All Africa has reported this week of a statement released by The Djiboutian Observatory for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights (ODDH) which condemns the Djibouti police force’s alleged secret cremation and burial of political prisoner Mohamed Elmi Rayaeh’s remains.
Mohamed Elmi Rayaeh, a teacher at a local school in Balbala, was arrested and later incarcerated on 2 August 2013 in Gabode Central Prison. This was the result of his involvement in the February protests following Djibouti’s contested parliamentary elections.
Rayaleh’s family was not present at the burial, and their request for an autopsy was not fulfilled before his remains were destroyed, ODDH said. The ODDH has requested that a commission is undertaken regarding Rayaleh’s death.
USN has published a concerning notice that Mohamoud Elmi Rayaleh, a French professor and a member of the USN, was arrested on 2 August. On the night of 28/29 August he was found dead in his cell. The circumstances of his death remain unexplained.
The story is being widely reported.
Djibouti’s opposition Union for National Salvation (USN) announced this week (19 August) that it reached an agreement with the government that address USN’s concerns over February’s contested parliamentary elections.
USN stated via twitter that the government agreed to release several USN political prisoners, calling for the government to do so in the near future.
USN also said the two parties will continue to meet to address allegations of government harassment and the USN’s place in the National Assembly.
Reporters Without Borders announced this week that Daher Ahmed Farah (DAF), an opposition activist and former journalist, was finally released on 14 August after being held in prison since 2 July on a charge of refusing to comply with a judicial order.
Farah has been imprisoned repeatedly since the start of the year. This time he spent six weeks in the capital’s Gabode prison.
The official European Union representative of the Union Pour Le Salut National (USN), Ali Deberkale Ahmed, has stated that the Djibouti regime is guilty of “extremely serious human rights violations and abuses”. He stated that the abuse is aimed directly at the Youth Movement of the Opposition and the families of the religious leaders who have actively taken part in the peaceful protests in recent months.
Ali Deberkale Ahmed believes the regime continues and strengthens the campaign of intimidation that leads on European soil, especially in Brussels, against the USN. Ali Deberkale Ahmed has called on Belgian and European authorities to demand the release of political prisoners, which include the Belgian-Djibouti president of the Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development, Farah.
The U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID] has released the first tranche of its $4 million contribution in 2013 to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) for the Republic of Djibouti. This emergency assistance, announced Tuesday night, is destined primarily to assist rural populations who are experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity due to drought.
“This contribution will be absolutely vital in meeting the humanitarian needs of Djibouti’s rural poor, whose ability to cope has been battered by several years of drought,” said WFP Acting Country Director Imed Khanfir.
“It’s especially crucial to receive this support now, as July is the start of the three-month lean season.”
The aid programme will seek to support the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children currently facing extreme poverty in Djibouti. 65.2% of the population in Djibouti Ville, the capital city, live in relative poverty and 57.4% in extreme poverty, according to recent figures from the IMF.
The IMF describes the situation in Djibouti as a “persistent reality of poverty and social inequality” which is “not merely a social problem but also a full-fledged development challenge.”
Abdourahman Boreh, Special Delegate for Global Affairs, Union Pour Le Salut National – the Djiboutian opposition movement said:
“We welcome unilaterally the US government and the World Food Programme’s continued activity in Djibouti. Without such important bilateral support, the people of Djibouti would suffer even more from daily chronic hunger and thirst.
“Djibouti undoubtedly suffers from harsh environmental conditions.
“But we must turn our attention to the equally inhumane political conditions that have allowed this terrible humanitarian disaster to develop.
“We must remember that by official estimates, Djibouti is a middle income country, with clear opportunities to develop a strong economic base highly capable of sustaining its population and enabling its people to prosper.
“Yet our compatriots starve, oppressed by hunger and a dictator bent on stunting any possibility of popular renewal.
“No effective poverty reduction or drought support strategy has been put in place by the current regime. Instead, a profligate, kleptocratic elite has squandered the resources that international partners have invested in and donated to our country.
“There is a drastic need for an overhaul of the current regime’s politically motivated and institutional undermining of human dignity.
“A new focus must be placed on prioritizing the sanctity of human life. And a commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals – eradicating extreme poverty in particular – by 2025 at the latest must be institutionalized within the very fabric and purpose of government.
“The tragedy of the current humanitarian situation is deepened by the extraordinary opportunities offered by our country, with its strategic location at the entrance to the Red Sea and as an export outlet for the heavily populated landlocked countries to the West.
“Our compatriots are ambitious, aspiring people who want the best for their families. They are massively let down by a regime obsessed not with their wellbeing, but with its own political legacy and securing its own nefarious financial interests.
“The time for political change in Djibouti is long overdue.”
The European Parliament has passed an important resolution on Djibouti that further underlines the growing level of international pressure upon the Guelleh regime at a time of oppression, repression and human rights abuse in Djibouti.
The resolution, brought to the Parliament by a cross-party coalition of MEPs, led by Marielle de Sarnez and José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra, calls the Guelleh regime to account on the hugely concerning situation in Djibouti following legislative elections on 22 February; the tense political climate in the country; the mass arrests of USN members; violent suppression of demonstrations held to protest about irregularities in the elections; and assaults on the freedom of the media.
The European Parliament has followed the US State Department’s intervention in late April for the release of political prisoners, the publication of results from each polling station used in the 22 February election; and for the government to halt collusion on sexual violence against women.
In addition, the European Parliament has called on the regime, with the aid of institutions which validated the results of the election, in particular the African Union, to embark on a process of political dialogue with the opposition, in accordance with the announcement made by Guelleh on 27 June; and calls on the EU to support the work of regional organisations and contribute to the efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.
You can view the debate on Djibouti in the European Parliament here.
Abdourahman Boreh, Special Delegate for Global Affairs for the Union Pour Le Salut National said:
“We wholeheartedly welcome this significant intervention from the European Parliament. At this dark time of political oppression, violence and human rights abuse, the need for support from our international partners is absolute.
“We welcome the European Parliament’s call for the Guelleh regime to enter into dialogue with the USN.
“But let it be made clear: whilst many of our fellow USN activists remain imprisoned in subhuman conditions, free and fair dialogue cannot take place.
“In particular the reimprisonment of Daher Ahmed Farah, the USN’s spokesperson, last weekend, is an assault on justice and human dignity, and reveals the true, barbaric face of the Guelleh regime.
“We now call on the High Representative, Catherine Ashton, to exert greater pressure on the Guelleh regime to ensure that the USN and the international community’s calls for the release of political prisoners, the halting of violence and an end to all forms of human rights abuse are met with swift and effective action.”
Reporters Without Borders (RWB), a France-based NGO which promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom on the press, has condemned the oppressive treatment that journalists continue to receive from the Djiboutian authorities.
RWB has criticised recent court decisions for creating an oppressive environment which blemished recent celebrations of the 36th anniversary of Djibouti’s independence.
Former journalist Daher Ahmed Farah recently received another two-month jail sentence, having already been arrested several times this year and spent three weeks in Gabode prison for “refusing to comply with judicial order”. The Djibouti court also extended the sentence of La Voix de Djibouti news website editor, Maydaneh Abdallah Okieh.
Djibouti is ranked 167th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
The UK Commercial Court has today struck out criminal claims brought by the Government of Djibouti against Abdourahman Boreh, an international businessman and leading opposition campaigner.
The defence argued the case was “politically motivated” by President Guelleh of Djibouti, whose government is known to have engaged in intimidation of political opponents.
Following the case, presidential challenger Abdourahman Boreh delivered a damning critique of the current regime.
Abdourahman Boreh, international businessman and leading Djiboutian opposition figure, said:
“We thank his honour the judge for his time and patience over the last three days.
But let us not forget that these proceedings are fundamentally a political distraction.
In spite of the greatest efforts of this draconian regime to undermine a blossoming liberal democratic movement in my country, the people of Djibouti must not lose focus on the importance of the task at hand: ensuring peaceful political transition of power to a new, progressive government, committed to justice, democracy and dignity for its citizens.
While President Guelleh spends millions of dollars pursuing me on illegitimate grounds through the UK courts, thousands of miles away in my cherished homeland, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children starve every day. You need only look at the latest figures from the IMF to see that over half of Djiboutians live in extreme poverty. UNICEF will tell you that 15 per cent of the population suffer from a – and I quote – “crushing lack of food, health care, nutrition support, drinking water and sanitation facilities”.
Let the President answer why his priorities are with the bolstering of his own regime and his own dreamt up political battles, and not with the people of Djibouti.
And let him answer why political prisoners from the Djibouti opposition, the Union pour le Salut National (USN) – my friends and fellow activists – remain locked up in subhuman conditions.
Let him answer why, when asked by the BBC last month about imprisoned USN activists in Djibouti, he lied on record and stated that there were – and again, I quote: “No political prisoners in our country. Not a single man condemned for expression…”
Let him explain to the families of locked up legitimate political activists – including Cheikh Bachir, Cheikh Guirreh, Dr Barkad and Faycal Mohamed – these proud Djiboutians calling for change, for dignity, for justice, how he can justify such flagrant lies that makes a mockery of their struggles and sufferings. Let him answer the US State Department’s calls for these prisoners to be released with immediate action.
And let him explain how a nation so strategically placed, so rich in potential, with a population so ambitious, can be allowed to fall into a state of such dire economic and social deprivation.
I challenge you, President Guelleh, to give straight, honest and direct answers to the people of Djibouti.
Because we, the USN – the legitimate government of Djibouti – will never be restrained or deterred by your bullying tactics, your harassment, your intimidation.
Because we, the USN, the people, know your time is up.
The people have spoken. Now is the time of the alternative. For democracy, for dignity, for justice.