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Peace Agreement Addresses Afar Discontent

UN Integrated Regional Information Network (Nairobi), 14 May 2001

DJIBOUTI, 14 May (IRIN)—The Djibouti government and the radical wing of the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Peace (FRUD) signed an agreement on Saturday, 12 May, which observers say aims to put an end to the uneasy aftermath of the Afar insurgency in northern and south-western Djibouti.

The agreement was signed by Djibouti Interior Minister Abdallah Abdillahi Miguil and FRUD leader Ahmed Dini.

In a speech delivered at the signing ceremony at the Djibouti Conference Centre, known as the Palais du Peuple, Dini said the accord was to enshrine peace in our political environment. Ahmed Dini led a three-year long Afar insurgency in northern Djibouti from 1991 to 1994, after which the moderate wing of the party signed an agreement with the government.

Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh attended the ceremony, and said the agreement would close a sad chapter in Djibouti’s history. The head of state pledged that never again will Djibouti experience another conflict of this nature and magnitude.

The two sides refused to give details of the peace agreement, but at a press conference held shortly after the ceremony, Dini told journalists that it was centred on decentralisation. He said the government had agreed to the setting up of more representative local bodies, and had promised to introduce an unrestricted multi-party system by September. Djibouti’s current multiparty apparatus is confined to only four registered parties, which included the ruling Rassemblement Populaire pour le Progres, and the moderate wing of FRUD.

Part of the deal involves the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas and populations affected by the conflict, a local journalist told IRIN. International support—possibly from the European Union—would be sought for the demobilisation of FRUD fighters, the journalist said.

Dini did not rule out the possibility that some senior members of his organisation might join the Djibouti government in a pending cabinet reshuffle. Answering questions on the relationship of the radical wing with the moderate wing of FRUD, Dini said that, since the signing of the agreement, we are a political organisation fending for itself. Two leaders of the moderate wing of FRUD hold prominent positions in government, with Ali Muhammad Daoud as minister of agriculture, and Ougoureh Kifle Ahmed as minister of defence.

Local political sources told IRIN that the peace agreement ended 15 months of secret talks, which were a follow-up to an earlier peace deal signed by the Djibouti government and Ahmed Dini’s FRUD in Paris on 7 February 2000. Since the outbreak of the Afar insurgency, the government had pursued a reconciliation process with the two different FRUD groups, spanning about eight years of negotiations, the source said. The moderate FRUD group was the first to reach agreement with the central authority on 26 December 1994.

FRUD took up arms against the Djibouti government in 1991 to press the demands of the Afar—who constitute one of the country’s two indigenous ethnic groups. The radical wing of FRUD said the action was in protest against what it considered the hegemonic drive of the Somali-speaking tribes.