|05DJIBOUTI664||2005-07-12 12:01:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Djibouti|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
1. (C) Minister of Interior Yacin Elmi Bouh has agreed to
accept the visit of a USAID-funded team that would assess
Djibouti's current electoral laws and plans for
decentralization. The approval came in his meeting July 10
at Interior headquarters with Ambassador and Embassy
Djibouti's USAID Representative.
2. (C) The Minister explained that his government wanted to
hold regional elections -- a first for Djibouti -- in the end
of the December, 2005 time frame Ambassador noted that there
were a number of unresolved concerns about Djibouti's
electoral system that emerged in the most recent elections in
April for the president. Most had been raised by the
opposition. It might be helpful to the process to address
them before regional elections. One was the stated
advantage of proportional representation over the current
system of majority representation and another was accuracy of
electoral lists. She asked the Minister about progress in
3. (C) The Minister said efforts were underway to update the
electoral lists but that there may not be sufficient time to
do so fully before regional elections. He noted plans that
would be implemented in October to move this forward.
However, the Minister continued, the government would surely
satisfy this requirement in time for parliamentary elections
in 2008. Bouh also said proportional vs. majority
representation was an issue currently being reviewed by the
government. Later in the meeting, with further probing from
USAID Director, the Minister said he did not think the issue
of proportional representation would actually meet Djibouti's
needs. He explained that for Djibouti's stability, assuring
ethnic balance in representation in electoral bodies was more
important than assuring political party balance.
4. (C) USAID Director noted that there are examples of
countries in Africa that have been able to have proportional
representation while maintaining the ethnic balance the
leadership sought. She advised the Minister of USAID's
willingness to be of help in this and other areas. Yet to do
so financially, USAID would need first to complete a formal
assessment of Djibouti's needs. She told the Minister that a
team could be organized to come to Djibouti before the end of
July to do so and could complete its work within two weeks.
This would serve to allay some of the Minister's expressed
concerns about timing of such an assessment in view of the
government's desire to move forward with December elections.
She further explained that the team could take a look as
well at the country's overall decentralization plan and make
5. (C) After allaying his concerns about the timeline to
complete an assessment, the Minister expressed his
concurrence. He also expressed a willingness to entertain
other programs USAID might develop to support
decentralization and training of political parties, including
the opposition. In addition, the Minister expressed his
willingness to support programs that would encourage a free
and independent press in Djibouti as well as strengthen civil
society. Embassy notes that such programs would dovetail
well with its Mission Program Plan goals in democratization
and human rights.
6. (C) Comment: USAID reform programs support the Embassy's
MPP goal in democratization. There also appears to be
government will for reform in the key areas noted, but deep
wariness about the implications of reform for the ethnic
divide that continues to impact negatively the Djiboutian
nation. Concern expressed about the benefits of one form of
representation over another is but one manifestation of this.
The government did make an effort at dialogue with the
political opposition through its week-long decentralization
conference (closed to the public) that ended a few days ago.
The opposition declined to participate, as it has in other
government-sponsored efforts at dialogue, clinging to its
continued calls for revised electoral lists, application of
former civil war peace accords and a myriad of other demands.
Without a census (which we believe the government would
ultimately agree to accept) and complete overhaul of
electoral lists, the opposition is unlikely to be appeased.
USG assistance with an assessment of real systemic needs is
all the more imperative. End comment.