalion a citation to the army and decorated the battalion's pennant in Soulac-sur-Mer. The Somali battalion is dissolved on June 25, 1946.

The Ogaden War (13 July 1977 – 15 March 1978) was a conflict fought between the Ethiopian government and Somali government. The Djibouti government supported Somalia with military intelligence. In a notable illustration of the nature of Cold War alliances, the Soviet Union switched from supplying aid to Somalia to supporting Ethiopia, which had previously been backed by the United States. This in turn prompted the U.S. to later start supporting Somalia. The war ended when Somali forces retreated back across the border and a truce was declared.

The first war which involved the Djiboutian armed forces was the Djiboutian Civil War between the Djiboutian government, supported by France, and the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD). The war lasted from 1991 to 2001, although most of the hostilities ended when the moderate factions of FRUD signed a peace treaty with the government after suffering an extensive military setback when the government forces captured most of the rebel-held territory. A radical group continued to fight the government, but signed its own peace treaty in 2001. The war ended in a government victory, and FRUD became a political party.

Djiboutian troops with light armoured cars near the border of Eritrea

Djibouti has fought in clashes against Eritrea over the Ras Doumeira peninsula, which both countries claim to be under their sovereignty. The first clash occurred in 1996 after a nearly two-months stand-off. In 1999, a political crisis occurred when both sides accused each other for supporting its enemies. In 2008, the countries clashed again when Djibouti refused to return Eritrean deserters and Eritrea responded by firing at the Djiboutian forces. In the following battles, some 44 Djiboutian troops and some estimated 100 Eritreans were killed.

In 2011, Djibouti troops also joined the African Union Mission to Somalia.[6]

As of 2013, the Djibouti Armed Forces (DJAF) are composed of three branches: the Djibouti National Army, which consists of the Coastal Navy, the Djiboutian Air Force (Force Aerienne Djiboutienne, FAD), and the National Gendarmerie (GN). The Army is by far the largest, followed by the Air Force and Navy. The Commander-in-Chief of the DJAF is the President of Djibouti and the Minister of Defence oversees the DJAF on a day-to-day basis.

Component forces and their organizationEdit

Refer to decree No 2003-0166/PR/MDN on organization of Djibouti Armed Forces.[7] The armed forces consist of:

  • The General Staff of the Armed Forces.
  • A Defense Staff.
  • An infantry force: one rapid action regiment, two paratrooper battalions, one combined arms regiment at Obock, one combined arms regiment at Tadjourah, one combined arms regiment in Dikhil, one combined arms battalion in Ali-Sabieh and one reinforced company in Damerjog.
  • Specific forces and fire support: one armored regiment, one artillery regiment and one group of combat engineer.
  • The Navy
  • The Air Force
  • The Schools Command.
  • The Headquarters Regiment.
  • The Central Material Directorate.
  • The Health Service.

Djiboutian ArmyEdit

Djiboutian army soldiers conduct a patrol on the border.

The Djiboutian National Army is the largest branch of the Djibouti Armed Forces. Djibouti maintains a modest military force of approximately 20,470 troops; the army is made of 18,600 troops (IISS 2018). The latter are divided into several regiments and battalions garrisoned in various areas throughout the country.[8] The Army has four military districts (the Tadjourah, Dikhil, Ali-Sabieh and Obock districts).[9] Clashes with the Military of Eritrea, in 2008, demonstrated the superior nature of the Djiboutian forces’ training and skills, but also highlighted the fact that the small military would be unable to counter the larger, if less well-equipped forces of its neighbours. The army has concentrated on mobility in its equipment purchases, suitable for patrol duties and counterattacks but ill-suited for armoured warfare. The 2008 border clashes at least temporarily swelled the ranks of the Djiboutian army, with retired personnel being recalled, but the military's size and capabilities are much reduced since the 1990s. The army to address more effectively its major defense disadvantage: lack of strategic depth. Thus in the early 2000s it looked outward for a model of army organization that would best advance defensive capabilities by restructuring forces into smaller, more mobile units instead of traditional divisions. The official tasks of the armed forces include strengthening the country against external attack, and maintaining border security. Djiboutian troops continue to monitor its borders with Eritrea, in the case of an attack. The Djiboutian Army is one of the small professional advanced armies in East Africa.

