Djiboutians have been witnessing for the last couple of weeks events worthy of a television series where barons of the current regime, under Ismail Omar Guelleh (IOG), have been locked up, for a few days unfortunately, at the “Gabode’s Sheraton‘‘.
These barons used this oxymoron to refer to the infamous Gabode prison when they were in charge of the president’s dirty jobs. The horrendous condition of the place was made famous by the jailed Lieutenant Fouad Ali when he smuggled a video out.
Who are these barons anyway? The first and best known of them is Abdillahi Abdi Farah, Director of the National Police. He is a man infamous for his extreme brutality towards Jibutians and for his fortune amassed over the years by extorting local traders.
This police chief, hated by all, was one of the armed arms of the regime. He set up a system of illegal telephone tapping. He is close to Khadra Haid, the equally infamous first lady.
The second baron is the former budget minister, Bodeh Ahmed Robleh, who is suspected of having carried out a massive embezzlement of public funds during his few years of service, in full view of the regime.
The questions that every Djiboutian has the right to ask is: why them? And why now?
In fact, to understand the underside of this story and its ins and outs, you have to go back to independence in 1977.
To maintain control over its colony, the former TFAI (French Territory of Issas and Afars), France purely organized a transfer of power to Hassan Gouled Aptidon by propelling him President of the new Republic of Djibouti with the help of the Afars who did not want to hear of a possible attachment to Greater Somalia.
All those who were considered anti-French, pansomalists such as Omar Osman Rabeh, Omar Chardi Bouni and the valiant fighters from FLCS (French Somaliland Liberation Army), were the first victims of this purge, with the complicity of Somalia’s President Mohamed Siad Barre.
Since that date, power has been in the hands of a family and a clan. Wasn’t Hassan Gouled Aptidon IOG’s uncle?
These purges have occurred on a regular basis since independence in 1977 and especially after every sham election organized to give an image of openness to the regime and in which the public no longer believes.
Arrived at the twilight of his political life, the uncle Aptidon had already eliminated from the race for his succession, and this from 1995, all his nephew IOG’s potential competitors.
Aptidon threw them either in prison following a scheme fomented by IOG accusing them of preparing a coup. Others were poisoned (Mohamed Jama Elabe), assassinated (Mohamed Ahmed Issa aka Sheikho), or forced into exile (Mohamed Kadamy).
The height of irony, the regime has turned against all those who supported it in the previous purges and in the repression of popular demands. We can cite the ruthless former police chief Yacin Yabeh, the associate turned arch enemy Abdourahman Boreh, the current Abdillahi Abdi, and many other execrable ones.
History is repeating itself even more than a quarter of a century later with the same operating methods to probably achieve the same goal, namely to transfer power to another Guelleh. But why now?
Today it is no secret that IOG is diminished by age and illness. Add to that the stress generated by a regional context that is unfavorable to him, he is caught in a race against time to safely transfer power to an heir and thus ensure the continuity of the family regime.
Will such a succession be possible, especially now that the people want not only a change of power but an alternative to the colonial legacy? Only time will tell. In the meantime, let’s watch these disgraced barons and wannabes keep falling as other rush to replace them.