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Armed opposition group conducted deadly attack on army base for first time in almost two years.
In their first attack since Jan 2021, splinter group of Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD) known as FRUD-armé, which seeks greater representation for Afari Djiboutians in country’s politics, 7 Oct launched raid on army post in Garabtissan area, Tadjourah region (north), leaving seven soldiers dead, four injured and six missing. National Assembly 13 Oct passed law classifying FRUD-armé as terrorist group, allowing harsher consequences for those associated with group and enabling govt to issue international arrest warrants against exiled FRUD-armé leaders.
Deadly intercommunal violence broke out in capital. Clashes 1 Aug erupted between ethnic Afar and Issa communities in capital Djibouti city, leaving at least three dead. Rights group Djiboutian Human Rights League (LDDH) 12 Aug alleged police officers took part in clashes, denounced “coordinated attack” by police against Afar civilians.
President Guelleh re-elected for fifth term in landslide vote amid opposition boycott. Electoral authorities 10 April announced incumbent President Guelleh won previous day’s presidential election with 98% of vote; main opposition parties boycotted vote, and sole other candidate, Zakaria Ismael Farah, reportedly garnered less than 5,000 votes. Guelleh 15 April discussed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Egyptian President Sisi, said dispute threatens region’s security and stability (see Nile Waters). Somalia 22 April accused Djibouti of “sinister campaigns aimed at derailing political process in Somalia” by allegedly trying to influence outcome of same day AU Peace and Security Council meeting on Somalia’s political crisis (see Somalia).
Al-Shabaab called for attacks on country’s foreign military bases and independent candidate announced presidential bid. Ahead of presidential election scheduled for 9 April, Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah 27 March called for “lone wolf” attacks against “American and French interests in Djibouti”, accused President Guelleh of turning country into “military base from where every war against Muslims in East Africa is planned and executed”. In response, U.S Africa Command said it “takes these statements seriously” and is “postured to respond to threats”. Meanwhile, independent candidate Zakaria Ismael Farah 10 March submitted his candidacy for presidential poll; move comes after opposition parties in Feb announced boycott of election in protest at Guelleh’s fifth term bid and increasingly constrained political space. Govt and Ethiopia 11 March signed memorandum of understanding to scale up cooperation on common security threats, agreed to establish joint task force stationed in eastern Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa and in Djibouti.
Opposition parties announced boycott of upcoming presidential election. Opposition parties Union for National Salvation and RADDE late Jan-early Feb said they would not field any candidates in presidential election scheduled for April, alleging National Electoral Commission favours govt and needs extensive reforms; move follows announcement of President Guelleh’s bid for fifth term in early Jan. Amid wave of arrests following Jan attacks by armed opposition group Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD-armé) against security forces in Tadjourah region, Djiboutian League for Human Rights late Jan, 3 and 6 Feb accused govt of arresting civilians based on their kinship rather than actual connections to FRUD-armé.
Armed opposition group clashed with state forces for first time in recent years, and ruling party appointed President Guelleh as its candidate for April presidential election. In Tadjourah region, armed opposition group Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD-armé) 14 Jan launched simultaneous attacks on police and military targets in regional capital Tadjourah, leaving at least one gendarme dead and one civilian injured; attacks follow increase in govt repression of group since late Sept. FRUD-armé 17 Jan reportedly clashed with security forces in Giba Giblé. Ahead of presidential election in April, ruling party People’s Rally for Progress 9 Jan appointed party leader and four-term incumbent President Guelleh as its presidential candidate. Supporters of opposition RADDE party held several demonstrations against Guelleh’s fifth term bid in capital Djibouti city.
Govt expressed support for Ethiopia’s govt after conflict erupted between Ethiopia’s federal and Tigray regional state forces. As part of Ethiopia’s effort to garner regional support for its military campaign against Tigray, Ethiopian PM Abiy’s national security adviser 16 Nov met with President Guelleh in capital Djibouti City; in follow-up statement, Djibouti’s govt said it recognised Abiy’s govt “as the sole guarantor” of Ethiopia’s unity and territorial integrity.
