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.
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.”