Djibouti: Mass arrest of opponents the day after Djiboutian election

Press release
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FIDH and its member organisation, the Ligue Djiboutienne des Droits Humains (LDDH), are extremely concerned about the mass arrest of political opponents in Djibouti. The arrests come within two days of Djibouti’s legislative elections whose credibility was tarnished by numerous irregularities. An information meeting will be held this afternoon, at which FIDH and LDDH, call upon the Djiboutian authorities to ensure that the use of State power is not disproportional. We further call upon the authorities to cease immediately the ongoing wave of arrests and free those arrested.

The Djiboutian authorities have conducted an unprecedented wave of arrests since yesterday targeting most opposition leaders with arrest or house arrest. Mr Ahmed Youssouf, President of Alliance Républicaine pour le Développement (ARD) and Mr Ahmed Dini, President of Parti Populaire Djiboutien (PPD), were arrested this morning at around 10:30am. Mr Ahmed Youssouf Houmed, President of Union pour le Salut National (USN), and Ismaël Guedi Hared, the head of the USN list for the ward of Djibouti-ville, were arrested and brought to the police station under the authority of Colonel Omar Hassan, chief of public security. They have just been freed. Moreover, Mr Sougueh Ahmed Robleh, President of Mouvement pour le Développement et la Liberté (MoDel), a party which is member of the USN, has been detained with 30 other followers of the USN at Hodane police station in a suburb of Balbala. Mr Daher Ahmed Farah, known as “DAF”, President of Mouvement pour le Renouveau Démocratique et le Développement (MRD) and spokesperson for opposition parties, was placed under house arrest on this morning. The day before, Mr Abdourahman Mohamed Guelle, mayor of Djibouti, and two of his deputies, Ali Mohamed Dato and Aden Dalieh Dirieh, were also arrested and brought to the central police station in the capital, being later freed after an interrogation by the Chief of Police, Colonel Abdillah Abdi Farah, concerning the USN information meeting scheduled for the day after.

Furthermore, 120 followers of political opposition parties were arrested in the night of 24 to 25 February and placed in detention at Nagad administrative detention centre. Seven followers of the opposition who were also arrested on the same night in 7 bis and Old Balbala (Balbala Caadi) areas remain missing. Indeed, many witnesses have reported that on the night of 24 to 25 February, the army, in particular the Republican Guard, the police and the gendarmerie, had been widely deployed in the capital city, obstructing all access to many popular districts, including the Balbala area. They also reported that the police and gendarmerie undertook a large number of arrests.

In spite of this wave of arrests, thousands of opposition followers will be meeting this afternoon at 3 pm around Nasser Avenue, ready to take part to an information meeting that has been prohibited by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“These arrests discredit the legality of the legislative polls and the will of the authorities to allow any true political pluralism. It is imperative that these arrests, acts of reprisal and intimidation stop and that freedom of demonstration in Djibouti be ensured.” said Paul Nsapu, FIDH Secretary General.

Legislative elections were held on 22 February 2013 in a tense context. According to the results given by the Minister of Home Affairs, Hassan Darar Houffaneh, the elections were won by the Union pour la Majorité Présidentielle (UMP), the coalition of parties currently in power. Indeed, according to the Minister, the UMP was elected with 80% of the 65 seats of members of Parliament, complying with a new electoral law. The Minister of Home Affairs told the press that in Djibouti city, where three quarters of Djibouti’s inhabitants live, “UMP won with 49,39% of votes, the opposition losing with 47,61 %”.

However, observers have raised a large number of irregularities committed during the electoral process, which have served to tarnish the elections with numerous acts of cheating, in particular in the cities of Obock, Tadjourah and Dikhil. Such acts have included lack of electoral cards, the expulsion of opposition representatives from polling stations, the presence of the Republican Guard outside polling stations, filtration of people by followers of the party in power, and ballot stuffing at the end of the polls, amongst others.

FIDH and LDDH call upon the international community, and in particular on the African Union (AU), the League of Arab States (LAS), the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), whose election observers have been deployed all over the country; African Commission on Human and People’s rights; the United Nations and the European Union to:

denounce human rights violating practices used by the Djiboutian authorities particularly in the current post-electoral context;express their views on the conditions within which the right to vote has been exercised and on the validity of Djibouti’s electoral poll;remind the Djiboutian authorities of the need to comply with their international and regional commitments.


For the first time in almost ten years, Djiboutian political opposition parties have chosen to participate in the country’s legislative elections. Uniting a month ago under the Union pour le Salut National (USN), many opposition representatives have since faced arbitrary arrest and detention, acts of harassment and other kinds of intimidation. Since his return from exile on 13 January 2013, Daher Amhed Farah, President of Mouvement pour le Renouveau Démocratique et le Développement (MRD) and spokesperson of the USN, has been arrested four times.

For over ten years, Djiboutian political opponents, trade unionists, human rights defenders and citizens have suffered continued repression in Djibouti, a situation that intensifies as each election approaches. During the presidential election of April 2011, this repression took the most serious human toll in the country’s history, with tens of young demonstrators being killed and hundreds arrested and detained for months.

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