afrol News, 26 October - The Djiboutian government has decreed the removal of a prominent trade union leader from his offices. The move marks the climax of years of government attempts to infiltrate and to gain control of the originally independent unions.
By ministerial decision, the Secretary-General of the "Syndicat du Personnel du Bātiment et des Travaux Publics" (SP-BTP, Building and Public Works Union) and Chief Treasurer of the "Union Djiboutienne du Travail" (UDT, national trade union confederation), Abdoulkalek Waberi Ouffaneh, has been removed from his offices.
Since the general strike called in 1995 in response to the International Monetary Fund's structural adjustment programmes, the Djibouti government has been running an active anti-union repression campaign.
The government move to gain control over the UDT started at the July 1999 congress, organised in association with Djiboutian authorities. Here, rigged elections saw corrupt agents of the state rise to positions of power in the leading trade union federations, according to reports from unionist. In the wake of the elections, the UDT's offices were seized by these new "union leaders" and leased out to traders.
Since that, and under increasingly difficult circumstances, UDT and some of its affiliates have however managed to continue to promote workers' rights. Mr Ouffaneh increasingly had assured an independent course for the UDT. Therefore, it seems, he was removed by the government.
The removal of Mr Ouffaneh has causes outrage in the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), where UDT is an affiliate. Guy Ryder, ICFTU Secretary-General, has written a letter of protest to the Djiboutian President, Omar Guelleh, expressing the movement's "consternation".
In an earlier letter sent on 12 February 2001, the ICFTU had already denounced the retaliatory measures taken against this trade union leader from Djibouti. The ICFTU was therefore "convinced that this ministerial decision is an indirect way of preventing Abdoulkalek Waberi Ouffaneh from exercising his trade union duties."
In the latest annual global survey of trade union rights violations the ICFTU had reiterated its condemnation of the lack of respect of union rights in Djibouti and the refusal by the authorities to begin a dialogue with the legitimate leaders of the country's trade union centres. The ICFTU's Annual Survey also criticised the violent repression of trade union activities and the unfair dismissal of trade unionists.
Reminding the Djiboutian President of "his legal obligations," Guy Ryder asked him "to intervene personally to ensure that Brother Abdoulkalek Waberi Ouffaneh is reinstated in his post as quickly as possible."