London Court of International Arbitration 15 Jan ruled for sixth time in favour of Dubai-based company DP World in dispute between it and govt over control of Doraleh Container Terminal; court said Djibouti broke concession agreement with DP World when it seized terminal and transferred assets to state-owned company in 2018. Djibouti 17 Jan rejected decision.
French jihadist suspected of helping brothers who carried out killings at Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris in 2015 arrested in Djibouti 16 Dec.
Emirati port operator DP World, from which govt seized control of Doraleh port in Feb and ownership of Doraleh Container Terminal in Sept, 6 Nov filed lawsuit with High Court of Hong Kong accusing China of building free zone in disputed port and pressuring govt into cancelling agreement with DP World; govt denied Chinese firm induced it to breach agreements with DP World. President Guelleh met Ethiopian PM Abiy in Addis Ababa 17 Nov; expressed readiness to take part in regional integration and support for UN’s 14 Nov lifting of sanctions against Eritrea. UN had placed sanctions on Eritrea partly because latter had not withdrawn its forces from disputed area on border with Djibouti following clashes with Djibouti in June 2008.
Djibouti and Eritrea agreed to work toward normalising relations 6 Sept during visit of Eritrean FM Osman Saleh to Djibouti. President Guelleh met Eritrean President Afwerki in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 17 Sept to discuss decade-old border dispute and Eritrea’s alleged detention of Djiboutian war prisoners; Somalian President Farmajo also attended. In case pitting govt against Emirati port operator DP World, from which govt seized control of Doraleh port in Feb, High Court of England and Wales 5 Sept ruled in favour of DP World. Nevertheless, govt 10 Sept nationalised shares of state-owned company Port de Djibouti effectively taking ownership of Doraleh container terminal. High Court in London 14 Sept extended 31 Aug injunction against govt stating that actions regarding terminal must be taken with DP World’s consent.
Somalian President Farmajo met President Guelleh in Djibouti 16 Aug; Somalia’s support for lifting UN sanctions on Eritrea imposed in 2009 has soured Somalia’s relations with Djibouti; UN placed sanctions on Eritrea partly because latter had not withdrawn its forces from disputed border area following clashes with Djibouti in June 2008.
Govt mid-July asked UN Sec-Gen Guterres to work with Security Council to mediate peaceful settlement of border dispute with Eritrea, said Eritrean troops still occupy Djiboutian territory.
Ethiopian govt 14 June said Djibouti had pardoned 45 Ethiopian prisoners as good-will gesture. Following reports that Dubai-based port operator DP World would seek out-of-court settlement with Djibouti govt, which it accuses of illegally taking back control of Doraleh port in Feb, DP World 16 June said it was committed to legal process via International Court of Arbitration.
Chinese troops in Djibouti 22 Sept held first live-fire military exercises since Aug deployment.
After Eritrea deployed troops into disputed Doumeira territory on Djibouti-Eritrea border in June, govt 3 July asked African Union to send in observers. Eritrea 4 July said it would only recognise as mediator Qatar, which withdrew ceasefire monitoring mission from Doumeira early June. Eritrea 9 July postponed visit of African Union’s peace and security commissioner to capital Asmara citing “conflicting calendars”. China 23 July said it would consider mediating dispute and sending in peacekeepers if requested; 11 July indicated it had sent warships to Djibouti to set up overseas military base, reportedly to fulfil humanitarian commitments in Gulf. Govt 21 July agreed to bolster security and defence cooperation with Ethiopia.
Qatar withdrew ceasefire monitoring mission from disputed Doumeira territory on border between Djibouti and Eritrea mid-June, reportedly in protest at both countries’ support for Gulf countries which imposed blockade on it early June (see Qatar). Eritrea deployed troops into disputed territory 16 June and Djibouti lodged complaint at African Union (AU). UN Security Council 19 June urged two countries to resolve differences peacefully and AU late June sent fact-finding team to disputed area.
President Guelleh sworn in 8 May following 8 April re-election; Sudanese President Bashir attended ceremony flouting ICC arrest warrant.
President Guelleh re-elected 8 April for fourth five-year term with 87% of vote. Electoral commission denied opposition’s accusations of fraud; constitutional council 19 April validated results, put voter turnout at 69%.
