Djibouti’s changing political landscape: What you don’t know but should know


By: Yusuf Abdoullah

Somalilandsun- The comparatively tiny country of Djibouti among the Horn of Africa countries has recently seen an extra ordinary political change. The arrests of the Ulima including Sheikh Abdourahman Barkat God, Sheikh Guirreh Meidal and Abdurahman Souleiman Bachir, all very well respected socio religious leaders, as well as all other political leaders, have become a defining moment in Ismail Omar Guelleh’s reign.

This appears to have been Gulelleh’s worst political mistake and a sign of weakness in terms of his leadership. This has been a political disaster on his part. It has sparked massive demonstrations in Djibouti and abroad putting Djibouti on the map for the first time in his history but all for the wrong reasons.

The USN (Union for National Salvation) that has been very successful in organising both local and global protest and has become a real challenge to Mr Guelleh’s authority. Never before has the Djibouti regime faced so much opposition and at such consistent length.

Mr Guelleh’s regime has tried its utmost best to crash this genuine grass root movement but failed to do so. Guelleh was always successful in silencing any uprising or opposition and was successful in driving away any critical voice from the country in the past. Guelleh is still doing this. However, what has changed is that people fearful of the regime in the past have come out and stand for their rights. They are organized and show a great sense of togetherness despite all the barriers and treats of Guelleh’s regime. USN enjoys a wide spread support which has now become Mr Guelleh’s worst nightmare. Besides, USN has started to receive significant support from the international community who have now started to listen to their concerns. Critical voices from the US and the EU have emerged showing concerns about the Human Rights abuses and media censorship in Djibouti.

Many believe, particularly those in the USN, that Guelleh’s days are numbered and this is the start of his end, as peaceful and genuine protest will go unabated. USN believes Guelleh will leave through peaceful means and hope he comes to his senses sooner than later. USN members are trying to reach out to their neighbouring countries, particularly, Somaliland, Somalia and Ethiopia, who are, unsurprisingly, still very supportive of Mr Guelleh. USN leaders ask its neighbours to be careful and strategic about their support. They suggested that Guelleh’s end is nearing and ask their neighbours to be vigilant and do what is right and support the people of Djibouti.

The growing support for USN is bound to change the political climate in Djibouti. The question remains: will Djibouti’s neighbours take any note of these new developments? Time will tell.