|05DJIBOUTI68||2005-01-18 16:22:00||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) Djibouti's president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, formally
requested January 17 through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
that France withdraw six of its officials acting as advisors
to government institutions in Djibouti under the French
Cooperation program. The move follows Guelleh's personal
anger over what he sees as French government failure to bring
to a swift conclusion legal proceedings emanating from the
Borrel Affair. According to France's ambassador to Djibouti,
Philippe Selz, French officials were given one week to
depart, however an extension until January 30 was requested,
and granted, due to ensuing Eid holidays.
2. (C) Selz told Ambassador that six technical advisors would
leave Djibouti under the ministerial order -- one female and
5 males. Five of the six were assigned individually to the
Ministries of Education, Health, and Agriculture, to Peltier
Hospital, and to the Safety and Security Division of the
international airport. It is unclear to which agency the
sixth was assigned. The action followed the appearance on
January 13 of an unusual "editorial" in the Djiboutian
government newspaper "La Nation." The editorial criticized
the January 11 summons of Hassan Said, Chief of Djibouti's
National Security, and Djama Suleiman, District Attorney for
Djibouti, to testify in a French court regarding the case
brought by Borrel's widow Elizabeth. The editorial stated
that Djibouti is a sovereign nation and would not submit to
deposition. It noted attempts by France to depose Djibouti's
ambassador to France and accused France of being "racist" and
"colonialist." The editorial also stated that legal
procedures instituted by the French court were an attempt to
discredit Djiboutian authorities and are part of a
"relentless" French campaign against Guelleh since his
accession to the Presidency. The editorial concluded by
declaring that "the time for cooperation and compassion had
ended and the time to make decisions had come." "In short,"
the editorial stated, "the game is over."
3. (C) Judge Bernard Borrel, a French national living in
Djibouti, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in
1995 near Lac Assal, some distance from Djibouti city. He
reportedly had a bullet wound to the head and his body had
been partially burned. No autopsy was performed. Conspiracy
theories abound on what may have happened to Borrel. The
Djiboutian government firmly believes his death a suicide.
Reports of his depression during that period widely
circulate. Borrel's widow is fully committed to proving
Djiboutian government, and specifically Guelleh's, complicity
in her husband's death. It should also be noted that a
finding of suicide makes her ineligible for full retirement
or insurance benefits stemming from her husband's demise.
4. (C) Selz said Djibouti wants the government of France to
move to end delays in resolving the Borrel case. He had
tried to explain that the government of France has no control
over judicial proceedings. "They know this," he told
Ambassador, "because they know very well the French system."
Selz said he believes the Djiboutians are "shooting
themselves in the foot" with the expulsions and that the move
will be "100 per cent counterproductive." He commented that
the move would also impact negatively the morale of the
French military based in Djibouti.
5. (C) Speaking pensively, Selz told Ambassador he too would
like France's justice system to work faster and for its
journalists not to say things that might damage bilateral
relations between France and other countries. Yet Djibouti
knows France's government cannot control these entities.
For France, Selz continued, the expulsions will mean less
technical assistance to Djibouti. He mused, with regret,
that there might be more expulsions to follow and planned to
meet with remaining technical advisors to reassure and also
to halt rumors.
6. (C) Comment: Selz had stated previously that he believed
the Borrel affair would continue to weigh upon
France-Djibouti diplomatic relations for some time to come
(see Ref A). The personal implication of Guelleh in the
affair is the sticking point, especially with the Djiboutian
presidential election a few months away. France had already
taken steps to align its assistance program with operating
methods of USAID and had moved the bulk of traditional
economic assistance to the French Agency for Development
operating in Djibouti. Thus its overall aid program is
unlikely to be affected. Yet the loss of the advisors will
surely be felt. They were a superb window for France onto
Djibouti's government. For some Djiboutians, this could mean
an opportunity to wean the country fully from remnants of its
colonial past. The longer the affair festers, however, the
more difficult will become France's relationship with
Djibouti's current president. We are likely to see in the
coming days several phone exchanges between Chirac and
Guelleh in an effort to lower the temperature, and ease the
damage, in this boiling affair. End comment.
7. (U) Khartoum minimize considered.