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Why IOG invited Ali Bongo
The Indian Ocean Newsletter
February 01, 2013


President Ismael Omar Guelleh (IOG) rolled out the red carpet to welcome his opposite number from Gabon, Ali Bongo, who went on an official visit to Djibouti on 28 and 29 January. IOG had invited Bongo during the last African Union (AU) summit in Malabo and has long had the idea in mind of an African transversal roadway linking his country to the port in Libreville. Moreover, he sketched out this project at the breakfast with Bongo on 29 January, expressing the desire for a partnership “between the ports of our respective countries, which are situated in two dynamic African regions, each with a high potential for expansion”. To be sure, this would enable the Djibouti port infrastructure to be less dependent on Ethiopia, which is currently their principal user.

But IOG also has his eye on the Bongo family`s private investment potential: Djibouti could be a land of refuge at a time when the campaigns of certain NGOs against ill gotten goods make acquisition in France more delicate for African dignitaries. Finally, the eldest daughters of the two Heads of State, respectively Fatouma-Awo Guelleh and Malika Bongo aka Kika, are friends. Moreover, the former invited the latter to Djibouti last year, and put her up for two weeks at the Kempinski Hotel. They were then even allowed to use the Djibouti presidential jet to go together on a trip to Dubai.

© Copyrights 2013 Indigo Publications All Rights Reserved

Djibouti`s Guelleh: ex-presidential aide who rose to power
Francois Ausseill
April 05, 2011

In power since 1999 and poised to secure another five-year term on Friday, Dijibouti`s President Ismael Omar Guelleh learned to govern in two decades of watching his mentor and predecessor.

The 63-year-old Guelleh was right-hand man to the first president after independence from France in 1977, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, serving as his director of cabinet as well as intelligence and security chief.

Under Gouled from independence until he stepped down in 1999, Guelleh found himself having to take important decisions when his mentor was ageing and in failing health.

Guelleh is considered the architect of the 1994 peace agreement between the Djibouti government and the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD), the main Afar rebel group.

When Gouled decided not to stand in the 1999 elections, he backed his protege who became the Horn of Africa country`s second president.

Guelleh was re-elected in 2005 -- something of a formality given that the opposition boycotted the poll.

He has been able to stand for election again on Friday after he had the constitution changed in April 2010 to allow him to go for a third term, now trimmed down to five years from six.

Born in 1947 in Dire-Dawa in Ethiopia to a primary school teacher turned railway worker, Guelleh, like his predecessor, belongs to the Mamassans, a sub-clan of the Issa.

His family moved to Djibouti in 1960 and four years later Guelleh, obliged to cut short his education, joined the intelligence services. He read widely to make up for interrupting his studies and acquired pro-independence ideas.

Round-faced and smiling, Guelleh sports a meticulously groomed grey beard and is often pictured in a traditional robe.

He describes the prospect of a third term as “being really thrilling even if it does bring a lot of responsibilities.”

During his second mandate he was linked by witnesses in a French inquiry to the death of French judge Bernand Borrel whose half-charred body was found in a ravine in 1995 in a case that remains murky.

His second term was also marked in February by a protest calling for him to step down and labelling him a dictator.

The protest -- the biggest in Djibouti since independence -- came against a backdrop of upheaval across the Arab world that saw the veteran leaders of Tunisia and Egypt stand down.

The demonstration was put down by the security forces after two people were killed in clashes, but raises the prospect of rough waters ahead for what Guelleh has pledged will be his last term.

© Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011 All reproduction and presentation rights reserved.

Ismail Omar Guelleh
The Indian Ocean Newsletter
June 06, 2009

President Ismail Omar Guelleh has become quite a hit on YouTube these last few weeks, albeit involuntarily. To be sure, a prankster has uploaded some extracts of the “seminar on government action” held in Djibouti from 2 to 9 May taken from the Djibouti State television channel onto the video-sharing website. The live television broadcast added an unusual twist to the pompous propaganda when a certain Barakhleh Hassan Abdillahi, presenting himself as a student officer, spoke from the floor to outline his “recommendations” to the government. Prime Minister Dileita Mohamed Dileita immediately interrupted him, saying that his name was not on the guest list. Then after a few verbal exchanges between the Prime Minister and this “surprise guest”, President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who was on the platform, lost his patience. He shouted at the intruder, telling him “from now on you are no longer a student officer. You have been sent down because you are a bad pupil. That`s all!”

© Copyrights 2009 Indigo Publications All Rights Reserved

Ismaël Omar Guelleh`s delusions of grandeur
The Indian Ocean Newsletter
June 11, 2005

The Djibouti government really has big ideas in the hotel industry, fuelled by the prospect of hosting an international African meeting in Djibouti next year. While applying pressure on the Sheraton, owned by the Saudi-Ethiopian magnate Mohamed Hussein Al Amoudi, for it to renovate its installations (true, it needs it), President Ismaël Omar Guelleh recently took several decisions giving the green light to other hotel projects in Djibouti. If all of these projects come to fruition, Djibouti`s hotel stock will be multiplied by two. But it is far from certain that the clientele will grow at the same rate.Boreh`s excesses. A former owner of the Sheraton, the Djiboutian businessman Abdourahman Mahamoud Boreh is at the head of a group of investors, including the Dubai firm Djebel Ali, which is planning to build a luxury hotel costing $50 million (ION 1135). His aim is to rival the Sheraton (240 rooms) by building an Intercontinental with more than 400 rooms.

