Politics | Human rights
Djibouti protesters keep up the pressure
Yesterday's mass protests gathered between 20,000 and 30,000 people in central Djibouti City after the Friday prayers, according to opposition sources and photos documenting the mass event. The protesters flocked behind the main opposition, the Union for a Democratic Alternative (UAD), demanding President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh to step down.
"The crowd exceeded the capacity of Nasr Avenue, and moved like a giant worm towards the big Hassan Gouled stadium and Independence Square, now renamed Freedom Square," the opposition group ARD-Djibouti reported from the capital, estimating "the initial crowd" around noon at 20,000 protesters.
"Despite an impressive police presence throughout the capital, blocking all major roads in the city, activists and supporters flocked to the centre from all sides," the opposition group adds. It estimates that about 60,000 people were protesting in central Djibouti at 3 PM, when the manifestation reached its heights.
Opposition groups agree that the massive protests were peaceful during day. But as darkness fell, the first reports of gunshots came from Djibouti City. At around 6 PM "police began attacking protesters camping in the centre, resulting in at least 24 persons being wounded," ARD-Djibouti reports.
Police wanted to hinder protesters from establishing a Tahrir-like camp at "Freedom Square", dispersing the crowds with teargas a
According to opposition sources, one protester was killed and two protesters were "seriously injured" following the use of sharp ammunition. Interior Minister Bouh, on the other hand, claims that "at least" one police officer was killed by protesters.
Yesterday, at least 20 protest leaders, including Mohamed Daoud Chehem, leader of the minor opposition Djibouti Development Party (PDD), were arrested. Today, the arrests continue, with confirmed reports that UAD leader Hared - the country's main opposition leader - this afternoon was arrested in his home by police.
Despite the violent response by the Guelleh regime, protesters today again took to the streets, trying to reach "Freedom Square". The nucleus of protest is now the Balbala suburb, which was kept in protesters' hands during the night.
The rough response indeed seemed to cement anti-government sentiments in Djibouti and uniting all opposition groups. PDD spokesman Hamadou Ali Ben Ali today issued a "promise" that the dictatorship would "be defeated" by further constant protests.
By staff writers
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