afrol News, 4 March - Djibiboutians wanting to attend an announced mass protest against government today were pulled back by large numbers of police troops in central Djibouti City.
On Friday 18 February, Djiboutian opposition parties, human rights groups and civil society groups managed to gather 30,000 protesters in the centre of the capital. Brutal attacks by police troops dispersed the protesters after dark, preventing them from installing a protest camp in central Djibouti City.
Since then, waves of arrests and a constant, massive police presence in the city has prevented new anti-government protests.
Djibouti's main opposition parties last week filed an official application for the "organisation of a pacific manifestation on Friday 4 March 2011, in the square in front of Hassan Gouled stadium at 14 hours."
Yesterday, in the last moment, the Djiboutian Interior Ministry turned down the application, referring to the "difficult environment" and disorder created by the opposition's 18 February protests.
The Ministry demanded that the opposition publicly called off the planned protest march, and find a later date for the manifestation. This was turned down by the opposition.
Large numbers of Djiboutian protesters after the Friday prayers therefore tried to gather in central Djibouti City, moving towards the Hassan Gouled stadium.
The square in front of the stadium however was filled with armed troops of the army, gendarme and police, which also blocked every access roads to the central square.
Demonstrators were swiftly ordered to go home and access to the city centre was effectively closed. Met by this massive police and army presence, protesters had no other choice than calling off the manifestation.
Ismaël Guedi Hared, leader of the country's main opposition party UAD, recognised the defeat of today, agreeing to the dissolution of the planned protest. The opposition has yet to agree on its further tactics, but some opposition sources already speak of a new attempt next Friday.
Protests in Djibouti are against the government of President Ismaël Omar Guelleh, who last year changed the country's constitution to allow for a third term in the presidency. The opposition, which has boycotted the 2005 and 2008 elections because of an unfair electoral code, calls for President Guelleh to step down in connection with the upcoming April elections.
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