Ali Sabieh Infantry Regiment
Dikhil Infantry Regiment
Obock Infantry Regiment
Tadjoura Infantry Regiment
Djibouti City Rapid Reaction Regiment
One Demining Company
Djiboutian Army Infantry Regiments

Its maneuver units are:

  • One armoured regiment (comprising a reconnaissance squadron, three armoured squadrons and an anti-smuggling squadron)[9]
  • Four infantry regiments (each comprising three to four infantry companies and a support company)[9]
    • Regiment interarmées de Tadjourah
    • Regiment interarmees de Obock
    • Two other infantry regiments
  • One rapid reaction regiment (comprising four infantry companies and a support company)[9]
  • One Republican Guard regiment[9]
  • One artillery regiment[9]
  • One demining company[9]
  • One signals regiment[9]
  • One computer and information systems section[9]
  • One logistics regiment[9]
  • One maintenance company[9]

Italy delivered 10 howitzers M-109L (in 2013), tens IVECO trucks (ACM90, cranes, tankers, etc.), some IVECO armoured car Puma 4X4 and IVECO utility vehicles VM90.

In reforming the Djiboutian Army, most of the available financial resources have been directed to the development of the Land Forces. Over the years, Djiboutian Army has established partnerships with militaries in France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the United States. Currently, the amount allocated to defense represents the largest single entry in the country's budget.

Djiboutian NavyEdit

Djiboutian Navy at naval base in Djibouti City.

The Djiboutian Navy is the naval service branch of the Djibouti Armed Forces. The Djiboutian Navy has about 1,000 regular personnel as of 2013, to protect national maritime rights and to support the nation's foreign policies. It is responsible for securing Djibouti's territorial waters and 314 km seaboard. The force was launched two years after Djibouti gained its independence in 1977. Initially, it comprised the remnants of the Gendarmerie and was focused on port safety and traffic monitoring. This is an area known to have considerable fish stocks, sustaining an active fisheries industry. The acquisition of several boats from the US in 2006 considerably increased the navy's ability to patrol over longer distances and to remain at sea for several days at a time. Cooperation with the US and Yemeni navies is also increasing in an effort to protect and maintain the safety and security of the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC). In 2004 Italy delivered 2 former Italian Coast Guard Classe 200 patrol boats (ex CP 230 and CP 234 ) and 2 new type CP 500 motorboats.

Djiboutian Air ForceEdit

The Djiboutian Air Force (DAF) (French: Force Aérienne du Djibouti (FADD) was established as part of the Djibouti Armed Forces after the country obtained its independence on June 27, 1977. Its first aircraft included three Nord N.2501 Noratlas transport aircraft and an Allouette II helicopter presented to it by the French. In 1982, the Djibouti Air Force was augmented by two Aerospatiale AS.355F Ecureuil 2 helicopters and a Cessna U206G Stationair, this was followed in 1985 by a Cessna 402C Utiliner. In 1985, the Allouette II was withdrawn from use and put on display at Ambouli Air Base at Djibouti's airport. In 1987, the three N.2501 Noratlas were also retired and subsequently returned to France. New equipment came, in 1991, in the form of a Cessna 208 Caravan, followed by Russian types in the early nineties. These included four Mil Mi 2, six Mil Mi 8 and two Mil Mi 17 helicopters and a single Antonov An 28 light transport aircraft. Pilot training for the 360 men of the DAF, if necessary, is conducted in France with continued on type flight training at home. The DAF has no units of its own and forms in whole a part of the Army, its sole base is Ambouli.


The Homeland Defense Medal's was awarded to Djiboutian forces for duties related to the Djiboutian Civil War raids between 1991 and 1993.

The main doctrine consists of the following principles:

  • Djibouti cannot afford to lose a war
  • A small standing army with good capabilities.
  • Desire to avoid war by political means.


The size and structure of the Djibouti Armed Forces is continually evolving.

Historical personnel of the Djibouti Armed Forces
Republic of Djibouti
1977 1979 1982 1985 1989 1992 1998 2000 2007 2015
Regular 2,800 4,000 6,800 8,000 9,000 20,000 13,000 12,900 10,500 16,000
Army Reserve 1,000 1,500 2,200 4,000 500 4,500 6,000 8,000 9,500
Total 2,800 5,000 8,200 10,200 13,000 20,500 17,500 18,900 18,500 25,500

As of 2018, Djibouti Armed Forces were reported to have 18,000–20,000 active personnel, 10,500–11,000 reserve personnel.

Component in service Reserve
  Djiboutian Army 18,600 11,000
  Djiboutian Air Force 370 220
  Djiboutian Navy 1,500 1,000
Totals 20,470 12,220


Djibouti has committed to strengthening international action through the African Union to achieve collective security and uphold the goals enshrined in the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter and the Constitutive Act of the African Union. Deployed in 2 countries in Somalia and Sudan. Djibouti's first contribution to UN peacekeeping was in 2010 in the Darfur, Sudan.

Djiboutian forces artillery ready to fire on Al-Shabaab militants near the town of Buloburde, Somalia.
Country Mission Number of personnel
  Sudan UNAMID 151 police officers
  Somalia AMISOM 2,000 peacekeeping troops

Foreign military within DjiboutiEdit

Djibouti troops in first responder course with United States Army soldiers.


