Djibouti opposition protesters clash with police
NAIROBI - Opposition protestors alleging fraud in parliamentary elections said they clashed with police for a second day Tuesday in the strategic Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.
"The situation is tense," said Daher Ahmed Farah, spokesman for the opposition coalition party, the Union for National Salvation (USN), saying police had fired tear gas against demonstrations that began in a planned protest Monday afternoon.
Tiny Djibouti hosts the biggest French and United States military bases in Africa and guards the southern entry to the Red Sea and route to the Suez Canal.
As demonstrators gathered on Monday afternoon, police charged the crowd using batons and tear gas with people scattering into neighbourhoods of Djibouti city, Farah said, adding that some 300 people had been arrested on Monday.
However, protests continued Tuesday, with students and school pupils joining in rallies.
Friday's elections saw various opposition parties unite as the USN behind a common programme focusing on human rights, developing independent media and fighting against "tribalism, corruption and nepotism."
Official results released overnight Friday to Saturday said the ruling Union for the Presidential Majority (UMP) had led results in all six districts, especially in Djibouti city, home to three-quarters of the country's some 800,000 people.
The UMP is the party of President Ismael Omar Guelleh and held all 65 seats in the last parliament.
"The opposition won the elections and the victory was denied... the numbers were manipulated," Farah said, adding that he had been blocked from leaving his house to attend the demonstrations.
It was not immediately possible to independently verify the reports or contact government officials in Djibouti.
Guelleh, 65, only the second president since independence from France in 1977, was re-elected for a third five-year term in April 2011 after the constitution was revised to allow him another term in office.
Djibouti derives most of its revenue from its port and from land rented out for the Western military bases.