By William Davison
Opposition parties in Djibouti, the Horn of Africa nation that hosts the only U.S. military base on the continent, plan to demand the resignation of President Ismail Guelleh in a protest scheduled for Feb. 18.
At least 1,000 people are expected to attend the peaceful demonstration that may continue through the weekend, Ismail Guedi Hared, president of the Union for a Democratic Alternative, said in a phone interview today from the capital city, also called Djibouti. The coalition group represents at least three opposition parties, he said.
People are angry, Hared said. The people will say we want the president to leave. We shall stay Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday.
Anti-government protests across North Africa since January ousted the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, while similar demonstrations have occurred in Algeria and Libya. In Djibouti, Guelleh’s People’s Rally for Progress party has ruled the country since independence in 1977. The 63-year-old leader, who was elected in 1999, amended the constitution in March to allow him to extend his rule by two more six-year terms.
Guelleh has been president for 12 years and he wants to continue, but we are saying we don’t want you, Hared said. It is because he doesn’t do anything for the people or the country. He takes all the money.
A spokeswoman for Guelleh said she couldn’t immediately comment when contacted on her mobile phone today. Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Yousef didn’t answer his phone when Bloomberg called him seeking comment.
The U.S has had a base in Djibouti since 2001, while former colonial power France also has 3,000 troops stationed in the country, which is smaller than the U.S. state of Massachusetts. The republic borders the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and is seen as a strategic location in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism and piracy.
Last month, exiled Djiboutian opposition leader Abdourahman Boreh called for elections scheduled for April to be delayed by as much as a year and for international monitors to oversee an electoral roll that includes 130,000 to 140,000 of the population of about 865,000.
Boreh was the chairman of the Djibouti Port and Free Zone Authority from 2000 to 2009, when he left the country following a dispute with the government. He was subsequently given a 15- year prison sentence following accusations he was involved in a grenade attack in Djibouti that didn’t leave any injuries.
Boreh denied all charges and said the case was politically motivated and unfair because his lawyers were prevented from representing him.
Djibouti ranks 148th out of 169 countries ranked in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy, education and living standards.
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