Djibouti masses protest U.S./French-backed regime
Published Feb 24, 2011 8:41 PM
Anti-government demonstrations have spread to the Horn of Africa nation of
Djibouti, where 30,000 people marched on Feb. 18 demanding the resignation of
President Ismael Omar Guelleh. Two people were killed when police attacked
protesters in this country’s capital, which is also called Djibouti.
The government detained and released three opposition leaders: National
Democratic Party Chairman Aden Robleh, Djibouti Democratic Party Chairman
Mohamed Daoud Chehem and Ismail Guedi Hared, whose Union for Democratic Change
organized the massive demonstrations.
The former French colony, which still maintains close ties to Paris, has a
population of less than 850,000, but serves as a strategic outpost in Western
imperialism’s so-called “war on terrorism.”
Djibouti houses the only known U.S. military base on the African continent and
is therefore highly significant to the Pentagon’s strategy aimed at
dominating the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Peninsula. The
Financial Times reported that Washington’s camp is an outpost for the
U.S. Africa Command, Africom. (Feb. 20)
Hared told the Financial Times that demonstrations have taken place in seven
towns and that the opposition forces have formed an alliance to push for the
removal of the existing regime. He said more demonstrations are planned despite
He said, “The people are protesting against dictatorship, bad governance,
lack of democracy and dynastic succession. The opposition has formed a
coalition, and we have decided to do everything to make sure the protests
State television reports showed thousands of people fighting the security
forces, which utilized tear gas in an effort to break up the anti-government
demonstrations. Images were shown of burnt vehicles and police welding batons
against unarmed protesters.
The Guelleh regime changed the country’s constitution last year to extend
the number of times that the president — who has been in power since 1999
— could run for office. A government ministry has accused opposition
forces of wanting to seize power by force.
An opposition supporter from Balbala said, “The people don’t want
this dictatorial regime. Our freedom is in our hands. We won’t stop until
our dreams come true.” (Reuters, Feb. 20)
Authorities have detained Jean-Paul Noël Abdi, president of the Djibouti
League for Human Rights. In his mid-60’s, he was investigating and
reporting on student demonstrations calling for educational policy changes.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch’s letter to President Guelleh said,
“Noël Abdi did not organize the protests, nor did he take part in
the demonstrations. He did not condone any disorderly behavior or looting or
U.S. base in the Horn of Africa
Since 2001, the Pentagon has aimed to establish a permanent military base in
the Horn of Africa. After the September 11 attacks in Washington and New York,
the U.S. Marines relocated the USS Whitney warship off Djibouti’s coast
in the Gulf of Aden and eventually moved into the French-built Camp
The camp is a U.S. naval expeditionary base located at the Djibouti-Ambouli
International Airport. It is the home of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of
Africa of Africom. Navy Admiral Brian L. Losey is base commander.
Djibouti is bordered by Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, making it a valuable
asset for U.S. imperialism in its efforts to dominate the Horn of Africa region
as well as the Arabian Peninsula.
U.S. imperialism faces increasing instability
The demonstrations in Djibouti could pose a grave threat to Washington’s
overall strategy of dominance in the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden and the
Arabian Peninsula. Although it is not clear in which direction these
demonstrations will lead, if they result in the collapse of the existing
regime, it could raise the specter of a new government demanding the removal of
the U.S. naval base at Camp Lemonnier, Africom’s only known base on the
The recent wave of popular uprisings throughout North Africa and the Arabian
Peninsula is taking place amid an escalation of military operations in
Afghanistan and Iraq. These Pentagon-directed campaigns have been overshadowed
by the corporate media’s focus on the mass demonstrations in Tunisia,
Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain, Algeria and other states.
U.S. and NATO attacks on civilian areas in Afghanistan resulting in massive
deaths have fueled opposition and resistance to the ongoing occupation.
Protests in southern Iraq are aimed at the U.S.-installed puppet regime over
its poor delivery of services to the population.
With the U.S. being forced to respond to so many outbreaks of political unrest
in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, Washington is re-evaluating
its foreign policy in these geopolitical regions. Pentagon Joint Chiefs of
Staff head, Admiral Mike Mullen, is touring countries including Djibouti, Saudi
Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
U.S. anti-war and anti-imperialist forces must follow these developments
closely and adopt political programs and slogans that express solidarity with
the progressive character of the demonstrations, rebellions and uprisings
sweeping these areas of the world.
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