IGAD sends observer mission to Djibouti presidential election

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, 73, is running for his fifth term

IGAD has deployed a short-term election observation mission to the presidential election in Djibouti.

“An advance team headed by Hon. Siraj Fegessa of Ethiopia arrived on April 2. The 16-person team will deploy in Djibouti city, Ali Sabeh, Tajourah and Arta Districts,” Igad said in a statement on April 6.

Djibouti will hold its presidential polls on April 9, and a second round could be held on April 23, if no candidate receives a majority of the vote.

The last presidential election took place in 2016, in which President Guelleh won with 88 per cent of the vote. Some opposition parties boycotted the polls.

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, 73, will now be running for his fifth term.

Guelleh, who has served as President since 1999 having succeeded his uncle as only Djibouti’s second president since 1977, is practically assured of re-election.

USN and Radde parties have once again boycotted the elections. They have been holding protests calling for reforms, including free and fair elections.

Term limits were lifted in 2010, prior to Guelleh’s third term, even though he had said in 2005 that he would only serve two terms as stipulated by the constitution.

The opposition in Djibouti will have to deal with an authoritarian system and militarised security apparatus that reportedly killed at least 27 people ahead of the 2016 elections.

Africa Center for Strategic Studies in its January report said the elections are not expected to be free or fair.

“During his tenure, Guelleh has increasingly relied on repressive tactics to limit dissent. Opposition parties must be “recognised” by the partisan electoral commission, affording considerable leverage over which parties can participate. Even among recognised parties, members are periodically harassed, arrested, and prosecuted. Criminal records, in turn, can disqualify candidates from running,” the Centre said in the report.

It also noted that state media dominates public discourse and no privately owned or independent media operates within the country. The few journalists who write stories critical of the government are often arrested, beaten, and imprisoned.

President Guelleh also faces little pressure from the global powers given their interests in the country and its strategic location near the Bab al Mandeb and its access to maritime traffic through the Indian Ocean and into the Red Sea.

Djibouti hosts naval bases of France, the United States, China, and Japan. It is also the operational base for the international anti-piracy coalition operating in the region.

In his campaign trail, President Guelleh says he will prioritise health and education “because there is no sustainable development possible without qualified and healthy human capital”.

“Our future ambition in these two key sectors of our development is to continue the efforts undertaken because we are going in the right direction,” he said on April 5.

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

The Brief will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.