61. Djibouti (1977-present)

 

Pre-Crisis Phase (June 27, 1977-December 14, 1977):  Djibouti formally achieved its independence from France on June 27, 1977. Hassan Gouled Aptidon had been elected president by the National Assembly on June 24, 1977.

Crisis Phase (December 15, 1977 – November 10, 1991):  Members of the Afar People’s Liberation Movement (MPL) killed six individuals in Dijbouti city on December 15, 1977. French troops were called upon by the Issa-dominated government headed by President Gouled Aptidon to suppress violence by members of the minority Afar tribe in December 1977. On December 17, 1977, Prime Minister Ahmed Dini Ahmed, a leader of the Afars, resigned after accusing the Issas of the “tribal repression” of the Afars. Abdallah Mohamed Kamil was appointed prime minister on February 5, 1978, and Barkat Gourad Hamadou was appointed prime minister on September 30, 1978. The Popular Rally for Progress (Rassemblement Populaire pour le Progres – RPP) was established on March 4, 1979. The Popular Movement for Liberation (MPL) and the National Union for Independence (UNI) merged to form the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Djibouti (FDLD) in opposition to the government on June 1, 1979.  President Gouled Aptidon, leader of the RPP, was re-elected with 85 percent of the vote on June 12, 1981.  Ethnic Afars led by Moussa Ahmed Idris formed the Djibouti People’s Party (PPD) in August 1981, but the Issa-dominated National Assembly approved legislation that established the Popular Rally for Progress (Rassemblement populaire pour le Progrès – RPP) as the country’s only legal political party on October 19, 1981.  Legislative elections were held on May 21, 1982, and the RPP won 65 out of 65 seats in the National Assembly.  Eleven individuals were killed in a bombing at a café in Djibouti city on March 18, 1987.  Legislative elections were held on April 24, 1987, and the RPP won 65 out of 65 seats in the National Assembly.  President Gouled Aptidon was re-elected without opposition on April 24, 1987.  The Union for Democratic Movements (Union des Mouvements Democratiques – UMD) was established in Brussels in February 1990.  The government suppressed a rebellion in Tadjoura on January 8-9, 1991, resulting in the death of one government soldier.  On January 9, 1991, government police arrested 68 individuals for their alleged involvement in the rebellion. The Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (Front pour la Restoration de l’Unité et de la Démocratie – FRUD), an Afar rebel movement, was established in Balho in northern Djibouti on August 12, 1991. Amnesty International (AI) condemned the government for human rights abuses on November 6, 1991. Some 100 individuals were killed during the crisis.

