DJIBOUTI (SD) – Ismael Omar Guelleh has today officially started his fifth term as Djibouti President after taking oath at inauguration ceremony held in the country’s capital.
Last April, Guelleh, 73 was re-elected with 98.58 % of the vote, defeating Zakaria Ismail, an independent and a newcomer candidate, earning him a fifth term, citing provisional results.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by leaders from Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Rwanda. Western powers, China, India and Gulf countries have also sent their representatives.
Guelleh was first elected as President in 1999 as the handpicked successor to his uncle, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had ruled Djibouti since independence in 1977.
Guelleh was re-elected in 2005, 2011, 2016 and 2021; the opposition largely boycotted the 2011 election amid complaints about widespread irregularities.
Guelleh has been characterized as a dictator, and some human rights groups have criticized his rule.
He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian award, on 25 January 2019 for his role in the safe evacuation of Indian citizens from Yemen.
Djibouti is a largely desert country strategically situated on one of the world’s busiest trade routes and at the crossroads between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, a short distance from war-torn Yemen.
Djibouti is a key staging ground for both the United States, which uses Camp Lemmonier on the outskirts of Djibouti’s capital as an operating base for 4,000 US and allied personnel, France and China, which chose the country to host its first overseas military installation in 2017.
From a US perspective, Djibouti is ideally located for conducting missions in the Middle East and East Africa; for Beijing, a military presence in Djibouti helps secure its substantial East African investments.