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05DJIBOUTI626 2005-06-30 14:29:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Djibouti
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					C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DJIBOUTI 000626 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/29/2015

REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D).

1. (C) Summary: A delegation of heads of Djibouti's
opposition met, at their request, with Ambassador on June 8.
They expressed to her their concerns about what they
described as a lack of cooperation of the Guelleh government
with the opposition and the high level of frustration
existing among the majority of the country's population. The
resulting atmosphere could lead to violence. They wanted
direct USG intervention in Djibouti to effectuate rapid
democratic change. Ambassador used the occasion to make
clear the USG commitment to the advancement of democracy in
the Middle East and Horn of Africa and also to advise
opposition members of their own responsibilities, not just
rights, within a democratic system. End summary.

2. (C) Ismail Guedi, President of the Union for Democracy and
Justice (UDJ), Ahmed Youssouf, President of the Republican
Alliance for Democracy (ARD), and Souleiman Farah, Acting
President of the Movement for Democratic Renewal (MRD)
praised the recent commitment by President Bush to promote
democracy and good governance on the African continent. In a
meeting with Ambassador, Pol/Econ officer, and Pol/Econ
Assistant on June 8, the group, known as the Union for
Democratic Alternates (UAD) coalition, said President Bush's
words gave them hope and renewed their energy. They said
their numerous appeals to the Government of Djibouti for
transparent and free presidential elections had been in vain.
The coalition wished to continue its fight for a democratic
future for the country and warned that all their efforts to
avoid violence could be useless in the face of "growing
frustration" of the population at large. The coalition
accused the government of ignoring the opposition and,
sometimes, "threatening their members."

3. (C) The Ambassador pressed for specificity in the UAD
claim of a genuine danger of violence or revolution in
Djibouti. The UAD used the example of Somalia, saying people
there had taken to the streets to oust the corrupt Siad
Barre. As the population in Djibouti is being deceived
similarly by "massive frauds," which happened during the
recent presidential elections, the same could occur in
Djibouti. They continued that since President Guelleh had
not been elected democratically, the danger of violence
exists and once started, would be difficult to stop. The
world will blame the U.S. and France, Guedi said, for having
failed to take action to prevent the violence.

4. (C) The UAD continued that in their view, the Government
of Djibouti lacked a political will for electoral reform.
Giving no specific examples, Youssouf declared that the
Government of Djibouti does not take the opposition seriously
and continuously misleads the international community. It
uses force, fraud and public funds to stay in power. While
pluralism was legalized in 2002, the result is still single
party rule since the remaining parties have no real power.
Eleven years of civil war, group members went on to say,
which resulted in more than a thousand deaths on both sides,
were caused by the Government's refusal to embrace democracy
and good governance. Moreover, the government's
unwillingness to change and its peace agreement with the
Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD) in
2001, signed in the presence of the international community,
is still not implemented.

5. (C) The Ambassador told the representatives that both she
and her interlocutors have expressed clearly to each other
the importance of democracy and good governance. So how
would they suggest a government proceed, she asked? She
noted that the UAD is free to criticize government in a
democracy but criticisms are best accompanied by constructive
ways to solve perceived problems. That is part of the
responsibility of an opposition movement in a democratic
system. The UAD responded that it had put forward in
October, 2004 nine government actions that were necessary for
fair and transparent elections. They included revising and
updating lists of registered voters, making public this list,
free and fair access of opposition parties to the local media
and allowing independent TV and radio stations. The
Government of Djibouti ignored these propositions completely,
they said, and by doing so ignored the will of the majority
of the population. Thus, only pressure from western nations
will convince Djibouti's government to change.

6. (C) The Ambassador stated that the U.S. wishes to promote
dialogue between the Government of Djibouti and opposition
members but cannot impose a system of government. UAD members
said strong U.S. pressure must be applied. France had, they
said, helped Ivory Coast promote democracy. The U.S. did a
remarkable job on Ethiopia creating democracy and good
governance. The U.S. has also had great success in Iraq.
Djibouti needs this kind of strong commitment from both the
U.S. and the European Union (EU). The EU has already started
putting pressure on Djibouti for an all-inclusive parliament,
Guedi said. Guedi added that 45 percent of the population
voted for the opposition in 2003 legislative elections but
this number was not reflected in the make-up of Parliament.
(Note: Djibouti subscribes to a winner take all system which
leaves the winning party in control of all parliamentary
seats regardless of volume of votes received by the
opposition. End note.)