Conflict Phase (November 11, 1991-February 7, 2000):  Members of the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (Front pour la Restoration de l’Unité et de la Démocratie – FRUD) rebelled against the Issa-dominated government beginning on November 11, 1991.  The Ethiopian government provided military assistance to FRUD rebels.  President Gouled Aptidon declared a state-of-emergency, and requested military assistance from France.  The French government mediated negotiations between the parties beginning on November 19, 1991, and agreed to deploy military observers in northern Djibouti on November 29, 1991.  Some 40 individuals were killed by government soldiers in the Arhiba district of Djibouti city on December 18, 1991.  Seventeen ethnic-Afar members of the National Assembly resigned in protest on December 23, 1991.  Government troops and FRUD rebels clashed near Tadjoura on January 3-4, 1992, resulting in the deaths of some 150 rebels and three soldiers.  Government troops and FRUD rebels clashed in the Gagade, Kharab, and Bekaneb districts on January 17-18, 1992, resulting in the deaths of some 150 rebels and 16 soldiers.  Paul Dijoud, representing the foreign minister of France, mediated negotiations between the parties on February 20-24, 1992, and the parties agreed to a cessation of military hostilities that went into effect on February 28, 1992.  Government troops and FRUD rebels clashed near Yoboki on February 24, 1992, resulting in the deaths of some 100 rebels and 14 government soldiers.  Some 250 French peacekeeping troops were deployed to maintain law and order in Tadjoura on February 25, 1992.  President Gouled Aptidon proposed a draft constitution on April 6, 1992, which provided for a multiparty political system and the protection of human rights.  A national referendum approved the constitution on September 4, 1992, but Afar opposition leaders had called for a boycott of the referendum.  French peacekeeping troops were withdrawn on November 27, 1992.  Legislative elections were held on December 18, 1992, and the RPP won 65 out of 65 seats in the National Assembly.  Ethnic Afars boycotted the legislative elections.  The League of Arab States (LAS), Organization of African Unity (OAU), and French government sent observers to monitor the elections.  President Gouled Aptidon was re-elected with 61 percent of the vote on May 7, 1993.  Government troops launched a military offensive against FRUD rebels on July 5, 1993.  Some 15,000 individuals fled as refugees to Ethiopia.  Government troops clashed with FRUD rebels north of Tadjoura on March 3-10, 1994, resulting in deaths of at least 20 civilians.  Government troops and ethnic Afars clashed in Arhiba district on June 5, 1994, resulting in the deaths of four individuals.  Ougoureh Kifle Ahmed, a leader of a faction of FRUD (known as New FRUD), negotiated a peace agreement with the Djibouti government on December 24, 1994.  New FRUD was legalized as a political party on March 9, 1996.  FRUD rebels headed by former Prime Minister Ahmed Dini Ahmed clashed with Djibouti government troops on September 1-2, 1997, resulting in the deaths of ten government soldiers.  Legislative elections were held on December 17, 1997, and the Popular Rally for Progress (Rassemblement Populaire pour le Progrès – RPP) – New FRUD coalition won 65 out of 65 seats in the National Assembly.  Government troops and FRUD rebels clashed in northern Djibouti on February 6, 1998, resulting in the deaths of twelve rebels.  Opposition leader, Moumin Bahdon Farah, was arrested by government police on May 7, 1998.  On September 6, 1998, eighteen individuals, including former Justice Minister Moumin Bahdon Farah, were charged with seeking to overthrown the government.  At least five government soldiers were killed by a landmine explosion near Tadjoura on November 17, 1998.  Ismail Omar Guelleh of the RPP was elected president with 74 percent of the vote on April 9, 1999, and he was inaugurated as president on May 8, 1999.  The Organization of African Unity (OAU), League of Arab States (LAS), and Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) sent twenty observers to jointly monitor the presidential election.  Seven government policemen were killed in a landmine explosion near Tadjoura on April 15, 1999.  President Ismael Omar Guellah ordered the release of some 40 political prisoners on May 10, 1999.  The French government promised additional economic assistance to the government of Djibouti on May 28, 1999.  Two opposition figures, General Ali Meidal Wais and Daher Ahmed Farah, were arrested and detained by government police on August 29, 1999.  Opposition leader, Moussa Ahmed Idriss, was arrested and charged with “threatening the morale of the armed forces” on Septemer 23, 1999.  Opposition leader, Moussa Ahmed Idriss, and 19 of his supporters were sentenced to four months in jail on October 7, 1999.  The French government facilitated the signing of a ceasefire agreement by government and Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (Front pour la Restoration de l’Unité et de la Démocratie – FRUD) representatives in Paris on February 7, 2000.  Some 1,000 individuals were killed, and some 100,000 individuals were displaced during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (February 8, 2000-present):  Ahmed Dini Ahmed returned to Djibouti from exile in France on March 29, 2000.  Dileita Mohammed Dileita of the Popular Rally for Progress (Rassemblement Populaire pour le Progrès – RPP) was appointed as prime minister on March 4, 2001.  Government and FRUD representatives signed a peace agreement in Djibouti on May 12, 2001.  Legislative elections were held on January 10, 2003, and the Union for the Presidential Majority (Union pour la Majorité PrésidentielleUMP) won 65 out of 65 seats in the National Assembly.  Opposition groups claimed election fraud.  The African Union (AU), League of Arab States (LAS), and Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) sent 12 observers to jointly monitor the legislative elections from January 9 to January 12, 2003.  President Guelleh was re-elected unopposed on April 8, 2005, and he was inaugurated for a second term on May 9, 2005.  Opposition political parties boycotted the presidential election.  The League of Arab States (LAS) and Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) sent observers to jointly monitor the presidential election.  Government troops and FRUD rebels clashed on November 20, 2005, resulting in the deaths of two government soldiers.  Five demonstrators were killed by government soldiers in the Arhiba district of Djibouti city on November 30, 2005.  Legislative elections were held on February 8, 2008, and the Union for the Presidential Majority (Union pour la Majorité PrésidentielleUMP) won 65 out of 65 seats in the National Assembly.  Opposition groups boycotted the legislative elections.  The African Union (AU) and League of Arab States (LAS) sent observers to monitor the legislative elections.  Government troops clashed with FRUD rebels near Bouya and Eshatou on May 28-29, 2010, resulting in the deaths of three government soldiers.  On April 14, 2010, the National Assembly approved a constitutional amendment eliminating term limits for presidents.  Two individuals, including one government policeman and one demonstrator, were killed in anti-government protests in Djibouti city on February 18-19, 2011.  On February 19, 2011, government police detained three opposition politicians, Aden Robleh, Mohamed Daoud, and Ismail Guedi.  President Ismail Omar Guelleh was re-elected with 81 percent of the vote on April 8, 2011, and he was inaugurated for this third term on May 8, 2011.  Opposition groups boycotted the presidential election.  The African Union (AU)  sent 27 observers led by former Foreign Minister Jacques Baudin of Senegal to monitor the presidential election from April 1 to April 9, 2011.  The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), League of Arab States (LAS), and Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) also sent observers to monitor the presidential election.  Several opposition groups established a coalition, Union for National Salvation (Union pour le Salut National – USN), in Djibouti city on January 16, 2013.  Legislative elections were held on February 22, 2013, and the Union for the Presidential Majority (Union pour la Majorité PrésidentielleUMP) won 43 out of 65 seats in the National Assembly.  The USN won 21 seats in the National Assembly.  Opposition groups claimed that the elections were flawed, and organized anti-government demonstrations on February 25-26, 2013.  Fourteen members of the USN were arrested and detained by government police.  The African Union (AU) sent 42 observers led by former Prime Minister Cissé Mariam Sidibe Kaidama of Mali to monitor the legislative elections from February 15 to February 28, 2013.  The League of Arab States (LAS) sent ten observers to monitor the legislative elections.  The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) sent five observers to monitor the legislative elections.  The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) sent twelve observers led by Professor Merga Bekana of Ethiopia to monitor the legislative elections.  On March 13, 2013, the Constitutional Council dismissed a legal challenge to the results of the recent legislative elections.  The 14 detained members of the USN were released from jail on April 12, 2013.  Three individuals, including two suicide bombers, were killed in a restaurant bombing in the city of Djibouti on May 24, 2014.

