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Djibouti government’s claims on recent protests are “laughable” says Presidential challenger Abdourahman Boreh

Thursday 24 February 2011 | News | Comments: 0

Abdourahman Boreh says:

President Guelleh is blind to the desperation and anger of his people. Following the recent protests in Djibouti, which saw thousands of protesters take to the streets of the capital, the Djibouti government now has the audacity to say that only 600 people took part in the demonstrations. I find these claims laughable.

Even in the first week of January before the Djiboutian public was buoyed by events in Egypt, photographic evidence clearly shows that more than 600 protesters were involved in the demonstrations. During the more recent demonstrations on the 18th and 19th of February, yet more photographic evidence and video footage shows demonstrators coming out onto the streets in their thousands.

The Djibouti government has also claimed that violence during the demonstrations was caused by protesters – another claim which is wholly unsubstantiated. The protests were in fact peaceful until demonstrators were attacked by government forces using tear gas and live fire. Even the government’s own TV station, RTD, clearly shows demonstrators being attacked by police with exploding tear gas canisters.

Following a visit to Djibouti on Sunday by the US military’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, the government claimed that it “encourages” peaceful demonstrations. The international community must see through this façade of democracy and examine what is really taking place on the ground.  Anyone with access to the internet can download clips from Djibouti state TV showing demonstrators being attacked with tear gas and what sounds like live fire.

I find it astonishing that the government can talk about encouraging peaceful protests, with the knowledge that 200 demonstrators are currently being detained in prison and are reportedly being held in poor conditions without food or space to sleep. The Djibouti government is also reportedly planning to prosecute leading opposition figures for seditious offences in special sessions of the local courts.

With more demonstrations planned for February 25th, the President is running out of options. Political trials will only lead to more demonstrations and hasten the day when he has to step down and allow free and fair elections. I call on him to resign immediately to allow the people of Djibouti to determine their future.

I will in the meantime be calling on the international humanitarian group Red Crescent to intervene to secure the release of all political detainees.

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