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04DJIBOUTI590 2004-04-20 15:26:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Djibouti
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 000590 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/20/2014


REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) Ambassador held a long meeting April 20 with France's
Ambassador to Djibouti, Philippe Selz to talk about
French-Djibouti relations in light of the recent flap between
the two countries over an outstanding matter involving the
death in Djibouti in 1995 of Judge Bernard Borrel, a French
national (see reftel). In two harsh editorials April 19 in
the government mouthpiece "La Nation", the French state was
accused of using the death of the judge "to serve its own
strategic interest." The editorials also said that calling
the death of Borrel a political assassination perpetrated by
the highest ranking people in Djibouti "is actually a coup."
France was also accused in the editorials of being the
"originator of the Rwandan genocide" and of "trying to
destabilize its former French colonies."

2. (C) The diatribe continued with accusations in the
editorials that France was "worried about its shrinking
influence since Djibouti agreed to accommodate the American
army," was looking down on "the installation in Djibouti of
the world superpower," and was "irritated" by the fact "that
American businesses might play a part in the Doraleh (port)
project." Djibouti's leaders, the editorial continued, "will
not be intimidated by the gesticulations of a colonial power
which, receiving ill will in Europe, returns to Africa to
recharge its power." The ferocity of the editorials raised
eyebrows and provoked much local speculation on their

3. (C) Ambassador initiated the meeting with Selz, who told
her that President Guelleh had indeed been extremely angered
by an April 16 French broadcast that carried remarks by the
attorney for Judge Borrel's widow implicating Guelleh in the
death of the judge. (reftel) He gave a history of the Borrel
affair, and said he expected it to remain in the public
spotlight for quite some time as a lingering irritant in
France-Djibouti relations. (Note: Selz used the term
"embarrassant" to describe the affair's continuing impact.
End note) Selz explained that Borrel's widow, herself a
judge, is pursuing the matter religiously on the
circumstances of her husband's death and has taken solace in
statements of a member of the Djibouti opposition who has
implicated Guelleh.

4. (C) Selz said Djibouti's government officially demanded of
France a public statement which, in essence, would deny the
involvement of Guelleh in the death of Borrel. Selz said he
tried to explain that France could not comment publicly on an
ongoing judicial investigation nor could it muzzle the free
French press. He said he reinforced in remarks to his
Djiboutian interlocutors that France's government had played
no part in, nor was in a position to deny or confirm, the
remarks made by Mrs. Borrel's attorney in the televised April
16 broadcast. He said he did consult with his government,
however, and a statement was issued by the French Foreign
Ministry on April 17. That statement, shared by Selz with
Ambassador, and unofficially translated by Embassy, is as

Begin text: The attorney for the Borrel family spoke
yesterday evening on TF1 regarding a judicial proceeding that
is currently in process. It is not appropriate for the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs to comment on this.
On the other hand, we are keen to reaffirm the excellent
cooperation the Djiboutian authorities have given in this
affair, notably in the realm of international fact-finding
In particular, each time the cooperation of Djiboutian
authorities was requested, they have granted without delay.

End text.

5. (C) Selz told Ambassador that this statement did not
satisfy the Djiboutian government. He said he has asked his
government to consider issuing another statement which he
hoped would be sufficiently strong to cool down tensions here
yet not compromise this ongoing judicial investigation. The
language he has proposed states, inter alia, that on the
basis of recently declassified information, there is no
implication of the involvement of the Djiboutian government
in the death of Judge Borrel. This would leave open, Selz
said, the question of whether additional declassified
information would reveal otherwise. Privately, Selz said,
there are indications that Borrel's death may well have been
a suicide, if one considers some of the evidence and
observations of those familiar with the case.

6. (C) Selz also said that he had asked Foreign Minister Ali
Abdi Farah to explain the Government of Djibouti's reference
in its presidential communique on the subject of Borrel
(issued August 17) in which Djibouti accused France of a
"strategy to divide" the country. Selz said Farah responded
that he did not know. Selz then told Farah that his
government will ask him to explain this point and needed to
have that information. Farah agreed to call Selz back, did
so, and stated that the reference was to the previous
government of France's efforts to support Afars over Issas.
Selz remarked that the Djiboutians did not want to understand
that governments, as well as policies, in France do change.

7. (C) Ambassador told Selz she had been troubled by the tone
of the editorials but also by the Government of Djibouti's
attempt to draw into the discussion, on an explicit basis,
the U.S. presence in Djibouti. She said there is no
relationship between the Borrel case and the U.S. presence
and the statements could well be viewed as an effort to use
the U.S. presence to place pressure on France in this case.
She noted that the U.S. and France are continuing to work
well together in Djibouti -- as they did in last week's flood
relief efforts -- and fully expects that relationship to
continue. Selz stated that he also saw the reference as an
attempt to put pressure on France. He lamented, though, that
the case is not likely to go away soon, therefore he is
recommending that a direct phone call occur between the
President of France and the President of Djibouti, but is not
sure if, or when, this might happen.

8. (C) Comment: Selz seemed taken aback by Guelleh's
reaction on the Borrel issue, admitting this was the
strongest France has seen on any issue between the two
countries. We thought it important to reassure him on U.S.
intentions and also to make clear to France our strong
aversion to Djibouti's efforts to draw our presence here into
the matter. We think the issue will cool down on its own as
there will be strong domestic economic pressure as well on
Guelleh to keep ties with France open and clear. Ambassador
was told by a prominent Djiboutian business person that
Guelleh was "not well-served" by his advisors in his
"childish" public handling of the French broadcast. Some
speculate that the President's wrath over the issue was
little more than a "qat moment," which his handlers ran away
with. End comment.