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Deserting Democracy (conference presentation) : Authoritarianism and Geo-strategic Politics in Djibouti

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conference contribution
posted on 2023-08-05, 08:19 authored by Claire M. Metelits, Steph Matti

When Ismael Omar Guelleh became President of Djibouti in 1999, there were strong indications that the country was headed in a more democratic direction. Despite these indications, the period since has seen the Guelleh regime use heavy-handed tactics to repress dissent. Based on an examination of democratic contestation in the electoral arena, legislature, judiciary, media and civil society, this article argues that the regime is now fully authoritarian, yet draws little censure from the West. The US in particular has been willing to overlook the regime's democratic shortcomings due to the security-based geo-strategic importance attached to Djibouti, which hosts several foreign military bases. This case also points to a shift in the way the US engages with African regimes. While policy discourse continues to emphasize democratization, since 2001 Washington has become increasingly willing to overlook authoritarian drift and violations of human rights where security and counter- terrorist activities are concerned.



Turquoise Mountain, Afghanistan; Davidson College


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