afrol News, 17 February - As the opposition, human rights groups and students in Djibouti gear up for the Friday mass protests, the Djiboutian Diaspora is uniting behind the protesters.
Following violently dispersed student protests at the University of Djibouti, several opposition rallies against the unconstitutional third term of President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh and spontaneous anti-government protests after the 29 January Friday prayers, the opposition Union for a Democratic Alternative (UAD) has taken the lead in urging for Egypt-like protests in Djibouti City tomorrow.
Djibouti's human rights league LDDH early joined the calls for protests, resulting in the Friday arrest of its leader, Jean-Paul Noël-Abdi. Six other human rights and opposition leaders have also been arrested. This has only caused further to protest the repressive government style of President Guelleh.
While international media generally have ignored reporting about the rising tensions in Djibouti - a key basis for US and European military operations in the area - the Djiboutian Diaspora has received the message of the upcoming protests with enthusiasm.
In Canada, the Djiboutian Diaspora already has called for a support demonstration to be held in front of the Ottawa parliament "against the dictatorship of Ismaël Guelleh." The protest march is to go to the US Embassy, demanding US support for the Djiboutian democracy movement.
More importantly, exiled parties and organisations are trying to mobilise their followers in Djibouti to take to the streets on Friday. The exiled group FRUD, representing the Afar people during the 1990s civil war, urges its sympathisers to join the UAD opposition in its protests march.
Jean-Paul Noël-Abdi, leader of Djibouti's human rights league LDDH
trade union leader Mohamed Doubad Wais, who was forced into exile in 1999, yesterday voiced a call to all Djiboutian workers to join the protest movement and consider strike to force the regime to respect human and labour rights.
In Reims, France, nine Djiboutian Diaspora groups - including exile parties, civil society groups and blog media - based in France, Belgium and Canada decided to use the occasion to join forces, creating the Collective for Democracy in Djibouti. Together, they call for Djiboutians to close ranks behind the UAD leadership in the protests.
UAD President Ismaël Guedi Hared is emerging the leader uniting the Djiboutian pro-democracy and human rights movement. Representing a union of the three major opposition parties in Djibouti, his major demand is for President Guelleh not to stand candidate at the April elections.
The Djiboutian parliament - totally dominated by the President's party after an opposition boycott of the last elections - last year changed the country's constitution, removing the two-term limit for the President despite loud opposition protests.
While the UAD and Mr Hared so far only have demanded President Guelleh not to run for a third term and for elections to be free and transparent, most other groups joining the protests are calling for the immediate resignation of the President.
Mr Hared indicates that the protests will be held every day, starting Friday, until the people's demands have been met. President Guelleh and his government so far have not reacted to the demands.
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