|04DJIBOUTI352||2004-03-11 04:32:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Djibouti|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 000352
1. (C) SUMMARY. A rally Thursday, March 4th celebrating
the 25th anniversary of the Rassemblement Populaire pour
le Progres (RPP), the ruling political party in Djibouti,
marked the beginning of the campaign season for
Presidential elections, scheduled for early spring 2005.
Current President Ismail Omar Guelleh is already the
favored candidate. RPP's dominance in the political
arena and the distinct lack of a real opponent highlight
the fact that Djibouti's political system is only a
multi-party system in spirit. With the second-ever
Presidential election on the horizon, Djibouti's system
lacks transparency and a strong opposition. END SUMMARY.
BACKGROUND AND HISTORY OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN DJIBOUTI
2. (U) Djibouti has a population estimated at 600,000
inhabitants from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Somalis
make up the majority of the population, followed by
Afars and a minority of Arabs. The population has
ethnic, cultural and religious ties with Somalia,
Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen. A large number of
French nationals are also resident in Djibouti, as
well as Ethiopian and Somali migrants and refugees.
3. (U) Djibouti gained its independence from France
in 1977. At that time, the government decided to
keep a single political party in order to prevent
disintegration and friction among tribal affiliations.
The "Rassemblement Populaire pour le Progres" was born
in March 1979. Hassan Gouled Aptidon, the President
of the Republic of Djibouti, was elected as the first
president of RPP. It soon became obvious that one
clan, the Issas, were completely dominating the RPP
leaving the remaining clans to be treated as second
class citizens. The situation became unbearable for
the Afars, the second largest ethnic group, and they
eventually formed an opposition party, the "Front
pour la Restauration de l'Unite de Djibouti" (FRUD).
The political climate became so tense that in 1991
the situation culminated in civil war.
4. (U) In 1994, a peace treaty was signed between
the armed wing of the FRUD and the government (RPP).
It resulted in the first political alliance bringing
together the RPP and the FRUD. In the meantime,
President Aptidon had created a new constitution for
Djibouti which was finalized in 1992. The new
constitution lifted the ban on political parties,
allowing for a maximum of four parties during a
transitional period of ten years. Two more political
parties were then formed and created an opposition.
In September 2002, when the transitional period expired,
four additional parties appeared. (Comment: In order
to be legal a new political party has to be registered
with the Minister of Interior, who also has the power
to deny registration. End Comment.) By January 2003,
eight parties, grouped in two coalitions, were
represented in the legislative elections.
RPP'S DAY IN THE SUN
5. (U) March 4, 2004 marked the 25th anniversary of
the RPP, which coincided with its eighth
congress. The event lasted a full day, consisting
of the election of the party president and the
nomination of the Central Committee members,
followed by festivities. The Central Committee is
made up of the heads of each district RPP chapter.
Ismail Omar Guelleh, current President of Djibouti,
was unanimously re-elected to another three-year
term as president of the RPP.
6. (U) In his inaugural speech, President Guelleh
recounted the quarter-century journey of the RPP
by stressing that it is the leader in the political
arena, thanks to the efforts and courageous work
of its members. He added that the RPP made Djibouti a
country open to the world, a country that
accommodates various cultures. Guelleh also mentioned
that the RPP had brought people together by accepting
their differences and only looking at their
contributions. Furthermore, Guelleh reminded everyone
present that the world had become a global village
and that Djiboutians should be prepared to listen,
accept criticism and learn from it.
7. (U) Guelleh renewed his support for providing
adequate education and training to the youth, easy
access to health for the entire population and
advancing women's rights. Guelleh recognized the
need for assisting HIV/AIDS patients and their
families, allocating 100 million Djiboutian francs
(approx. US $570,000) to the cause. Finally, Guelleh
indicated that the RPP is committed to making numerous
reforms in democracy and good governance, including
holding regional elections in 2004. He also committed
the party to important development projects related
to the fight against poverty.
8. (U) The eighth congress of the RPP adopted several
resolutions related to Somalia, the Palestinian
Territories, Iraq and Sudan. Regarding Somalia, the
RPP renewed its call for unity, sovereignty, and
territorial integrity. The RPP is in favor of the
creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem
(Al-Qods) as the capital city. Concerning Iraq, RPP
affirmed its solidarity with the Iraqi people in their
right to obtain their sovereignty and territorial
integrity as quickly as possible. Lastly, the RPP
asserted its full support to the Sudan peace process
led by IGAD.
9. (U) The afternoon was devoted to festivities,
which included songs and a relay race from historic
Dikhil to Djibouti City.
10. (C) The RPP is the most dominating political
party in Djibouti. The other seven parties have
little political influence. Critics say it seems
they lack real agendas or concrete plans to fix the
problems of Djibouti. Political pluralism exists
only in theory. In reality, the single party system
is still very much alive. Some say that Djiboutians
who are unhappy with the way things are would still
vote RPP because the opposition would be worse, as
it lacks a plan for the future. Presidential
elections are scheduled to be held in early spring
2005. Guelleh has been making numerous public
appearances in the past few weeks, leading Post to
believe that he has started down the campaign trail.
Guelleh's snaring of U.S. aid and engagement will
undoubtedly figure prominently into his campaign.