[Sources: Africa Contemporary Record (ACR), 1990-1992; Africa Research Bulletin (ARB), June 1-30, 1977, December 1-31, 1977, February 1-28, 1978, October 1-31, 1978, June 1-30, 1979, June 1-30, 1981, May 15, 1987; Agence France Presse (AFP), May 31, 2010; Associated Press (AP), April 8, 1999, April 10, 1999, April 11, 1999, January 10, 2003; Banks and Muller, 1998, 260-265; Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 256-257; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), December 20, 1997, February 7, 1998, May 7, 1998, September 6, 1998, November 17, 1998, April 9, 1999, April 11, 1999, April 15, 1999, May 8, 1999, May 10, 1999, May 28, 1999, August 29, 1999, September 23, 1999, October 7, 1999, February 7, 2000, March 29, 2000, April 9, 2001, June 8, 2001, January 11, 2003, April 9, 2005, April 19, 2010, February 22, 2013; Degenhardt, 1988, 80; Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), January 6, 1992, January 21, 1992, February 25, 1992, February 27, 1992, March 10, 1996; Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) press release, February 22, 2013; Jessup, 1998, 162-163; Keesing’s Record of World Events, February 3, 1978, January 1991, November 1991, December 1991, February 1992, December 1992, May 1993, July 1993, June 1994, December 1997; New York Times (NYT), June 14, 1981, March 19, 1987, March 24, 1987, December 20, 1991, April 9, 2005; Panafrican News Agency (PANA), February 7, 2000; Reuters, April 9, 1999, April 11, 1999, May 8, 1999, May 12, 2001, April 14, 2010, February 19, 2011, March 3, 2011, April 9, 2011, February 22, 2013, February 23, 2013, February 26, 2013, March 1, 2013, March 13, 2013, April 12, 2013, May 24, 2014, May 25, 2014; Tillema, 1991, 93-94.]

 

Bibliography

Schraeder, Peter J. 1993. “Ethnic Politics in Djibouti: From ‘Eye of the Hurricane’ to ‘Boiling Cauldron’.” African Affairs 92: 203-221.

Shehim, Kassim and James Searing. 1980. “Djibouti and the Question of Afar Nationalism.” African Affairs 79 (April): 209-226.