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Published On: Sat, Feb 19th, 2011

Three Opposition Leaders Detained Amid Protests in Djibouti Are Released

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Djibouti(ANN) Djiboutian authorities released three opposition leaders as opponents of President Ismail Guelleh clashed with police in the second day of protests against his rule, a party head said.

Mohamed Daoud Chehem, head of the Djibouti Party for Development; Ismael Guedi Hared, president of the Union for a Democratic Alternative; and Aden Robleh Awaleh, leader of theNational Democratic Party, were detained this morning, Awaleh said in a phone interview from the capital, Djibouti, today.

“There was no explanation, no charge, no problem,” Awaleh said in a phone interview from Djibouti, saying he had been arrested this morning and released at 6 p.m. “The others have also been released.”

Opposition leaders will meet tomorrow to discuss their next moves, Awaleh said. At least four demonstrators died and 50 were injured, he said. Government reports say one demonstrator and one police officer have been killed.

Anti-government protests have spread from Algeria to Yemen since January after popular uprising ousted the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia. In Djibouti, the Horn of Africa nation that hosts the only U.S. military base on the continent, Guelleh’s People’s Rally for Progress party has ruled since independence in 1977.

The 63-year-old leader, first elected in 1999, amended the constitution in March to allow him to extend his rule by two more six-year terms.

Opposition supporters began a protest yesterday that led to clashes with the police. One policeman was killed and a second one is in a coma after being stoned by protesters, according toDjibouti24, a Djibouti-based website.

Guelleh

Chehem said yesterday that as many as 20,000 people had joined the protest against Guelleh. The country has a population of about 865,000, according to the World Bank.

Several calls today and yesterday to Ali Boumede, a spokesman for the president, Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssuf, the president’s office and president’s residence either weren’t answered or didn’t connect, or Bloomberg was told the officials weren’t available.

Djibouti ranks 148th out of 169 countries in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy, education and living standards.

Last month, opposition leader Abdourahman Boreh called for elections scheduled for April to be delayed by as much as a year and for international monitors to oversee an electoral roll that includes 130,000 to 140,000 of the population.

Elections

Boreh was the chairman of the Djibouti Port and Free Zone Authority from 2000 to 2009, when he left the country following a dispute with the government. He was subsequently given a 15- year prison sentence following accusations he was involved in a grenade attack in Djibouti. Boreh denied all charges and said the case was politically motivated.

“We’re closely monitoring, keeping an eye on developments, especially as they relate to any forces we may have in the region,” a Pentagon spokesman, Marine Corps Colonel David Lapin, told reporters yesterday.

The U.S has had a base in Djibouti since 2001, while former colonial power France also has a military based and 3,000 troops stationed in the country, which is smaller than the U.S. state ofMassachusetts. The republic borders the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and is seen as a strategic location in the U.S.-led fight against terrorism and piracy.

 

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