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04DJIBOUTI583 2004-04-19 11:04:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Djibouti
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E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) SUMMARY: To commemorate the fifth anniversary
of his election April 9, 1999 President Guelleh held
a press conference with local journalists (not the
opposition) April 7 to outline what he described as his
accomplishments. He began with a short speech and
answered questions for more than an hour. Guelleh's
assessment of his time in office was positive, naming
restoring peace as his greatest accomplishment. He
also expressed his desire to create an economic market
that would attract foreign direct investment. On a
regional level, Guelleh said the Government of Djibouti
hopes for a peaceful resolution to the Somalia issue
and considers overall relations with neighboring
countries good. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On the fifth anniversary of his election as
President of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh highlighted
the accomplishments of his administration in the areas
of equality and social justice, public education,
battling social vices, and what it means to be
Djiboutian. He commented that five years ago he asked
the Djiboutian people to "accompany me in the task of
creating a society founded on our spiritual and cultural
components." Guelleh also addressed the idea of
independence, saying "Independence is more than an act
of separation from the ancient colonial power. It is
above all the rescue of the self-respect, of the
dignity of the Djiboutian people who exercise their
liberty. But independence is a process that continues
every day. It is the manner in which the Djiboutians
exist in the world and in all of life."

3. (U) Questions to Guelleh from the press focused on
whether Guelleh felt he had fully accomplished his
goals politically and economically. Guelleh commented
that he believed he had "restored peace to the hearts
of our citizens. Peace has been my best success. I
believe I have responded to the appeals of the most
disadvantaged of our population. The respect of man
has been at the center of our strategy." (Note:
Guelleh refers to the final peace treaty ending the
civil war signed in 2001. End Note) Guelleh
emphasized that his administration has put social
sector needs first, as a base for development of the
country, highlighting education, health, the role of
women, habitat and water as the most important areas.
Guelleh reminded the audience that "to transform or
construct a country takes generations...but I think I
have modestly contributed to the rebuilding of our

4. (U) On the growth of the economy and whether it
would foster sustainable development, Guelleh said the
government has started to reduce the cost of living by
bringing the scales of internal taxes on consumption
down from 33 percent to 8 percent. The next step is
to rehabilitate the infrastructure of the country by
engaging the workforce in professional training. "We
commit ourselves" Guelleh continued "to creating the
conditions necessary to attract foreign direct
investment. But the road is long and the difficulties
remain with the recent price of oil." Guelleh
commented that despite these difficulties the economy
was promising, a rise in youth employment statistics
had been reported and for the first time Djibouti's
growth rate surpassed its birth rate. Guelleh detailed
the efforts that the government has made, emphasizing
stabilization of public finances, reducing debt and the
deficit, and a research program for less costly and
renewable energy.

5. (U) On the issue of corruption and reforms, Guelleh
refuted the idea that corruption has gained the most
ground, saying "It is a question of education in my
opinion...If the directors don't speak, don't teach,
don't educate the people, the spread of corruption
risks becoming dangerous for the society and for the
country as well as the people who risk the loss of
their soul." Guelleh also commented that "It is us
that need the reforms more than the World Bank or the
IMF. It is us that need structure and discipline.
These reforms are strong and difficult. But we have
passed the most difficult point." Guelleh went on to
say the IMF Staff Monitored Program negotiated this
spring would be good for the country and the Poverty
Reduction Strategy was finally ready for review and
decision of the administrative council at the World

6. (U) Guelleh wrapped up the interview by addressing
the Somalia issue, saying "We would like that the
Somali people and their representatives have a chance
to talk amongst themselves. We recommend that the
international community be ready to help the Somali
people rebuild their country." In response to
questions concerning how Djibouti's Somalia policy has
affected relations with Ethiopia, Guelleh commented
the two countries are "linked by blood and history.
The economy further ties us together," and that the
two countries are compelled to work for the good of
both countries. Guelleh paralleled relations with
Somaliland to relations with Ethiopia saying, "I am
obliged to facilitate life for our fellow citizens
on both sides. The question of sovereignty or
non-sovereignty does not concern us. It concerns
the people of the country that must regulate their
own affairs with their brothers."