7. (C) The Ambassador told coalition members that the
Government of Djibouti has expressed publicly the need for
political reform and especially for change in the
representative system for the National Assembly. Yet it had
indicated that it wanted to effect change on a "step by step"
basis. The Ambassador asked about the feasibility of such an
approach and about opposition priorities for democratic
reform. According to the UAD, an all-inclusive National
Assembly is a top priority. However, there are other
important issues such as revision of voter lists. Another
important priority would be to organize local elections and
create a structure at a lower level other than that of the
National Assembly. The U.S., they said, needs to persuade
the Government of Djibouti to create democratic institutions
at the village, town, and district levels. This will give an
opportunity for the opposition to develop at an early stage.
The opposition said it also sees decentralization as a
priority but the Government of Djibouti has continuously
postponed decentralization since 2002.

8. (C) Ambassador inquired if the opposition had considered
among its priorities satisfactory resolution of the divisive
issue of tribalism in Djibouti, specifically apparent
differences between Afars and Issas, which sometimes cloud
the political landscape. The government viewed tribalism,
according to Guedi, as only an excuse for non-action. Clan
differences, he argued, could "easily" be overcome with local
and regional elections. If every region and town had its own
representatives, tribalism will disappear because power will
be equally shared. Tribalism exists in many other countries
in Africa, but it did not prevent the advent of democracy,
they added. Grassroots democratic institutions are key. The
Government of Djibouti does not want a solution to tribalism
because it wishes to continue to divide people to more easily
rule them, the group insisted.

9. (C) Ambassador then raised the issue of leadership among
opposition parties. The death of Ahmed Dini, she said, has
brought this issue to the forefront among those who support
neither the current government nor the current opposition.
These individuals question the capacity of opposition members
to lead the population. Ambassador also noted a continuing
criticism that the opposition is composed of leaders who
themselves were in government before Ismail Guelleh but who
brought about no real democratic progress to Djibouti. She
sought the UAD's views on this perspective. With some
timidity, the UAD responded that the opposition won more than
45 percent of the vote in 2003, so that must surely indicate
a measure of confidence in leadership capacity. (Comment:
We note that the late Ahmed Dini headed the opposition in
2003, at the time of legislative elections. End comment.)
Guedi conceded that it is true many in the opposition held
government positions previously. Yet he offered the view,
lamely, that they did not succeed in bringing about change
because "the single party system was the rule at that time in
Africa generally, and Djibouti was young with fewer problems."

10. (C) The Ambassador spoke of her desire to encourage a
dialogue between the Government of Djibouti and the
opposition but also urged the opposition to consider the tone
of its frequently harsh and highly personal messages to
government officials. Confidence building measures were
necessary to create an atmosphere that might permit a
dialogue. The UAD agreed but insisted the U.S. needed to put
considerable pressure, at the same time, on Djibouti's
government. They repeated that their "nine conditions" had
to be met and that the peace agreement the government signed
with the FRUD had to be honored. The UAD described the
government as "not ready for a dialogue" but that the
opposition was sincere in its willingness to contribute to

11. (C) Comment: Djibouti's Minister of Interior, subsequent
to this meeting, sent an official letter to all opposition
party heads requesting a dialogue. Predictably, the
opposition is dragging its feet on participating. The
government views the foot-dragging as clear evidence of the
bankrupt nature of the opposition -- devoid of leadership,
devoid of ideas, and devoid of a constituency. The
opposition, on the other hand, says it has in the past
declined to participate in government-sponsored attempts at
dialogue because of the "insincerity" of the government in
the activity. This is a weak argument that begs the issue.
The opposition in Djibouti has been badly diminished by the
death late last year, due to natural causes, of the
charismatic Ahmed Dini. Yet fault also can be found in other
areas. There is a striking unwillingness of the old guard of
opposition members, such as the three who met here with
Ambassador, to share leadership with younger Djiboutians.
There is also a paucity of not just forward-leaning ideas
among them, but genuine ways to effectuate change. In
addition, personal animosity within the opposition for ruling
party officials does not help. The idea of regional
elections was first broached by the government of Djibouti,
not by the opposition. In Embassy's democratization efforts,
currently focused on dialogue and institution building, we
are seeking ways to develop a more mature opposition that can
be a constructive counterbalance to the current ruling party,
but also a future political well source for government
leadership, regardless of party, clan or tribal affiliation.
End comment.