Hence, the owner of the Sheraton is planning to renovate his establishment and the contracts were negotiated at the beginning of the year to renovate the air conditioning system and some of the rooms. The elevators also need to be refurbished: last year one of them dropped suddenly from the sixth to the ground floor. No one was injured, but the Ethiopian ministers inside had something of a fright.Kuwaiti project. At the end of April, President IOG awarded the firm Kuwait Djibouti Company for Trading and Development Sarl a provisional concession for a 20,000 square metre plot located in the fishing port at Salines West to build a hotel. The price of this land concession was set at FD 24 million (107,000 euros). The Djibouti president freed the plot by cancelling a concession awarded the previous year to the firm Djibouti Marina Sarl (ION 1079) to build a marina including a tourist complex and a leisure port. The shareholders of this firm are Boreh, the French lawyer in Djibouti Alain Martinet and the Italian firm Cosmez. Refurbishing La Siesta. For its part, the firm Beach for Investment, whose shareholders are believed to be Saudis, has obtained the green light from the Djibouti government to refurbish the old hotel La Siesta. This company will benefit from several tax advantages: waiving of the licence fee, companies and payroll tax, as well as the domestic consumer tax on raw materials and imported goods needed for the project estimated at $400,000. However, Beach for Investment must execute its investment programme within 18 months from the date of approval, otherwise it will lose these advantages.Ugandan project. Finally, the Djibouti president approved at the end of April the sale by the State of the “Les Mouettes” building and a plot of land to the firm MKM Comesa Ltd whose headquarters is in Kampala (Uganda) but which has a subsidiary in Djibouti. The order states that the Djibouti government “attaches a capital importance to the completion of this project”, nevertheless highly ambitious. MKM has undertaken to build “a luxury four star hotel complex including presidential suites, ministerial suites and bedrooms” for a cost of $4 million “in a period of one year starting from 30 April 2005”. MKM Comesa Ltd obtained tax concessions on the building materials needed for this work, the land tax and companies tax for 10 years “renewable for a similar period”. Furthermore, MKM has been “authorised to employ foreign workers” and the Djibouti government has undertaken that the relevant authorities will do all that is necessary to accord the residence permits. MKM Comesa Ltd is linked to the businessman of Rwandan extraction converted to Islam, Mohamed Silas Majyambere (ION 912). The Djibouti Consul in Uganda, he is a partner of the recently deceased Djibouti entrepreneur Saad Ahmed Cheikh, in a company in Djibouti. Majyambere is a friend of the Ugandan businessman Habib Kagimu, who until last year was the manager of the Société Djiboutienne pour la Promotion du Tourisme, de l`Artisanat et de l`Hôtellerie (Sojitah) in which Saad Ahmed Cheikh was a shareholder.

© Copyrights 2005 Indigo Publications All Rights Reserved

Opposition closes its ranks
The Indian Ocean Newsletter
February 01, 2013

The opposition is to participate in the parliamentary election on 22 February, for the first time since 2003. Its unified lists of candidates are ready, despite internal squabbles.

As expected, on 24 January, the Unionpour le Salut National (USN, opposition) filed its lists of candidates for the parliamentary election on 22 February with the ministry for home affairs (ION 1348). The emergence of a united front owes much to Doctor Abatte Ebo Adou, the leader of the new party Mouvement pour la démocratie et la liberté (Model). He held several meetings with the leaders of rival opposition factions to smooth over their differences and it was at his home that the USN was founded on 16 January. The fact that he is the doctor who treats several opposition leaders no doubt facilitated his contacts.

The businessman Abdourahman Mahamoud Boreh, a former friend of President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (IOG) who subsequently fell out with him and now lives in exile, also used his influence with the Issa/Odahgob community and his financial muscle to help USN come into being. Without him, the opposition would probably not have been able to field 65 candidates, each of which must make a deposit of FD 500,000 (€2,000). Even the armed FRUD (radical opposition) advocated unifying the civil opposition, in the hope of setting up a transition forum able to propose an alternative political programme after the elections.

However, right until the last minute, the USN nearly disintegrated due to personal conflicts. One concerned who was to head the list for Djibouti City (which accounts for 35 MPs out of the total of 65 in the Assembly) and a tussle between Ahmed Youssouf (ARD) and Ismael Guedi Hared (UDJ). Guedi was finally selected, because Ahmed Youssouf has dual French-Djibouti nationality. The ARD also almost came to blows with the PDD of Mohamed Daoud to be at the top of the Tadjourah list. Finally, despite being locally popular, Mohamed Daoud withdrew in order to preserve unity.

© Copyrights 2013 Indigo Publications All Rights Reserved

Negotiations in the UMP for the election in Djibouti
The Indian Ocean Newsletter
February 01, 2013

A full week after the 24 January official legal deadline for declaring candidates for the parliamentary election on 22 February, the UMP (ruling coalition) had still not published its list of candidates. This will enable last minute fine-tuning to fare better against the Unionpour le Salut National (USN opposition) candidates, whose names have already been made public. One thing seems certain however: the finance minister Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh will be one of the UMP candidates for the Djibouti City constituency instead of his younger brother, the outgoing MP, the businessman Youssouf Moussa Dawaleh. In return, the former promised the latter to help him become the chairman of the Chambre de Commerce de Djibouti (CCD) when this body holds its next internal election later this year. The finance minister, who will oversee the CCD, may even have persuaded President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh to give his support to this family deal.

© Copyrights 2013 Indigo Publications All Rights Reserved


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