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  A Friendly Little Dictatorship in the Horn of Africa
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Last EditedIndyGeorgia  Apr 10, 2011 03:05pm
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AuthorAly Verjee
News DateFriday, April 8, 2011 09:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionIn the shadow of the extraordinary events under way in the Middle East, Djibouti's presidential vote was always going to struggle for attention. Indeed, the plight of this tiny country, sandwiched between Somalia and Yemen, remains almost completely ignored. But as the primary seaport to 85 million landlocked Ethiopians, the center of anti-piracy efforts in the Horn of Africa, and a reliable Western ally in the war on terror, Djibouti is a strategically vital country in an unstable neighborhood.

And with Nigeria's potentially tumultuous national vote coming this week, the relative quiet of the Djiboutian electoral process, which culminated with a ballot on April 8, might be considered a pleasant surprise compared with the electoral chaos of Africa's largest democracy. Djibouti boasts fewer than a million inhabitants -- voters in one district of the Nigerian city of Lagos outnumber its entire electoral roll.

But Djiboutian democracy is deeply flawed. The national parliament has not a single opposition legislator. The only national broadcaster, Radio-Television Djibouti, is the mouthpiece of the ruling party, slavishly reporting on the president's visits and appointments. There are almost no independent civil society organizations, and, with almost all possible employment controlled by the state, criticism of the regime is a bad career move. In this environment, this year's electoral campaign was little more than an exercise in hero worship of the incumbent president, Ismail Omar Guelleh.
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