By De Birhan Blogspot’s Staffer 14/1/11
I am sitting in the sitting room of a place where most Africans spend their time. It isn’t in Ethiopia or Djibouti, but in the West. The young gentleman besides me is a Somalia brother who hails from Mogadishu. Hassen is one the best visionary, optimist and peace loving African brothers I met from the Horn. Not only has that Hassen been trained in Military Science, Foreign Policy and Security Studies. Listening to his succulent analysis and predictions of the imminent political endowments and possible security transactions likely to occur in the Horn of Africa makes you say “what if the day didn’t end”. Interested with our questions I flooded him with questions “What do you think about the Referendum in the South and its implication on Somalia?”, “Do you think the Transitional Government in Somalia will live long and bring peace to that Nation?”, “How strategic is the Horn in international and regional peace and security?”, these and many other questions, he says “wooooo ,,, hold on man! I can’t answer all these now. I need to research them. But I can say something about Djibouti now” he said.
For him of all the East African/Horn of African nations, the most to be worried of and watch out is Djibouti. “Watch out Djibouti”, he warns.
Djibouti, a small nation of around one million people, bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast is strategically located within the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Predominantly Islam, Djibouti was declared an independent nation in 1977 from France but still maintains deep French relations, and through various military and economic agreements with France, and receives continued security and economic assistance.It is also serves as a military base for the United States of America and Japanese forces.
President Ismael Omar Guelleh, who succeeded his uncle, Hassan Gouled Aptidon in 1999, is criticised for increasingly being corrupt and dictator.
“The President is the cause for the possible instability in Djibouti and the Horn. Since coming to power he has changed himself into being totally authoritarian by changing the whole administrative system and cracking down on oppositions and pillars of democracy’’ Hassen analyses.
According to Hassen , this self aggrandizing nature of the Presindent has gigantic similarities with the former President of Somalia , Mohamed Siad Barre (1919-95) and current dicatators in the Horn such as Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir of the Sudan. “they all show a facade face of democraticness, pro freemarketedness and capitalistic and readiness to development”.
However, he says Guelleh is of the same creed as those of his neighbouring dictatorial counterparts that foul play the Western ‘ideals’ and ‘rhetoric ’.
From the historical and current military, security, racial and economic analysis I did on Djibouti, i dare to say that I fear that that Nation and the President himself are sitting on a ‘time bomb’.
Djibouti will conduct its Presidential Election at the end of April/beginning of May 2011.And this is where the core of his dictatorialness and possible downfall lies. The parliament approved a constitutional amendment removing term limits allowing the current president Ismail Omar Guelleh to run for the third term, a move made clearly in preparation for the forthcoming elections in May 2011.Guelleh has been elected in 2005 in what was seen as a one-man Presidential elections since he was the sole candidate of the Union for a Presidential Majority (UPM). Africannewsanalysis.blogspot.com reported in 2010 that Djibouti’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment allowing President Ismael Omar Guelleh to run for a third term. It “The procedure is that the bill should be adopted at its first reading by the Assembly,” the speaker of the National Assembly Idriss Arnaoud Ali said. “Thereafter the president of the republic can either decide to hold a referendum to validate the constitutional amendment or he can ask members of parliament to examine the law a second time, in which case it must be passed by two thirds of them,” he explained.
According to Hassen, although some analysts say that the President forced the constitutional amendment with a hope of “preventing his regime from imploding from the divisions between certain dignitaries in his Mamassan clan and the dominant Issak network (the clan from Somaliland) of his wife Kadra Mahamoud Haïd’’ ,the fact is that he did it with the sole aim of continuing his rule till the doomsday.
Hassen said that the economy, military and civil service an governmental posts are all controlled by members of Guelleh’s clan. A once foreign spy ,Guelleh in a similar manner to his counterpart Meles Zenawi who vested all the nucleus powers for Tigreans and particularly the Adwa network , concentrated all the important military and governmental powers within in his Mamassan clan and the dominant Issak network.
As to Hassen , this trend will return Djibouti to its civil war of 1991 to 2000. “this centralisation of power within one ethnic group and mainly within the President himself shows a typical similarity with the then day of Barre’s Somali”.
As to somalidiasporanews.com ,despite huge cash flow generated from foreign investors in the country –Djibouti hosts three key military bases belonging to high profile Western countries namely France , the USA and, Japan. It also houses the international center for fighting piracy. The country is the only maritime outlet for Ethiopia, a nation of 60 million consumers .In a word Djibouti could be the Dubai of East of Africa had it been properly managed and well run. Instead it has become the hub for money laundering, chronic corruption and ill -governance .Rumours say O.Guelleh to be one of the top three richest men in Africa. This money, scattered in different corners of the planet to avoid any probe or inquisitive eye, is of course the money stolen from Djiboutian people. Things are, unfortunately, going to worsen if president Guelleh clings to power beyond 2011 and the country could pay a heavy price for this lack of democratic change.
“Guelleh’s government has been criticized by human-rights groups because of his regime’s determination to maintain political stability. Members of his family’s Mamassans clan hold positions of power in the cabinet and government, the Rassemblement Populaire Pour le Progres/People’s Rally for Progress (RPP) remains the dominant political force, and there have been charges that opposition groups, such as a predominantly Afar rebel group, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD) and the Union of Democratic Alliance (UAD), are unable to operate freely. FRUD has called upon other nations, especially the United States and France, to back a more aggressive transition toward democracy in the country. To his credit, Guelleh has made some efforts to lessen tensions with the Afar minority, but the potentially troubling situation was not diminished in the election of 2005. He ran on campaign promises to reduce poverty and increase women’s rights and roles in the country, but the UAD called for a boycott of the election, and FRUD subsequently issued a statement of support for the boycott.” notablebiographies.com reported last year.
Guelleh, dismisses the charges.
On a notable crackdown on the media, following his ‘Big Brother’ Meles Zenawi’s footsteps threatened to jail people who listen to Voice of Djibouti, a prodemocracy radio opened by young Djiboutians in the Diaspora.
Union for Democratic Change (UAD) and other opposition parties such as the DSM, the ARD and the UDJ are regrouping and mobilizing the vast majority of Djibouti’s population for change.
Geulleh, owns several businesses from shops, hotels, factories to service providers all located in various African countries. His hotel in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia is a good example.
The younger counterpart of Semehal Meles, Meles Zenawi’s daughter, Haïbado Ismail Omar, the youngest daughter of the Head of State, aged just 25 years, has been assigned by her father ,President Guelleh to be the Djbouti’s official adviser for economic affairs under Presidential Decree in August 2010, just as she left the benches of the Colombia University. Similar or even higher post awaits, Semhal as she completes her study in the UK.
The generality of all these state of affairs in Djibouti added with the same tension and time bombs in Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea could soon burst out to form a region that is unstable, uncontrollable, genocidal , maritime pirate infesting and apocalyptic .
As a recommendable input, I choose to use Obang Metho’s , Executive Director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) words he wrote for the “Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa Conference on Governance, Peace, Security and Development “ held from April 9-11, 2010 in Washington DC.
“… now it is up to Ethiopians and people of the Horn, from all different points of view, to come together to listen, learn, think, debate and discuss how we all might better work together to bring about an inclusive society where “humanity comes before ethnicity,” or any other distinctions and where the solutions we seek are not for one chosen group to the disadvantage of others, but for all of us, for “no one will be free until all are free.””