Deteriorating Political Atmosphere in Djibouti Sparks Turmoil

Jun 08, 2010, 13:25 ET from Abdourahman M. Boreh

WASHINGTON, June 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The following is being issued by Abdourahman M. Boreh:

New developments in the strategically important Republic of Djibouti underscore the deepening political crisis that threatens the security and stability of the volatile Horn of Africa sub-region as a whole. Djibouti, which hosts American and French military bases, is currently undergoing internal upheaval unseen in the country's 33 years of independence.

A few recent examples –

  • Now – On a daily basis, there are killings in northern Djibouti where low-intensity armed clashes could spark national violence;
  • 31 May 2010 – Three soldiers killed in action in northern Djibouti in a rebel ambush, stoking the public's fears of a return to civil war;
  • 12 May 2010 – The killing of Col. Abdi Hassan Bogoreh, the head of the military police, under mysterious circumstances;
  • 19 April 2010 – Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh engineered a Parliament vote to change the 1992 Constitution to illegally award himself a third-term in office -- thereby sparking the current political crisis.

During his first Africa trip, U.S. President Barack Obama said: "Make no mistake: history is on the side of these brave Africans, and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power. Africa doesn't need strongmen, it needs strong institutions."

Djibouti is playing a key role in ongoing counter-piracy operations, which involve the navies of more than two-dozen countries including U.S., E.U., China, Russia, Australia, Japan, and more. A politically stable Djibouti is a key partner in international efforts to eradicate Somalia-based sea pirates, Djibouti's neighbors to the south.

The social unease and growing tensions throughout Djibouti can be linked to the overall deteriorating security, political, and economic situation throughout the country. President Guelleh has been in power for two terms -- since 1999. During this time, Djibouti entered into new agreements with the U.S. and, most recently, with Japan for a new military base.

Disturbingly, President Guelleh's cozy relations including defense ties with the Iranian regime places the Republic of Djibouti at a dangerous crossroads with its Western allies. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's official visit to Djibouti in February 2009, and President Guelleh's state visits to Tehran, underscored the growing ties between President Guelleh and the Ayatollahs of Iran.

The citizens of Djibouti continue to face massive challenges, because widespread corruption ensures that select few benefit from Djibouti's national wealth. The cost of living is the most expensive in the Horn of Africa. There is a 60% unemployment rate, especially among the youth, who lack adequate employment and educational opportunities. Uncontrolled urban growth is contributing to social tensions, as people clash over limited resources. The grumblings of discontent among Djibouti's military class combined with increasing defection of soldiers is another grave indication of growing insecurity.

Each one of these issues is unsettling and representative of a deteriorating situation on the ground. But, combined together it becomes the perfect storm leading to disaster. The international community must act today to save Djibouti and the Horn of Africa before it's too late.

SOURCE Abdourahman M. Boreh