(Formerly called IRIN) Journalism from the heart of crises

Long-serving Prime Minister resigns

Djibouti’s Prime Minister Barkat Gourat Hamadou, aged 70, handed in his resignation to President Ismail Omar Guelleh on Tuesday, pleading ill health. After holding the position for more than 22 years, his decision was accepted.

Hamadou and Guelleh met early on Tuesday morning at the Presidential Palace, from where the prime minister later made a statement in which he explained that his decision to resign was chiefly motivated by poor health.

"I asked the President to take the necessary measures for my replacement as Prime Minister as I no longer have the strength and stamina to carry on," Hamadou stated. Such a decision should be seen as "of benefit to the success" of Guelleh’s rule, he added.

Well-known for his joviality, Hamadou has come across as a rather diminished figure in the past few months, during which he has been moving around with the help of a walking stick. He spent almost 6 months in hospital in Paris, France, between March and October last year following a stroke which left him partially paralysed.

Born in 1930 in the southwestern district of Dikhil, Barkat Gourat Hamadou is from the ethnic Afar community, which has complained of political marginalisation and fought for greater representation in government. Hamadou himself was not associated with radical Afar politics, but was a veteran politician who served as Prime Minister within the administrations of President Ismail Omar Guelleh and his predecessor, retired President Hassan Gouled Aptidon.

Hamadou's resignation came as no surprise in Djibouti, where speculation about his departure had been circulating, according to local sources.

In fact, the surprise came last week when Hamadou was reinstated as vice-president of the ruling Rassemblement Populaire pour le Progrès (or RPP, People’s Rally for Progress), they said. That re-election came during a special meeting of the party aimed at "restructuring". RPP is chaired by President Guelleh.

Observers had predicted that the RPP’s special meeting was meant to pave the way for Hamadou's removal but it now appears the former prime minister will remain a prominent figure within the party structure, according to media sources in Djibouti town.

Hamadou's departure will inevitably lead to a government shake-up, political sources in Djibouti told IRIN.

Acknowledging the Prime Minister’s resignation, Guelleh called on his cabinet members "to carry on their respective ministerial duties".

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