|03DJIBOUTI536||2003-03-25 13:04:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Djibouti|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (C) Four people have been injured, two seriously, in three days of
anti-war student demonstrations in Djibouti City.
Two local students were seriously wounded when local police fired on
demonstrators on March 24; they remain hospitalized. In addition, two
German soldiers were injured on the same day while driving by a
demonstration by local university and high school students. Although
the demonstrators, virtually all students, reportedly have sought to
march on the U.S. Embassy, local police have restricted them to the
downtown area. The demonstrations, occurring successively on March 23,
24, and 25, have ranged in number from 100 to 600 people and have laste
approximately 5 hours each day. Local press coverage has included
graphic visuals, perhaps inciting the demonstrators. The extensive
press coverage of the demonstrations themselves suggests that at least
the first was government-sanctioned. However, as the gatherings have
continued, they have begun to take on a slight anti-government coloring
Local security officials expect demonstrations to continue, and perhap
to become more violent, as U.S. forces approach Baghdad. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Four people, including two Djiboutian students and two
German soldiers, have been injured in anti-war demonstrations occurring
on the mornings of March 23, 24, and 25. Local police have restricted
the demonstrations to the downtown area, using riot control tactics and
tear gas, although reports suggest that the protestors have sought to
continue their protests at the U.S. Embassy. The students responded by
throwing rocks at the police and vandalizing nearby vehicles. On March
24, police reportedly fired upon the crowd, injuring two students
seriously. The two remain hospitalized in serious condition. In
addition, U.S. military personnel received a report that two uniformed
German soldiers were injured as they drove by one of the demonstrations
in a German military vehicle.
3. (C) Students report that the initial demonstrations of March 23
were the direct result of bulletins posted on the university and high
school campuses. Students deny that they posted the bulletins themselve
or of having knowledge of who did so. Senior FSNs, however, report tha
they have heard reports that local security forces posted the bulletins
Opposition unionist and high school teacher Souleiman Djama told ConOf
that he witnessed clandestine state security personnel posting bulletin
announcing demonstrations at a local high school. In a conversation wit
Conoff, Abdirazak Hassan Guedi, the judiciary council to the Minister o
the Interior, denied these claims, calling them rumor. Security
field reports indicate that the demonstrations were incited by local
4. (U) The state-run newspaper "La Nation" gave front page coverage to
the first of the demonstrations on March 23. The front page photo in
the March 24th edition pictured marching students waving Iraqi flags an
anti-war banners. The opening line of the adjoining article read...
"Felt to be unjust and unjustified, the war against Iraq has provoked a
general outcry in the entire world." A second cover article on
the same day titled "The war of images" spoke to the graphic nature of
the television coverage of the war. The article specifically addressed
Al-Jazeera pieces, noting that "The war against Iraq is not as clean as
we might imagine. Despite the precision of their high technology, smart
bombs have caused numerous civilian casualties, the number of which can
only rise after every attack."
5. (C) The fact that the demonstrations were covered in the state-run
newspaper and television suggests that at least the first demonstration
was government- sanctioned. Djibouti is the only Arab League country
not to experience immediate anti-war demonstrations; thus, it is likely
that the President believed it necessary to demonstrate popular
opposition to the war prior to the March 24 Arab League meeting in
Cairo. The President made his first critical public statement on March
24, likely to boost his position in Cairo. He opposes the war in Iraq
even though he believes there should be regime change, but he
fears that demonstrations of any kind will also become anti-government
because of the poor state of the Djiboutian economy.
6. (C) The most recent demonstration on March 25th was accompanied
by a police escort and conducted in a peaceable manner; however, the
most recent gatherings have begun to take on an anti-government cast.
Embassy personnel and U.S. military continue to monitor the situation
around town; all agree that this is only the beginning of what is
believed will be many more demonstrations to come. Embassy security
contacts have suggested that, due to the graphic media accounts
of the war, the potential for violent demonstrations will increase as
the fighting nears Baghdad.