DI Press Release on Djibouti Presidential Election
Washington, D.C. – On the eve of a presidential election in Djibouti on April 8, U.S.-based Democracy International (DI) called on the government of the Republic of Djibouti to respect the rights of its citizens to engage in peaceful assembly, exercise free speech, and to participate in a free and fair vote. DI also denounced the government’s unwarranted decision to prevent the organization from continuing its observation of Djibouti’s election process.
Since mid-2010, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Democracy International has monitored Djibouti’s 2011 electoral process. DI has deployed four pre-election missions and issued pre-election reports in November 2010 and January 2011. On March 4, just over one month before election day, the government of Djibouti falsely accused DI of partisanship and providing assistance to antigovernment protestors on February 18 and declared DI’s activities illegal. Subsequently, the government ordered DI to leave the country. In compliance with the order, DI ended its mission and departed. This was not the first time DI faced significant pressure from the government; in October 2010 security personnel halted DI focus group discussions and detained DI focus group leaders.
“The decision by the government of Djibouti to expel our international observation mission is just the latest example of the government’s intolerance of free expression,” said DI Principal Glenn Cowan. “The citizens of Djibouti are no different than others around the world who are demanding democratic change. They resent autocratic rule and are no longer willing to remain silent.”
The government of Djibouti appears increasingly unwilling to tolerate meaningful opposition and has suppressed peaceful democratic expression. On February 18, thousands of Djiboutians participated in an initially peaceful protest against the president’s rule. In response, security forces ordered people to disperse, fired tear gas, and arrested scores of protestors.
“The people of Djibouti deserve a fair opportunity to participate in the political process,” added Cowan. “The government should respect its citizens’ rights of peaceful assembly and free speech and should meet its obligation to hold a meaningful, democratic election.”
DI greatly regrets that its expulsion shortly before the April 8 election eliminated the possibility of meaningful election observation. DI did not take any actions inconsistent with its obligations as an independent, impartial international election observation mission as outlined in the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers, declared at the United Nations in 2005, and agreed to in the bilateral agreement between the governments of the U.S. and Djibouti.