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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK


World: Africa

Djibouti cracks down on bars



Bars, night clubs and dance halls in Djibouti city have been ordered to close down in a clampdown on vice and prostitution.

Police have shut down about 40 "unauthorised bars" over the past week.

Government officials say the bars were a focus of both male and female prostitution, drunkenness, drugs, fighting and paedophilia.

"These activities are shameless activities that I cannot name," Interior Minister Abdallah Abdillahi Miguil said, adding that the move would "preserve good morals in a Muslim country" and also combat drug use, which had reached "alarming" proportions.

Bars in Djibouti cater mainly to foreigners, notably to troops from France, whose biggest military base in Africa is located there.

Until last week, the city centre bustled at night with French soldiers drinking in bars teeming with prostitutes from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen.

France is committed under a treaty to the external defence of Djibouti and has about 3,200 soldiers and foreign legionnaires in the country, although that number is to be cut to 2,500.

Loophole

Djibouti's authorities tried to clamp down on its red light district with a 1995 decree that said alcohol could only be sold in private clubs, restaurants or hotels with at least 10 rooms.

But bar owners quickly found an obvious loophole.

"The only things that changed were that the neon signs flashed out "Restaurant" at the entrance to these bars," said Ali Asmail Yabeh, a senior Interior Ministry official.

Many local residents believe the bar owners will again find a way around the law to keep business going, possibly by turning their bars into cheap hotels.



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