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Djibouti Modern History

Djibouti became independent from the colonial power of France in 1977. Four years later, the country became a one-party state with the Issa People-dominated Popular Collection for Progress (RPP) as the only permissible party. Multiparty systems were reintroduced in 1992 after pressure from France. During the 1990s, tensions between the peoples' groups led to public wars and civil war. In 1994, a peace agreement was signed.

On June 27, 1977, the Republic of Djibouti was proclaimed after a second referendum on independence was held. The first vote was held in 1967 and was strongly criticized from several directions (see Older history).

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Djibouti. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Hassan Gouled Aptidon from Issa became the country's first president, a position he held for 22 years. In 1979, President Gouled formed the Ice-dominated party RPP, which still holds the government of Djibouti. Since he was re-elected as the only candidate in 1981, he introduced a one-party system with RPP as the only allowed party. After Gouled was re-elected president in 1987, tensions between the Issa and the Afar rose.

In 1991, three African exile groups in Ethiopia formed the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (Frud). The front started a rebellion that led to a civil war that would last for ten years. Wife denied the government's accusations that the rebel movement received Ethiopian support. The war created large streams of refugees within the country.

Contemporary History of DjiboutiPeace agreements

The economy was deteriorating as defense spending rose, while the government was unable to collect taxes in the areas of peace-controlled areas. Following pressure from France, Gouled reintroduced multi-party systems in 1992 after a new constitution was adopted following a referendum. Mrs, who at that time controlled two-thirds of the country, boycotted the referendum and was not allowed to stand in the parliamentary elections in December of that year. Only one party participated alongside the RPP, which won all seats in the National Assembly.

In the 1993 presidential election, Gouled officially received 61 percent of the vote. According to the opposition, extensive electoral fraud had occurred. Peace was split in the spring of 1994 and a fraction of the organization began working for a peace settlement with the government.

A peace agreement was signed in December 1994. According to this, a coalition government would be formed, the regions would gain greater power and the defense forces would be reduced in exchange for the guerrillas laying down their weapons. However, a radical group within Frud continued to fight the regime for a few more years.

The 1997 parliamentary elections marked another clear victory for the RPP. The part of Frud that put down the weapons also took place in the National Assembly. In accordance with the peace settlement, Frud also took a seat in the government.

Guelleh becomes president

In 1995, President Gouled became very ill and could not stand for the 1999 presidential election. In his place, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, who was Gouled's relative and closest adviser, was a candidate. Guelleh had previously been the country's security chief with a reputation for being ruthless. With RPP and Frud's moderate falang behind him, he defeated the unified opposition's counterpart, Moussa Ahmed Idriss. International observers rejected the opposition's accusations of electoral fraud.

In May 2001, the warring phalanx of Frud signed a peace agreement with the government and handed in its weapons. The details of the settlement were not made public, but reportedly power would be decentralized, a census carried out, local elections held and people affected by the civil war would be helped.

After the peace settlement, Afare Dileita Mohamed Dileita was appointed Prime Minister, which some observers saw as an attempt to achieve a better balance in politics between Issa and Afar.

In the parliamentary elections in January 2003, for the first time, as many parties as possible could participate. The eight parties participating had formed two electoral unions. The government-loyal Union for the Presidential Majority (UMP), dominated by the RPP, won by 63 percent of the vote. The UMP gained a majority in all constituencies and was thus able to take back all the seats. The opposition alliance The Union for a Democratic Alternative (UAD) received 37 percent of the vote but was left without representation in the National Assembly because of the electoral system (see Political system). The opposition appealed the election results, but the Constitutional Court went on the government's line.

Harassment of oppositionists

In opposition to the widespread opposition, according to the opposition, the opposition parties chose to boycott the presidential election in April 2005. According to the government, 79 percent of the electorate still went to the polls to elect Guelleh as president. The opposition, for its part, claimed that only 20 percent of voters voted.

In March 2006, for the first time district and municipal elections were held. According to the 2001 peace agreement, a census would be carried out before the elections, but it was not done. The UAD boycotted the elections again, but other parts of the opposition were running. The UMP won in all districts and municipal assemblies. This time, the RPP's coalition partners within Frud also claimed that there was widespread electoral fraud. Frudge had not won the success in the north that the party had hoped for. In addition, voters' interest in the election was low, not even one in three voters voted.

In August of the same year, the military conducted a campaign against alleged armed groups. Several members of the opposition party Republican Alliance for Democracy (ARD) were arrested. The ARD then launched a campaign for civil disobedience in protest against the government's harassment of oppositionists.

Prior to the parliamentary elections in February 2008, the UAD demanded that a proportional electoral system be introduced instead of one-man electoral circuits, which the opposition considered favored the RPP. Prime Minister Dileita, however, considered that such a change would jeopardize the "ethnic balance" between Issa and Afar.

Arabic spring

In the run-up to the election, a series of protest actions were carried out. Criticism was raised against the electoral system and the broken promise of a census. Several trade union leaders and opposition politicians were arrested in connection with the protests. Authorities claimed that all arrested were criminals.

As a result, the UAD chose to boycott the parliamentary elections. The only opposition party to run for election was banned from doing so, which meant that the UMP received 94 percent of the vote and all 65 seats.

With full control of the National Assembly, in April 2010, the government was able to change the constitution so that President Guelleh could stand for a third term. The reform was criticized not only by the opposition but also by large sections of the population. One of the critics was Abdourahman Boreh, the country's foremost business leader and former head of the Djibouti port authority. Boreh, who had left the country, was sentenced in June 2010 in his absence to 15 years in prison for terrorism and tax fraud. As a result, his plans to run for office in April 2011 were halted.

The wave of popular protests that swept across North Africa in early 2011 and the Middle East also reached Djibouti. In February, thousands of young people and unemployed people demonstrated in the capital Djibouti. They protested that Guelleh might run in the upcoming presidential election. The demonstrations were wounded by the police with the help of water cannons and tear gas. More than 100 people were arrested, including three opposition politicians.

In April 2011, Guelleh was elected president for a third term.

Election success for the opposition

Following a change in the 2012 election system, which meant that 13 of Parliament's mandates would henceforth be distributed proportionally, the opposition chose to stand with candidates in the 2013 parliamentary elections.

Several opposition parties joined forces in an alliance called the National Rescue Union (USN) in an attempt to challenge the dominance of the RPP. Opinion polls before the election suggested that for the first time, there could be an even fight for the majority in the National Assembly. However, when the UMP was proclaimed victorious, the disappointment was great within the opposition, and the message was met by street protests. However, the new parliament received the strongest representation so far for the opposition - one third of the seats.

President Guelleh appointed a government of 24 ministers, led by Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed, who was previously Minister of Defense.

However, the suspicions of electoral fraud led to USN deciding to boycott parliamentary work. Not until the New Year's Eve 2014, after 18 months of negotiations, did the USN agree with the government that the alliance's candidates should take their seats. They also agreed that a new, independent election commission should be formed.

In June 2015, however, the USN stated that cooperation with the UMP in the National Assembly was deadlocked because no democratic reforms were launched or no independent electoral commission was established. The USN demanded that a third party be hired as a mediator, but nothing happened.

 
 

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