Ahead of 8 April presidential elections, armed opposition Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD-armé) 13 March reportedly attacked army convoy in Obock region, six soldiers injured. Attack by armed forces on illegal fishing boat 14 March left one Somaliland coastguard killed; govt apologised.
Preparations for 8 April presidential elections continued: govt 10 Jan reactivated election commission (CENI), 12 Jan appointed chairman. Opposition Union pour le salut national (USN) 15 Jan threatened election boycott if CENI not reformed. Dozens of journalists, activists, opposition members reportedly arrested throughout month. Govt 6 Jan announced cutting diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran attack on Saudi embassy (see Iran).
Govt crackdown on opposition followed President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s 3 Dec announcement of candidacy for fourth term: peaceful protests against Guelleh’s candidacy held 14 Dec in capital; some 50 opposition members 13-16 Dec arrested in Djibouti city. Nineteen reportedly killed, dozens wounded 21 Dec in govt raid on religious gathering in capital; govt said nine killed, violence was in response to attack on security forces.
China 26 Nov announced plans for first overseas military base, signed ten-year lease for outpost with Djibouti. UNHCR 11 Nov announced influx of Yemeni refugees increasing, current refugee population in Djibouti estimated at 30,000.
Education minister Dr Adawa Hassan Ali sacked from govt over secret meeting with opposition leader Hussein Abdourahman Andholeh in Canada; reportedly fled to Ethiopia.
Govt 5 July reportedly renewed pledge to send peacekeepers to Somalia. Japan 7 July opened naval base near Djibouti City to help fight piracy. Govt appealed for $21mn aid to address severe drought.
Sudanese President Bashir 8 May attended inauguration of President Guelleh despite arrest warrant by ICC and Djibouti being signatory to Rome Statute, drawing criticism from ICC and EU. FM 14 May announced plans to send troops to Somalia by June despite warning of reprisals from al-Shabaab.
Incumbent Ismael Omar Guelleh 8 Apr won presidential election with 80%; high turnout. Opposition boycotted poll protesting constitutional changes that allowed Guelleh to run for third term. Constitution Council 13 Apr validated results.
Authorities ordered opposition to postpone anti-govt protests set for 4 March after previous 18 Feb demonstration calling for departure of President Guelleh turned violent; opposition said govt intent on denying free and fair 8 April election. Authorities 2 March declared U.S. election observer group Democracy International “illegal”; other groups including AU, Arab League, EU invited to observe elections.
Anti-govt demonstrations 18 Feb calling for President Guelleh to step down at next election descended into violence as crowds swelled to thousands, protesters clashed with riot police; no casualties reported.
Increased reports of renewed clashes between Afar FRUD rebels and army in north after 3 soldiers killed in rebel ambush late May. Eritrea and Djibouti 6 June signed agreement to resolve border dispute by negotiated settlement (see Eritrea).
In wake of June 2008 border clashes, UNSC 14 Jan issued resolution praising Djibouti for military withdrawal to pre-confl locations, demanding Eritrea follow suit within 5 weeks and cooperate with diplomatic efforts. Asmara 15 Jan dismissed resolution as “ill-considered”, said cannot withdraw forces from its own territory.
Djibouti/Eritrea: Djibouti President Omar Guelleh 23 Oct told UNSC war only option unless UN takes action on border dispute with Eritrea. Asmara denied occupying Djibouti’s territory; UNSC members appealed for negotiations.
Djibouti/Eritrea: UN 17 Sept encouraged Eritrea to engage in dialogue following early-Aug fact-finding mission, rejected by Eritrea, to investigate June border clashes. Mission report expressed concern over ongoing border tensions and called for demilitarisation of border zone, normalisation of relations; concluded that in case of continued Eritrean rebuffal of UNSG offer of good offices, issue should be referred to UNSC.
Fighting erupted at Ras-Doumeira border area following increased tensions over disputed territory. 10-11 June clashes reportedly left at least 9 Djibouti soldiers dead, more injured both sides. AU, UN condemned Eritrea military action. Djibouti said incursions continuing. Eritrea blamed Djibouti for attack, denied border dispute and rejected dialogue.
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