If you thought Africa has seen enough of nepotism and impunity you are yet to see the One Family Government of Djibouti. A country of just under 1 million people, Djibouti is an East African country that hosts the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD). In a shocking revelation of abuse of power by the country’s ruling family, Djibouti appears to have fallen to the lowest ranks in the league of impunity and nepotism. Under the powerful stranglehold of President Ismail Omar Gelle and his powerful wife, Khadra Mohamud Xayd, the country now appears to inform neighbours and the rest of the world that “IT CANNOT BREATH”.
Mr. Ismail Omar Gelle took over power from his uncle Hassan Guled Aptidoon who died in office in 1999 in a relatively smooth transition like a prince inheriting a kingdom. In the 21 years, Gelle has been in power, little reform has taken place. It has been hailed as an oasis of peace in a volatile region, but that peace is reported to have no links with economic progress, acceptable living standards enjoyed by its citizens as more than 42% of its population live below the poverty line, or the existence of a robust justice system. The peace is bizarrely attributed to foreign powers with military bases in the small Red Sea nation. World powers like USA, France, and of late China and some Middle Eastern countries moor their ships and protect their maritime businesses from these bases. It is thought they are protecting and keeping his regime in power. China officially launched its first overseas military base in the country. But for the peace-loving people of Djibouti these may not be their immediate concern. Their concern is the rampant poverty, the growing police-state that is stifling freedom by the day, and the monopoly of power by the First Family.
The President’s wife Mrs Khadra Mohamud Xayd is the defacto Vice President with her daughters as presidential advisors. She is a wealthy owner of many companies and influential in the country’s political affairs. She is a central pillar attributed to many of the government’s appointments and makes most of the decisions in the nation’s politics. She is discreetly grooming her son Naguib for the presidency after her husband dies or retires.
Abdulqadir Kamil is the Prime Minister. He is married to the President’s cousin. As the President’s brother-in-law, he is a nominal PM.
Hassan Bahdoon is married to the first lady’s daughter from a previous marriage. He is the Defence Minister.
Naguib Kamil is the First Lady’s son from a previous marriage. He is the Director-General at the Prime Minister’s office and his mother is grooming him to take over from his dad when he dies or retires from office.
Jama Elmi is the President’s son-in-law and the Minister of Health. Jama Ali Gelle is the President’s cousin and has been the Director-General of the state-owned Power Lighting Company for 30 years. There are reports the president and his relatives have used this company as a cash cow.
Saad Omar Gelle is the President’s brother. He is the head of the Country’s Port, the main economic mainstay of the small Red sea country. Ainanshe Ismail Omar is the youngest son of the President. He has a monopoly on the dairy sector. The president oldest son Liban Ismail from a different mother is the owner of many industries including a spaghetti industry. Sources say that after setting up the Spaghetti factory, he put a 300 percent levy on imported spaghetti.
Almis Xayde is the President’s brother in-law. He is the head of Civil Aviation. Hassan Said Madobe is a relative of the President. He is the head of the Secret Services. Gelle Omar Gelle is the President’s nephew. He is the director of foreign and international relations. Zakarie Jama is the President’s relative and head of the Armed Forces.
As Djibouti increasingly looks like a kingdom and the regime’s hold onto power gets stronger, the people are beginning to resist. Over the last few days, there were huge demonstrations against the government over a pilot in detention. Captain Fuad Yussuf Ali who sought asylum in Ethiopia was returned by Abiy Ahmed’s administration and his detention and torture in Djibouti has sparked protest.
Neighbouring countries must not watch as Djibouti goes the Congo or Somalia way and intervene for a peaceful resolution to what is brewing. President Gelle who has a good reputation in the horn must learn from his Somalia predecessor, former strongman Mohamed Siad Barre and call for free and fair elections. He must act a father figure and midwife a peaceful, inclusive and genuine transition.