Today’s anti-government protests in Djibouti, calling for President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh to step down, are larger than expected. Around 30,000 out of the capital’s 600,000 population took to the streets.
The Djiboutian opposition formation UDDESC from Djibouti City reports that the number of protesters, gathering in the centre of the city after the Friday prayers, is still increasing. Currently, an impressive 5 percent of the city’s population is protesting against President Guelleh.
There are different reports of renewed government repression of the protest wave. Some protest leaders say they have heard gunshots, probably being the police shooting in the air trying to disperse protesters.
Activists from UDDESC report from Djibouti City that government just had blocked the mobile network to prevent the opposition from mobilising more people. In Djibouti, where the use of the internet and social media is very limited, mobile phones and sms’s are being used as the means of mobilisation.
The protests are led by the main opposition Union for a Democratic Alternative (UAD), which has mobilised its followers in rallies against President Guelleh’s unconstitutional third term bid since 1 January.
On 28 January, spontaneous protests broke out in Djibouti City after the Friday prayers, and students at the University of Djibouti have been rioting and fought battles with security forces. The UAD decided to join and lead these pro tests movements, calling for a massive protest today
UAD President Ismaël Guedi Hared modestly expected up to ten thousand persons to follow the massive calls for protests today – modest because the UAD had around 40 percent of voters behind it at the last elections where it participated. The UAD has boycotted Djibouti’s two last elections over fraud allegations.
Mr Hared therefore today was positively surprised about the great turnout of protesters. Also the UAD’s slogans are dominant in today’s protests. « No to a third term » is the main message of protesters, this evening moving towards the presidential palace.
There have been very few international press reports about the Djibouti protests and its preparations as there are no foreign journalists in the country. National media, totally controlled by government, have not mentioned the protests. The only available sources, also for afrol News, are from the Djiboutian opposition and activists.
The government of Djibouti has not commented on the protest movement and has tried to avoid international attention about it. According to UDDESC activists, this evening even international calls have been blocked in Djibouti in an attempt to restrict reporting from the events.