Djibouti President Plans To Extend 22-Year Rule

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Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh is expected to extend his two-decade rule of the tiny Horn of Africa nation as the country heads to the polls Friday.AFP reports

Guelleh, 73, is facing political newcomer Zakaria Ismail Farah, his only rival after traditional opposition parties decided to boycott the election.

A businessman specialised in the importation of cleaning products, Farah, 56, is seen by observers as unlikely to pose a significant challenge to the strongman who has been in power for 22 years.

Djibouti is a largely desert country strategically situated on one of the world’s busiest trade routes and at the crossroads between Africa and the Arabian peninsula, a short distance from war-torn Yemen.

Under Guelleh, the country has exploited this geographical advantage, investing heavily in ports and logistics infrastructure.

At the same time the country has seen an erosion of press freedom and a crackdown on dissent.

“Little by little, there has been a hardening of the regime since 1999,” said Sonia Le Gouriellec, a political scientist who authored a book on Djibouti.

“The more it has opened to the world, the more it has closed internally.”

Guelleh’s predicted fifth term will be his last, under a 2010 constitutional reform that scrapped term limits while also introducing an age limit of 75 which would lock him out of future elections.

Sunday Akintoye

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