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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05DJIBOUTI1069 2005-10-25 14:17:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Djibouti
Cable title:  

BORREL ANNIVERSARY: UNHEALED WOUNDS REOPENED

Tags:   PREL PGOV DJ 
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 001069 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF, AF/E;
LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER;

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/23/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV DJ
SUBJECT: BORREL ANNIVERSARY: UNHEALED WOUNDS REOPENED

REF: A. 2004 DJIBOUTI 1372


B. 2004 DJIBOUTI 1084

C. 2004 DJIBOUTI 585

Classified By: Erinn C. Stott for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: The Borrel Affair has been a recurring drama
between France and the Djiboutian Government for the past ten
years since the discovery of French Judge Bernard Borrel's
burned corpse just outside Djibouti City on October 19, 1995.
Initial conclusions in the investigation into Borrel's death
ruled it a suicide. However, Judge Borrel's wife has never
believed the suicide theory and has kept the investigation
open in France. To coincide with the tenth anniversary of her
husband's death, Elisabeth Borrel reportedly invited major
French networks to a press conference to debate the case. The
media blitz that ensued in France has once again disquieted
the Djiboutian Government and has prompted a backlash from
the state-run media in Djibouti. It has re-ignited the issue
for the Government of Djibouti and renewed its sparring with
the French media and judicial system.



2. (C) This year's retaliation for the French media coverage
of the Borrel Affair was an official announcement October
21st by Attorney General Djama Souleiman Ali, that Djibouti
would sever its agreement of judicial cooperation with
France. Past retaliations by the Djiboutian Government have
included terminating Radio France International broadcasts
into Djibouti, the expulsion of six French cooperative
advisors, accusing the French Government of trying to
destabilize Djibouti and requesting the French Government
"reign in" the French media. Post believes the recurring
nature of the Borrel Affair does not indicate more
degradation and dangers than usual to Djibouti-France
relations. Rather its an issue reignited each time Borrel
issues surface in the public domain in France. End Summary.



3. (C) October 18, 2005 marks the tenth anniversary of French
Judge Bernard Borrel's death just outside Djibouti City in


1995. Since the declassification of French Military documents
pertaining to the case in March 2004, the Borrel Affair has
been one of the most tense issues between the French and the
Djiboutian governments. The Government of Djibouti has in the
past urged the French government to control its media,
believing much of the reported content to be slanderous
towards President Guelleh and the Government of Djibouti. At
one point in 2004, Djibouti accused France of trying to
destabilize Djibouti with blasts made by the French media
(Ref C).



4. (C) The Borrel Affair returned to the forefront of
Djibouti-France tensions in August 2004 with President
Guelleh's scheduled official visit to commemorate the 60th
anniversary of allied landings during WWII (Ref B). Following
the request of Elisabeth Borrel's lawyers to question Guelleh
while he was in country, the French Ministry of Foreign
Affairs announced that Guelleh would be guaranteed immunity
from questioning during his visit. Borrel resurfaced again in
September 2004, when the Court of Versailles summoned
Djibouti's Attorney General, Djama Souleiman Ali, to respond
to a complaint entered by Elisabeth Borrel (Ref A). Souleiman
refused the summons and stated "French magistrates forget
easily that Djibouti is an independent and sovereign country.
They still think Djibouti is a French territory. There is a
judicial agreement between Djibouti and France since
September 27th, 1986 and if they want to call me, they have
to go through that procedure." Following the massive media
attention that this issue received, the French Ministries of
Foreign Affairs and Defense issued a joint statement
clarifying their positions towards Djibouti and the Borrel
case. The French Minister of Justice also made a statement on
Radio France International reminding judges of the
presumption of innocence and admonished them to not rush to
judgment. This statement appeared to appease the Djiboutian
government and this incident did not spark the usual
French-media bashing in the local government-run newspaper.



5. (C) In May 2005, President Guelleh made his first official
visit to France after winning the Presidential election on
April 8th. During this visit he was summoned by French courts
for questioning. This summons was not fulfilled because of
Guelleh's diplomatic immunity as a head of state. However,
the summons, combined with the scheduling of an investigative
report by TV5 on the Borrel Affair during the visit, led to
apparent retaliatory actions once again from the Djiboutian
government. This time transmissions into Djibouti by Radio
France International (RFI) were cut and Djibouti expelled six
French technical advisors.



6. (C) In honor of the tenth anniversary of her husband's
death, Elisabeth Borrel invited major French media stations
October 19 to a press conference, reportedly to debate the
case. Anticipating a major media blitz from the French Press,
the Djiboutians decided to counter this coverage with their
own stories in the local government-run newspaper, La Nation.
With more than three full pages of coverage, including one
quarter of the front page, the articles were heavily slanted
against the French media, and in some cases, insulting.
Articles and editorials frequently bad-mouthed the Djiboutian
witnesses living in exile in Europe, calling one "a
megalomaniac liar" and his testimony "crazy." La Nation also
ran political cartoons poking fun at Elisabeth Borrel and the
number of times she's exhumed her husband's body for
autopsies. It also reproduced a letter from the Presidential
Affairs Press Service to the French Conseil Superieur de
l'Audiovisuel (CSA), dated August 8, 2005, in response to the
CSA's letter addressing the complaints from the Presidential
Press Service regarding a TV5 story run in May 2005 on the
Borrel Affair. The Presidential Press Service stated it would
continue to believe that the arrangements of the television
program were manipulative and sensationalist, and did not
favor a climate of friendship and understanding between the
French and Djiboutian people.



6. (C) An Agence-France Presse article of October 21, 2005
reported that Djibouti has suspended its judicial cooperation
with France over the Borrel investigation. It quoted
Djiboutian Attorney General, Djama Souleiman Ali as saying
"The treaty of cooperation between the Republic of Djibouti
and France is now null and void." He continued "We have
fulfilled our responsibilities regarding the French justice
system and we are waiting to hear from them the truth of this
case." Ali also stated that no French investigators would set
foot on Djiboutian soil until Djibouti received the full case
file regarding the Borrel Affair.



7. (C) Comment: Djibouti's actions in response to the many
reappearances of the Borrel Affair, especially the media
coverage, have in the past appeared to be the Government
simply flexing its sovereign muscles in efforts to show that
Djibouti will not bend to the wishes of the French at the
drop of a hat. However, its recent reactions to media
coverage include frequent urgings that the French government
"control" its media, in the firm belief that it is within the
Government of France's capability to do so. It has also
indicated a growing nervousness or concern that this case
will not go away and may blow wide open with damaging
implications for Djiboutian principals. The documents
declassified in 2004 were only those prior to 1997 and
according to some news reports are not the documents that are
most telling about the possibility of Djiboutian government
involvement. If indeed there are documents that clearly
implicate President Guelleh in the death of the French judge,
the ramifications could be extremely damaging to his
political image in and out of Djibouti.
RAGSDALE