Photo: UN

No end in sight to Guelleh era

Ismail Omar Guelleh, who has served 17 years as president of Djibouti, was re-elected on 8 April with 87 per cent of the vote. On Sunday, he was sworn in for a fourth term in office.

To all intents and purposes, his power is hereditary: he inherited his position from his uncle in 1999 and the same party has held power since 1977. The government controls the police, the media and the labour market. To get even a job as a cleaner requires the approval of someone in the government. There is little hope that the situation will improve in the near future.

“The opposition is fragmented and weak. There is next to no possibility of mobilising people and making real change,” says NAI researcher Redie Bereketeab.

France and the US, for instance, do not criticise the government because they have military bases in the country.  In addition, there is no reason for the elite to complain, since they have all the privileges. Members of the opposition are often thrown into jail. In December 2015, the security police killed 19 people who were attending a ceremony for a pro-opposition religious leader.

“The media is state-controlled and just one week before the election a BBC journalist was banned because of an interview with the opposition leader,” says Bereketeab.

The small country of Djibouti is strategically positioned near the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. With only 900,000 inhabitants and no natural resources, the country’s main sources of income are the harbour and the military bases. Countries such the US, France, Germany and Japan, among others, pay between 20 - 70 million US dollar each per year to have military bases on Djibouti soil.

The constitution was changed in 2010 to allow the president to be re-elected for unlimited terms.

To the top