Written by 3:53 pm Opinion

Who is Ismail Omar Guelleh? The Horn of Africa’s kleptocrat

Mohamed Caano-Geel

Who is Ismail Omar Guelleh?

The president of the Republic of Djibouti, who has been in office since 1999– effectively making him one of the longest-serving rulers in Africa.

Djibouti is one of four countries in Africa that have experienced instances of immediate successions from one family member to another. A lot has been said about his kleptocratic rule, with some going further to call him a dictator! Let me give you a brief history;

On 4 February 1999, President Guleed  Abtidoon, uncle of Ismail Guleed announced his retirement at the time of the next election, and an extraordinary congress of his party, the ruling People’s Rally for Progress (RPP), chose Geele as its presidential candidate, handpicked by Abtidon.[13][4] As the joint candidate of the RPP and moderate wing of the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD), Geele won the presidential election held on 9 April 1999 with 74.02% of the vote, defeating his only challenger, the independent candidate Moussa Ahmed Idriss. He took office on 8 May. Moussa Ahmed Idriss was arrested the following September for “threatening the morale of the armed forces” and detained at an undisclosed location 

 Second term, 2005 to 2011 

 For a second time on 7 October 2004, at an Extraordinary Congress of the party. He was backed by several other parties[ and was the only candidate in the presidential election held on 8 April 2005.Brief protests against the elections erupted but where quickly suppressed by police.[21] Without a challenger,  Omar Geele won 100% of the ballots cast and was sworn in for a second six-year term, which he said would be his last, on 7 May. 

Third term, 2011 to 2016 

Opposition parties boycotted the election, leaving only one little-known candidate against him on the ballot. Ismail Omar won almost 80% of the vote. Human Rights Watch questioned the fairness of the election given that opposition leaders were jailed twice prior to polling. Ismail Omar again said that he would not run for another term.  

Ismail Omar was also the winner of the 2016 election with about 87% of the popular vote. As in previous elections, the opposition had called for a country-wide boycott and demanded Ismail Omar conduct “transparent, free, fair and just elections. Opposition leaders and human rights groups complained of repression and police brutality in the run-up to the polls After interviewing an opposition leader, a BBC team was arrested and expelled shortly before the vote 

Fourth term, 2016 to 2021 

He was re-elected for a fifth term in the 2021 landslide election. One opposition candidate ran in the election, political newcomer Zakaria Ismail Farah, who accused the government of “ballot-box stuffing” and barring his delegates from accessing polling stations to monitor the voting process.Other with major opposition parties opted not to run candidates, accusing Ismail Omar of ruling via a dictatorship. 

Fifth term, since 2021 

COVID-19 made Ismail Omar Geele introduced compulsory for both citizens and foreign residents 

In June 2021 throughout that same month, Ismail reshuffled of his diplomatic corps, recalling seven ambassadors and appointing new ones to several countries across the Middle East. 

Throughout his presidency, Ismail Omar has worked to install members of his family in important political and economic positions. A central role is occupied by his wife, Kadra Mahamoud Haid, who acts as the de facto vice-president, and his two daughters: Haibado, functioning as an important advisor to Geele, and Fatouma-Awo, heavily involved in the country’s business activities. His son in law, Djama Elmi Okieh, is the Minister of Health.  

One of the President’s half-brothers, Saad Omar Geele , is the General Manager of the economically paramount Port of Djibouti, while first cousin Djama Ali Geele  has been the Director General of state-owned utilities company Electricité de Djibouti (EDD) since 1986, more than a decade before Geele  came to power  

Owing to this intricate blurring of state functions and the ruling clan, Geele has been able to exercise strict control over the country’s political, economic and judiciary affairs, aided by his strong grip on the police, military and other security forces. This has guaranteed that “the Geele clan’s domination of all public affairs prevailed  

A message sent from the US Embassy in Djibouti in 2004 and published on WikiLeaks described Djibouti as “less a country than a commercial city state controlled by one man, Ismail Omar Geele. 

The US government identified “unlawful or arbitrary killings”, “cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government, serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence”, among others, as “significant human rights issues” in the country. 

The link between Ismail Omar and Hassan Sheikh 

Ismail has always pretended to play as a co signer for Somalia since 1992, he has convinced the international to play in re building somali state from the civil war, and got a blank check to be the head man for reconstructing the fragile country. 

He applied the same doctrine as Djibouti by weakening the Somali torn tribal civil war and splitting them into a 4.5 system which has added fire into the tribal affiliation of Somalia. He alienates all other tribes and emboldens two major tribes to satisfy his ambition of dictatorship. 

Relations between Mogadishu and Djibouti have plummeted to their lowest point in decades over the past years since Mogadishu accused Djiboutian authorities of siding with Kenya in a report issued by IGAD-deployed fact-finding mission sent to assess claims by Somali government that KDF was arming its rebels to launch cross-border attacks.Last year, the government of Somalia’s former President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s presidency communications team announced that Djibouti had arrested Somali National Security Advisor Fahad Yasin.  The only presidents that did not see eye to eye Ismail`s ideology were Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed who rejected a ploy to build a government in Djibouti with the blessing of Ismail Omar, instead he chose Kenya in the parliament composition and his presidential candidacy, yet Ismail undermined him at every turn by making sure Abdulahi had to resign. The other president is Mr Farmaajo’s government was undermined at every turn— even constituting and funding the opppsitin group, then so called “midoowga musharixiinta” with their armed wing the militia “Badbaado Qaran” the single biggest evidence to this end is the former Banadir regional police commander General Saadaq John who tried to tople the government by using the police force and a private militia, John was rewarded by being married off to Haybado Ismail Omar Geele, the daughter of the Djiboutian kleptocrat Guelleh at a not so private wedding ceremony.  Hassan Sheikh was heading the traditional leaders asking for the bride’s hand in marriage on behalf of Sadaaq while Somaliland regional leader Muse Bihi officially presented the daughter to the bridegroom on behalf of Geele. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud underlined that Djibouti and Somalia are brotherly nations which has now been mushroomed by the marriage of new couple.


I end in a sad sentence by saying if Somalia is mushroomed with Djibouti in political and social ties, then we can only expect one thing, the continuation of a long Damajadiid government the economical build up of Damaljadiid and it is allies, the looting of Somali resources by Damaljadiid and allies, Land confiscations of Damaljadiid and allies we expect not less than what Omar openly said ( You removed a mountain of obstacles from us) to Hassan Sheikh, the world has to know we are releasing another Dictator and hijacking the fate of 20 million Somalis lives and their resources by aiding Hassan Sheikh and his mentor Ismail Omar Geele. Expect the breaking up and down of Southwest, Jubaland,Puntland states. How? Southwest Lower Shabeele is the aim. In Jubaland Gedo is the aim. In Puntland, Galkaio or the entire Mudug region is the aim. This is the bumby ride we were warned by Hassan’s own security adviser Huseen Maalim Mahmud (fired from the previous government by passing secrets to a foreign country) he said after his nomination to “tighten the seat belts” and then came his boss Hassan Sheikh sayin we will embark Somalia on a single train.

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