This is part of a feature series on how nations in Africa address evidence of corruption, that will publish bimonthly until the end of the May.
This past Friday, Djiboutian President Ismail Guelleh was re-elected to serve his fourth five-year term. Securing eighty seven percent of the votes, Guelleh won by a landslide. Irregularities in the election, however, have caused some to question whether Guelleh’s extended presidency is the product of political corruption.
Gulleh is the country’s second president since its independence from France in 1977. He has governed the country for seventeen years. In 2011, Djibouti amended its constitution so Guelleh could run for a third term. During his presidency, Guelleh guided Dijbouti’s way to becoming a major international port, causing its GDP to rise by three percent since his election. He has also worked to mitigate tensions between minority groups and spearheaded anti-poverty initiatives. With strong ties to the Guelleh administration, Western nations have withheld any objection to Guelleh’s presidency.
Some complain that Guelleh’s win was a result of corruption and insufficient voter turnout. Less than one-fourth of the country’s population was eligible to vote, and several opposing parties boycotted the elections. Politicians from other parties complained that their representatives were dismissed at the polls and that soldiers were mustered to vote at the wrong polling stations. According to one of the candidates, Olma Elmi Khaire, “In Obolley there are only 55 people who are registered to vote but…500 soldiers [voted].” Opposing parties have also decried the lack of freedom of assembly and expression, and irrational arrests of supporters during the campaign period.
Candidate Jama Abderahaman Djama demanded that “the government fix [the injustices] and organize transparent, free, fair and just elections.” Mohamed Muse Tourtour, another candidate, reported election irregularities to the nation’s Interior Ministry, but investigations have yet to be initiated. In 2013, after Guelleh’s party was accused of fraud, several politicians insisted on the creation of an election commission. This commission was never formed.
Guelleh will still return to office, backed by several Western nations. The United States and France are seeking to preserve ties with the Guelleh administration to secure the safety of their military bases in the country. Their actions suggest that they are willing to overlook corruption for economic and military gain.