The United States has urged the Djibouti ruling party and Opposition to resume negotiations ahead of the 2016 elections, in which president Omar Guelleh is seeking a controversial fourth term.
The US is concerned with the violence that erupted in Djibouti between police and opposition activists as the country host the only US military base in Africa.
"The United States condemns recent acts of violence in the capital of Djibouti and calls for the immediate release of opposition leaders who have been detained," State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
Some 4000 US troops carry out surveillance operations and occasional air strikes in Somalia and Yemen from Camp Lemonnier, a former French installation that Djibouti leased to the US following the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
China recently reached an agreement to build a naval base in Djibouti — its first military outpost on the African continent.
"We urge the government of Djibouti to respect its citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association, and to exercise restraint," the State Department declared.
"We also encourage the government and opposition parties to resume negotiations to ensure peaceful and transparent presidential elections in 2016."
President Guelleh, in power since 1999, is seeking a fourth term in elections scheduled for April.
A Djibouti opposition group said at least 19 people were killed earlier this week when police attacked a religious celebration that the government had banned.
Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf countered that version of events in comments to a French press agency saying seven people died in fighting after a crowd refused to disband.
"We express our condolences to all those affected by the tragic deaths and injuries caused by these attacks," the State Department said.
In its most recent global human rights report, the State Department found that the Djibouti government suppresses dissent by "refusing to allow several opposition groups to form legally recognised political parties."
Authorities are also accused of "harassing, abusing, and detaining government critics; denying the population access to independent sources of information; and restricting freedom of speech and assembly."