France's 5e RIAOM are currently stationed in Djibouti.


The Italian Base Militare Nazionale di Supporto (National Support Military Base) is capable to host 300 troops and some UAVs.[10][11][12]

United StatesEdit

There is also Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, a U.S. force of more than 3,500, currently deployed in the country at Camp Lemonnier.[13]


The Japan Self-Defense Force Base Djibouti was established in 2011.[14] The Deployment Airforce for Counter-Piracy Enforcement (DAPE): Established in 2011 with approximately 600 deployed personnel from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, on a rotational basis, operating naval vessels and maritime patrol aircraft. Japan reportedly pays $30 million per year for the military facilities, from which it conducts anti-piracy operations in the region. The base also acts as a hub for operations throughout the East African coastline.[15]


The Chinese naval support base in Djibouti began construction in 2016[16][17] and was officially opened in 2017.[18][19]


  1. ^ "".
  2. ^ Ahmed Soliman and David Styan (15 April 2016). "Connecting the Horn of Africa and the Gulf". allafrica. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-07-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Saheed A. Adejumobi, The History of Ethiopia, (Greenwood Press: 2006), p.178
  5. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, inc, Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1, (Encyclopædia Britannica: 2005), p.163
  6. ^ "Somalia: Djibouti Peacekeepers Arrive in Mogadishu to Join Amisom". Garowe Online. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  7. ^ "Décret n°2003-0166/PR/MDN Portant réorganisation des Forces Armées Djiboutiennes" [Decree No. 2003-0166/PR/MDN Reorganizing the Djibouti Armed Forces]. Decree No. 2003-0166/PR/MDN of 2003 (in French).
  8. ^ "Présentation des forces armées djiboutiennes". Ministère des Affaires étrangères (France). Retrieved 23 March 2013.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) (2012). The Military Balance 2012. London: IISS. p. 432. ISSN 0459-7222.
  10. ^ "Djibouti Bases - Magnet for Military Effect".
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-09-12. Retrieved 2014-09-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Italian Air Force Completes its First Remote Controlled Aircraft Sortie for Operation Atalanta | Eunavfor".
  13. ^ "United States military deployments: Information from". Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  14. ^ Japan eyes first overseas SDF long-term base in Djibouti January 20, 2015 Archived August 3, 2017, at the Wayback Machine China Daily Retrieved November 23, 2016
  15. ^ Djibouti: Changing Influence in the Horn’s Strategic Hub Archived 2017-02-02 at the Wayback Machine,, David Styan, April 2013 ("Having temporarily used US facilities, a Japanese base, situated close to Camp Lemonnier, opened in July 2011. Around 600 members of its Maritime Self-Defence Forces rotate between Japan’s naval vessels operating from the port of Djibouti and the camp. Naval units protecting Japanese shipping in the region had operated out of the US base prior to 2011. Japan is reported to pay an annual rent of $30 million for the facilities, similar to the sums paid for either of the far larger US and French bases. This has led to an expansion of Japan’s civilian aid programme to Djibouti, which has also become a hub for wider development activities in the Horn by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.")
  16. ^ Panda, Ankit (February 29, 2016). "Confirmed: Construction Begins on China's First Overseas Military Base in Djibouti". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on May 14, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017. Last week, China’s Ministry of Defense confirmed for the first time that construction on “support facilities” for the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN) in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, has started. Colonel Wu Qian, a spokesperson for the Chinese defense ministry, said on Thursday that “construction of infrastructure for the support facilities has started, and the Chinese side has dispatched personnel to Djibouti for relevant work.”
  17. ^ "Defense Ministry's regular press conference on Feb.25". Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China. February 15, 2016. Archived from the original on May 18, 2017. Through friendly consultations between China and Djibouti, the two sides have reached consensus for China to build support facilities in Djibouti. The facilities will mainly be used for logistical support and personnel recuperation of the Chinese armed forces conducting such missions as maritime escort in the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance. Currently, construction of infrastructure for the support facilities has started, and the Chinese side has dispatched personnel to Djibouti for relevant work.
  18. ^ Gao, Charlotte (July 12, 2017). "China Officially Sets Up Its First Overseas Base in Djibouti". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. In the early morning of July 11, China held an official ceremony in the port of Zhanjiang, south China’s Guangdong province. The commander of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Shen Jinlong, “read an order on constructing the base in Djibouti, and conferred military flag on the fleets.” Then Shen ordered, “Set off!” and the ships carrying Chinese military personnel departed the port, reported Xinhua.
  19. ^ An, ed. (July 11, 2017). "China sets up base in Djibouti". Xinhua News Agency. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Ships carrying Chinese military personnel departed Zhanjiang in southern China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday to set up a support base in Djibouti.