The United States on Wednesday has condemned acts of violence in one of its client state Djibouti and urges the government to immediately release all the opposition leaders who have been detained during the protest that turned deadly.
“The United States condemns recent acts of violence in the capital of Djibouti and calls for the immediate release of opposition leaders who have been detained. We express our condolences to all those affected by the tragic deaths and injuries caused by these attacks,” the US State Department said.
Violence flared before dawn on Monday when police opened fire on a traditional religious ceremony in Buldhoqo district, close to the capital and killing as many as 19 people and wounding 10 including the opposition leader Ahmed Youssouf.
“We urge the government of Djibouti to respect its citizens’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association, and to exercise restraint,” the US statement continued.
Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, however, denied the number of dead insisting that the opposition had inflated the numbers. But he hasn’t denied that security forces have detained president of the opposition Union for National Salvation (USN) in connection with the incident although he was badly wounded.
Deputy opposition leader Omar Elmi Khayre told VOA’s Somali Service that civilians were celebrating at the religious event when police and gendarmes attacked the crowd. He said some of those targeted were opposition supporters.
“We call on the government of Djibouti and all political stakeholders to engage in dialogue to prevent further violence. We also encourage the government and opposition parties to resume negotiations to ensure peaceful and transparent presidential elections in 2016,” the US State Department urges.
Djibouti, a small country on the east coast of Africa, has been dominated by the People’s Rally for Progress party since the late 1970s. The party now rules the country as part of the Union for Presidential Majority coalition.
Its President Ismail Omar Guelleh is a dictatorship and has been in power since 1999. A new presidential election is due in April 2016.
Guelleh’s hard-line government cracked down hard on the opposition in 2011, when anti-government demonstrators, buoyed by revolutions sweeping northern Africa and Middle East, demanding that the president step down.
During parliamentary polls in 2013, protestors clashed with police, saying the results were rigged, a charge Guelleh’s administration denied.