(By Indian Ocean Newsletter)
THE plan for economic integration devised by Djibouti and neighbouring Ethiopia could ultimately lead to a kind of political unification between the two countries. During the last few weeks, certain Ethiopian dignitaries have hinted at it and one of them even went so far as to utter “a single country with two chiefs”.
Ethiopian desire to secure its Djibouti port outlet is nothing new and some people in Addis Ababa have been talking about “an obligatory merger” with Djibouti for years. So far this trend has been latent but is now coming into the fore, because President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (IOG) needs an Ethiopian umbrella in various sectors, including that of guaranteeing his immunity when he is no longer in power.
The Djibouti president was born in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, and owns a house in Addis Ababa. He is beginning to show his age (he is 67 according to his official birth date) and his health is not what it used to be. He is currently getting over an operation at the Val-de-Grace military hospital in Paris and he is losing his mobility. Moreover, the traditional Independence Day garden party on 27 June was not held this year, the first time in decades.
During the military parade, all measures were taken for him to make the least possible effort: IOG did not even get up to return the salute of the commanders of the parading troops. Nor did he appear on 21 June at the Hotel Kempinski for the presentation of Djibouti Vision 2035, even though it is under his High Patronage. The government, and in particular finance ministerIlyas Moussa Dawaleh have been working on this project for many years. Finally, the cabinet meetings, which are normally held every week, are getting further and further apart.
No successor in sight
IOG has several times reiterated that he will not run in the 2016 election and his state of health suggests that this will indeed be the case. However, from 2006 to 2009 he had also promised that he would not amend the constitution so he could run for another mandate, which he did finally do. At present, he does not give the impression of being