1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. East Africa
  4. Djibouti

No challengers for Guelleh as presidential campaign kicks off

[Djibouti] President of Djibouti Ismael Omar Guelleh.
President Ismael Omar Guelleh. (IRIN)

Campaigning for Djibouti’s forthcoming presidential election officially began at midnight on Friday, as stipulated by the country’s constitution, despite the fact that incumbent President Ismael Omar Guelleh is the sole candidate.

Nonetheless, the election is expected to take place on 8 April as scheduled. Sources in the capital, Djibouti City, said pro-Guelleh posters and other campaign materials were being plastered on walls and circulated throughout the city on Friday.

Guelleh was elected as the second president of the tiny Horn of Africa nation in 1999, taking over from his uncle, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had ruled the country since it gained independence from France in 1977.

Aptidon was forced by international pressure to introduce multi-party politics in 1992, ending 15 years of one-party rule in Djibouti, which has a population of just 712,000, according to the UN.

Parliamentary elections were most recently held in 2003, with Guelleh’s Union for Presidential Majority coalition winning all 65 seats amid opposition claims of widespread rigging.

In a report on 28 February, the US State Department noted that the Djibouti government had a poor human-rights record, with security forces committing "serious human-rights abuses".

The report also accused the government of limiting citizens’ rights to change their government. It said some opposition leaders effectively practiced self censorship and refrained from organising popular demonstrations rather than provoke a government crackdown.

The main opposition coalition, the Union of Democratic Alliance (UDA), has called upon all its members to boycott April’s election.

Another opposition group, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD), released a statement on 18 March supporting the UDA’s decision, and stating that "change through the ballot box is almost impossible in the Republic of Djibouti".

FRUD, which boycotted the 2003 elections, launched an appeal to the people of Djibouti "to get mobilized against the presidential election," according to its statement.

It also called upon states with a military presence in the country, namely France and the US, to back "a democratic transition in Djibouti".

Djibouti served as an operations base during the 1990-1991 Gulf War, and France continues to have a significant military presence in the country. More recently, the US has stationed hundreds of troops in Djibouti as part of its effort to counter terrorism in the region.

Mohamed Daoud Chehem, the only other candidate in the presidential election, reportedly dropped out of the race earlier this month due to financial problems.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

It was The New Humanitarian’s investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that uncovered sexual abuse by aid workers during the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo and led the World Health Organization to launch an independent review and reform its practices.

This demonstrates the important impact that our journalism can have. 

But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking. 

We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone.

The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and shine a light on similar abuses. 

Become a member today and support independent journalism

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.