Djibouti’s government suspended programs run by a U.S.-backed democracy-advocacy group, less than a month before the Horn of Africa nation holds a presidential election.
Democracy International “is in dialogue with the government and we are hopeful that we will soon recommence programming,” Chris Hennemeyer, head of the Bethesda, Maryland-based group’s International Electoral Observation Mission, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “Obviously the passage of time is of concern to us, as there are many election-related activities that must start immediately.”
Calls today to Interior Minister Yacin Elmi Bouh, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Yousef, Director of Communications Moussa Mohamed Omar and Communications Minister Ali Abdi Farah seeking comment weren’t answered.
A presidential vote is scheduled to be held on April 8 in Djibouti, which has been ruled by President Ismael Guelleh’s People’s Rally for Progress party since independence in 1977. Guelleh, first elected in 1999, amended the constitution in March 2010 to allow him to extend his rule by two more six-year terms.
Opposition parties staged a protest on Feb. 18 demanding the 63-year-old leader’s resignation. Subsequent demonstrations have been blocked by security forces. The opposition Union for a Democratic Alternative and Union for a Democratic Movement plan to boycott next month’s election, saying conditions for a fair vote don’t exist. They have vowed to protest every Friday until Guelleh resigns.
On March 11, 30 police rounded up four opposition leaders shortly before a planned protest and drove them out of Djibouti City, Mohamed Daoud Chehem, head of the Djibouti Party for Development, said in a phone interview yesterday.
The U.S. has had a military base in Djibouti since 2001, while former colonial power France has around 3,000 troops stationed in the country, which is smaller than the U.S. state of Massachusetts.