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.
Maydaneh Abdallah Okieh, a technician responsible for the news website La Voix de Djibouti, has been detained in Djibouti since 15 May. The charges are the result of Okieh posting photographs on his Facebook page of the Djibouti police using excessive force to disperse a peaceful demonstration.
Reporters Without Borders, a non-profit organisation which defends the freedoms to be informed and to inform others throughout the world, has called for the release of Maydaneh Abdallah Okieh. They have declared the charges against him as baseless, demanding his immediate release and the withdrawal of all charges against him.
Okieh was arrested at his home in Djibouti, before spending four days in police custody and later transferred to Gadobe prison under a court detention order. He is due in court on 30th May on the charges of “insulting a police officer”. Reporters Without Borders have exposed the inhuman and degrading treatment that Okieh has been subjected to whilst imprisoned, describing the conditions as extreme and barbaric.
Reporters Without Borders have described Okieh’s arrest as “a sign of the regime’s paranoia”.
Mr Abdourahman Boreh said:
“The USN stands beside Reporters Without Borders in calling for the immediate release of Maydaneh Abdallah Okieh. He is an example of one of the many political prisoners currently being unlawfully detained and it is time the Djibouti government listens and takes action”.
600 Djiboutian political prisoners continue to be detained in Gabode prison, despite repeated calls for their release.
Importantly, many of these inmates are innocent political prisoners who should be released immediately. Those who are accused of a genuine crime must be trialled in a free and fair manner.
The basic needs of these prisoners are not being met, with a lack of food, sanitation and medical attention. It is clear that the prison system in Djibouti is insufficient to cater for this number of inmates.
The Union for National Salvation (USN) has stated that the prisoners’ lives are at risk due to the cruel conditions in the prison. The individual cells are hugely overcrowded, with a lack of ventilation resulting in temperatures of up to 49 degrees Celsius.
The international community has been made aware of the situation, with the UN, African Union, EU, Leagues of Arab States and Organization of the Islamic Conference all being briefed on the inhumane prison conditions. The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) and the Djiboutian League of Human Rights (LDDH) have also repeatedly drawn attention to the situation, calling on members of the international community to condemn the human rights abuses of the Djibouti government.
However, the Djibouti government continues to let such human rights abuses persist.
Mr. Abdourahman Boreh said:
“The prisoners’ conditions in Gabode are of huge concern. It is time that the international community puts pressure on the Djibouti government to ensure that the physical and mental integrity of prisoners are protected and their safety is not jeopardised at any time. We cannot accept for detention conditions to be so harsh and poor that a politically motivated prison sentence risks becoming a death sentence.
“The prison system in Djibouti is not fit for human purpose. It was built in the colonial era for a population of less than 30 000. Today there are almost one million people living in Djibouti. The EU has recently built a prison for the Somali pirates, which meets the international standards. Surely, the Djibouti government should follow this example and take good care of its people that it has been failing miserably for decades”.
A good article was posted on 22 May on the Wall Street Journal. The article details the extent of the human rights abuses in Djibouti, the calls from the USN for democracy and references Mr. Boreh, the British Foreign Office and Friends of Djibouti.
The article draws on the growing concern and increased calls for action against the human rights violations in the country. The USN is represented as a peaceful, trustworthy organisation that seeks to eliminate human rights abuses. Through referencing authoritative bodies such as the British Foreign Office, BBC, LDDH and IFHR, the article boosts the credibility of the USN movement as a whole and also pinpoints the human rights situation as a priority for the international community.
Djibouti: Opposition Calls for the Release of all Political Prisoners
During his visit to London last week Djibouti President, Ismail Omar Guelleh told the BBC that there were no political prisoners in his country.
The Union for National Salvation (USN), the coalition of opposition parties in Djibouti, argues that there are more than 600 political prisoners in Djibouti.
The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) and the Djiboutian League of Human Rights (LDDH) have called upon the international community; in particular the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to condemn the human rights violations committed by the Djiboutian authorities and contribute to a political solution to the current crisis.
A spokesman for the British Foreign Office said: “We want to see an improvement on human rights in Djibouti.”
USN’s chief diplomat Abdurahman Boreh, in several interviews to the BBC in English, Somali and French services, urged President Guelleh to end the harassment of opposition leaders and their supporters.
In a recent report “Human Rights in Djibouti”, commissioned by “Friends of Djibouti”, the author, a British MP, Sir Tony Baldry, argues that “there is sufficient evidence to refer Djibouti’s President, Ismail Omar Guelleh, to the International Criminal Court for undertaking, permitting, allowing or sanctioning crimes against international law”.
Guelleh’s family has been in power for 36 years. The current leader is the nephew of Hassan Gould Aptidon, the first president of Djibouti after independence in 1977. President Ismail Omar Guelleh was re-elected in 2005, when the opposition parties boycotted the election.
In April 2005, immediately after his re-election, Guelleh told the French newspaper Le Monde that he would not support a constitutional change allowing him to serve beyond his second term.
According to the Djiboutian League of Human Rights (LDDH) and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR), at least 90 people have been arrested and detained at Gabode central prison in Djibouti since February 22 parliamentary elections.
For more information, visit http://djiboutiplan.com
The Djiboutian opposition coalition, the Union for National Salvation (USN), has begun its first post-election tour in the different districts of the country.
The extensive tour, which seeks to raise awareness of the USN, began in Balbala and will continue into the capitals of the five districts which make up the country. All senior members of the USN are present, except the three clerics who are still imprisoned.
