Djibouti to hold presidential elections

President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh will seek today a fifth term. The elections will be marked by the absence

Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh

Photo: Reuters/Edmund Blair

President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Guelleh will seek today a fifth term.

The elections will be marked by the absence of historic opposition leaders, who have decided to boycott the ballot, with only independent candidate Zakaria Ismail Farah running against Guelleh. The opposition considers that the technical and political conditions are not being met for transparent elections.

With ongoing conflicts in neighbouring Somalia, Yemen and Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Djibouti has been an island of authoritarian stability in the region. The country derives a large income from hosting foreign garrisons, including the first permanent Chinese military base in the region, and port activities, and thanks to this, the country is doing well economically despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite its positive economic indicators, Djibouti remains a country with a low development index and harsh repression.

During the past five years, Djibouti has become increasingly reliant on China and must pay off a debt of $1.2 billion. China has placed the country at the heart of its Africa strategy for the new Silk Roads, but the growing debt to China could cause diplomatic trouble for Djibouti. In addition, its regional influence has been waning—a recent truce between Ethiopia and Eritrea took Guelleh by surprise. Expect Guelleh to consolidate Djibouti’s position as an essential partner in the region and allow for China to continue its plan to expand its influence in the Horn of Africa.

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