Opposition parties in Djibouti are planning a series of demonstrations during the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) heads of state summit on November 6th-16th. The president, Ismaël Omar Guelleh, is known to be keen to use this high-profile international gathering to showcase the country and its potential. It will take place in Djibouti's only five-star hotel, the newly built Djibouti Palace Kempinski, which is opening with the summit on November 6th (see Foreign trade and payments).
The demonstrations are expected to be organised by Alliance républicain pour la démocratie (ARD), which is the strongest party in the opposition coalition, Union pour l'alternance démocratique (UAD). A UAD spokesman, Maki Houmedgaba, said that the opposition wanted to take advantage of this occasion to bring the suppression of democratic politics and human rights in Djibouti to the attention of international heads of state. In recent months the government of Djibouti has arrested trade union and opposition leaders, and in recent years it has been accused of manipulating the electoral system and suppressing the opposition in order to secure power for Mr Guelleh and the ruling Union pour la majorité présidentielle (UMP), which won all of the seats in the 2003 national elections. Opposition parties plan to present documentary evidence of alleged widespread abuses to the Comesa heads of state. It is likely, however, that any demonstrations will be completely suppressed by the government.