The USN continues to challenge the election results of 22 February 2013 and intends to inform the Djibouti population of their key concerns. The leaders of the USN have all called on their supporters “to continue to mobilize and continue the struggle until the final victory.”
Two weeks ago, a large delegation of the opposition begun a tour of major embassies stationed in Djibouti including the United States, France or Qatar.
Mr Abdourahman Boreh said:
“This USN tour is a fantastic opportunity for the Djibouti population, those affected most by the current regime, to engage with the USN movement.”
On 9th May 2013, a series of interviews were broadcast across the BBC with Abdourahman Boreh and President Guelleh. Clippings of each recording can be found below.
This is a significant move by the BBC as the interviews highlight and emphasise the widespread issues in Djibouti. Both Abdourahman Boreh and President Guelleh are given a platform to discuss the situation in the country.
Or particular significance is the interview with President Guelleh where the BBC presenter probes him on some of the key concerns of the USN, namely the extensive human rights abuses. His replies are not convincing, even laughing in some of his responses. The problems in Djibouti are far from laughable and President Guelleh fails to acknowledge the true extent of the situation in this interview.
Abdourahman Boreh clearly states that the USN is looking for a peaceful transition of power in order to achieve democracy.
An excellent video has been placed on IBTimes which addresses trade and investment in Djibouti. With footage from the UK-Djibouti Trade & Investment Forum, the film includes interviews with USN representatives, footage of the peaceful demonstrations, as well as an interview Djibouti’s economy and finance minister Ilyas Dawaleh.
This film begins to address some of the key concerns of the USN, namely the allegations of fraud and unjustified imprisonment by the Djibouti government. The journalist places doubt on the ability of the current regime, stating that the USN and wider Djibouti population remain unconvinced by the government’s claim that it is pursuing democracy.
The video and accompanying article is copied in full below:
Djibouti is on a mission – a trade mission – in the UK. The small Horn of Africa state wants British investment to help build up its economy.
It sits in a strategically important point at the mouth of the Red Sea. Two thirds of the world’s commercial shipping fleet sails through its waters.
All is not well, however, and concerns over political stability lurked over the Djibouti government’s shoulder on its visit to London.
IBTimes UK spoke to Djibouti’s economy and finance minister Ilyas Dawaleh and the protesters gathered outside the trade forum.
Daher Ahmed Farah (DAF), leader of the USN movement, was released from prison this weekend.
This news is welcomed by the entire USN movement, and is a brief moment of justice for the people of Djibouti.
With DAF free, the USN is in a position to take up Guelleh’s commitment to talks, which were promised on the record on BBC Afrique.
The USN remains committed to pursuing diplomatic channels to ensure peaceful transition of power to a new democratically-elected government, and justice, dignity and democracy for the people of Djibouti
Mr Abdourahman Boreh said:
“DAF’s release is hugely important for the USN, indicating that the Guelleh regime is finally caving to international pressure. Whilst DAF’s release is important, this is but the first step that the regime must now take. We continue to call for the release of all further political prisoners, including Faycal Mohamed, Cheikh Bachir, Cheikh Guirreh and Dr Barkad.
“We thank stakeholders and allies that have pushed for the release of DAF – particularly the US State Department, whose important intervention has made a significant impact on the political situation in Djibouti and has invigorated our efforts to secure peaceful democratic transition of power.”
This past week has been a triumph for the USN, with real positive progress made towards the goal of democracy in Djibouti.
Demonstrations were held in central London on Tuesday and Wednesday in response to the Somalia Conference and the UK-Djibouti Trade & Investment Forum, which saw President Guelleh visit the UK capital. Whilst Guelleh assumed business as usual in discussing foreign direct investment from UK firms in Djibouti, the USN sought to spotlight the deteriorating situation in the country, calling on the UK government to address the major political and humanitarian abuses currently taking place. With over 500 USN supporters in attendance, it was hard to ignore the calls from the USN to the international community.
Interventions in the international media have also built momentum. Articles in both The Times and Le Figaro this week have provided exposure and support for the USN, with the journalist at Le Figaro particularly casting doubt on the ability of the current regime to support the needs of the Djiboutian people. BBC Somalia also broadcast a hugely influential piece that saw both President Guelleh and Abdourahman Boreh go head to head, showcasing the USN as the credible movement that it is. This piece, broadcast throughout the Horn of Africa region, was heard by the people on the ground in Djibouti, the people in most need.
USN representatives continued to engage with multiple political stakeholders during high level meetings this week. They received considerable support and solidarity from diplomats on behalf of the Djibouti people.
The overwhelmingly positive response received from key international stakeholders emphasises the critical importance of the USN’s movement. Plans to engage further with the NGO community will add to this momentum.
Going forward, the USN will continue to fight against human rights abuses in Djibouti in the name of democratic change.
Mr Abdourahman Boreh said:
“This week has been hugely encouraging for the USN but also the future of Djibouti as a whole. We will continue to pursue the channels which are available to ensure a prosperous future for Djibouti.”
On 8th and 9th May, demonstrations took place in central London which saw the USN call out against the Djibouti government. With over 500 people attending, the event exemplified the extent of the USN movement in the UK.
USN supporters lined the streets as the Somalia Conference and the UK-Djibouti Trade & Investment Forum took place, with President Guelleh in attendance.
The below videos give a snapshot of the event, with interviews with key USN representatives, including Abdourahman Boreh.
Demonstration day 1:
Demonstration day 2: