THE INDIAN OCEAN NEWSLETTER
23 August 2019
A growing malaise in the Forces armees djiboutiennes (FAD) which originated among troops deployed to AMISOM (the African Union mission in Somalia) is showing signs of becoming a more general disaffection with the government. Of the 1,900 soldiers stationed in Beledweyne (Hiran), most of them, and especially the Afars and Issas/Odahgobs, are of a recalcitrant mindset. They have complained of discrimination, wages being docked and lack of leave, and two Afars are reported to have been killed by their Issa/Mamassan comrades. Commander Omar Mohamed Ali has been demoted to captain and was nearly killed too, while Colonel Hassan Mohamed, aka Pilote, has been pensioned off early. Overall, the FAD are unhappy with their pay and claim that the army chief of staff, General Zakaria Cheikh Ibrahim, is favouring Mamassan officers.
Moreover, many of the soldiers believe that he is grooming his son to take over from him by promoting him to the rank of army lieutenant colonel. At least two groups are seeking to surf the wave of this malaise and exploit the disaffection, but they have been operating clandestinely until now. The Officiers libres de Djibouti broke cover for the first time on Facebook on 11 August by declaring ‘to the people of Djibouti that we are on their side. Indignant at the poor leadership, tribalism and favouritism, we wish to distance ourselves from our commanders‘. According to our information, this is very much a minority group, but a second much larger group has been organising itself in secret for the last two years.