International Djibouti businessman declares intention to oppose President Guelleh
Djibouti will become the next “haven” for international terrorist groups unless urgent action is taken to address the country’s deteriorating economic and security situation, a Djibouti businessman and prospective candidate for the 2011 presidential elections warns today.
The former French colony in East Africa, which is home to America’s only military base on the continent, is at risk of serious civil unrest because of the “myopic greed” of the current incumbent, President Guelleh, according to Abdourahman Boreh, the former Chairman of Djibouti’s Ports and Free Ports Authority.
Announcing his intention to stand next April, Mr Boreh , who resigned and went into self-exile in 2009 following actions against him by the current President – who deemed him a threat to his leadership – said: “The very existence of Djibouti as a viable nation-state is being put at risk by the current President.
“A collapse of order in Djibouti could spark a regional war, or end up with the blockage of the maritime route through the Suez Canal – which would damage the world economy and devastate the European economy. It would also create a potential terrorist haven, as it already is in banking terms.”
He pledged to improve the “atrocious conditions” in which the poorest people of Djibouti live and protect the foreign military bases that are increasingly wary of a restive population.
“The country has had good income from its ports and transport facilities, and from foreign bases on its territory, but the population remains chronically poor, with social indicators in line with the very poorest countries of the word,” said Mr Boreh.
“What’s more, the brutal repressions of the regime have led to violent unrest and the re-emergence of armed resistance. Investors are being driven away by the myopic greed of the President and his entourage. Relations with Eritrea have worsened again and the potential for a restart of the border war hangs over the country.”
President Guelleh, who first came to power in April 1999, was re-elected unopposed in 2005. He was due to step down before the 2011 elections but changed the 1992 constitution in March 2010 to allow himself to stand for more than two five-year terms.
Situated at the mouth of the Red Sea, Djibouti is of major strategic importance to the region and several landlocked African countries, most notably Ethiopia, which rely on Djibouti’s port and transport facilities to import and export goods. The country also plays a key role in international military action against maritime piracy.
As Chairman of the Ports and Free Ports Authority, Mr Boreh was the engine of the country’s wealth, but since his exile the economy has fallen into serious decline, driving out foreign investors and plunging the population further into abject poverty.
“The direction of the regime is extremely alarming, with the main French banks having quit the country, and new bank licenses being issued – some to banks accused of the laundering of terror and pirate money. Djibouti should not be a haven for terror money laundering. The regime’s refusal to establish banking regulation has soured relations with the international financial institutions, putting the economy at risk, as well as security.”
Mr Boreh said he was standing for president on a platform of economic, security and anti-poverty reforms.
“There are many steps between now and the election before I can become an official candidate, including the rescinding of decisions taken which were designed to put me into exile – spurious tax demands and a 10-minute political trial conducted in absentia. However, given my unifying plan, my steps to reduce tensions over the bases, and my programme to improve relations with neighbouring countries, I am confident that the current President will have no choice but to allow a free and fair election.”
To ensure that the elections are free and fair, Mr Boreh has set out a list of demands:
1) All adults in Djibouti should be able to register and vote, in practice.
2) Djibouti citizens abroad should have the right to register and vote at Djibouti embassies, or vote using postal votes
3) All political parties should be able to register, if they comply with the law and renounce violence
4) All citizens should be able to stand for president, provided they have significant support
5) Anti-intimidation and vote-bullying laws should be strengthened and properly enforced
6) The ballot should be secret
7) The process should be overseen by international organizations
8) Free assembly should be allowed in the months leading up to the elections
9) Officers at each polling station should sign off “closed” ballot boxes with voting totals to prevent ballot stuffing, and in the presence of opposition representatives and foreign observers the ‘minutes’ of the count should be signed off.