The people of Djibouti have given up hope of free and fair presidential election as President Guelleh tightens his grip on opposition groups and pro-democracy campaigners in the run-up to next week’s vote on April 8.
With only days before the election, President Guelleh has “shown his true colours” by throwing out Democracy International, a US government-funded election monitoring group, amid “laughable” claims that it was supporting opposition groups, says Abdourahman Boreh, a leading opposition figure who withdrew from the election earlier this month following Mr Guelleh’s brutal suppression of anti-government demonstrators.
Mr Boreh said the ejection of Democracy International had dealt “a devastating blow” to the country’s hopes of a free and fair election and was the culmination of a “despicable campaign of intimidation and violence”, which over the last few months has seen:
- Five people killed and dozens more wounded by armed police and soldiers who fired live bullets and used tear gas during anti-government demonstrators on February 18
- Demonstrators cancel a rally on March 4 after armed police came out in force to confront and intimidate protestors
- Dozens of opposition and pro-democracy leaders imprisoned in squalid conditions, with little food or water
President Guelleh’s People’s Rally for Progress party, and President Guelleh’s family, have ruled Djibouti since independence from France in 1977. Guelleh, first elected in 1999, amended the constitution in March 2010 to allow himself to extend his rule by two more six-year terms.
“In the absence of Democracy International, and without independent election observers, President Guelleh will try to legitimise the results of the election by making all sorts of wild claims about voter turnout and the percentage of the vote he has received,” said Mr Boreh.
“The reality is that the vast majority of people in Djibouti aren’t allowed to vote, and there is no transparency in voter registration, control of ballot papers, or the counting of votes. The vote will be rigged. We are confident however that most people will join the opposition’s boycott in defiance of Mr Guelleh’s brutal regime, and we will gather evidence of the expected very low turnout.”
He added: “It’s no longer enough for the world to watch in silence as the people of Djibouti are forced to put up with a President that has consistently refused to follow the rule of law. Opposition groups must be allowed to exercise their right to stand for election without the fear of imprisonment and voters should be confident that they can cast their vote without intimidation.
“As the election approaches, I call on the international community to consider the dangers to civil peace of an illegitimate election, in the wake of events in Yemen, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, and take steps to postpone voting until we can be confident that it will be organized in a free and fair manner.”
Mr Boreh concluded: “All we’ve been asking for throughout this campaign is an opportunity for the people of Djibouti to decide on their future after living for more than 30 years under one-party rule. We as opposition are not calling for the overthrow of the Government by non-constitutional means – we’re merely seeking a peaceful transition of power and what the rest of the world considers a basic human right – a free and fair election and a legitimate government.”