Ismaïl Omar Guelleh
إسماعيل عمر جليه
President of Djibouti
8 May 1999
Barkat Gourad Hamadou
Dileita Mohamed Dileita
Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed
Hassan Gouled Aptidon
27 November 1947 (age 68)
Dire Dawa, Ethiopia
People's Rally for Progress
Kadra Mahmoud Haid
Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (Somali: Ismaaciil Cumar Geelle; Arabic: إسماعيل عمر جليه) (born 27 November 1947) is the President of
Guelleh was first elected as President in 1999 as the handpicked successor to his uncle, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had ruled Djibouti since independence in 1977. Guelleh was re-elected in 2005 and again in 2011; the 2011 election was largely boycotted by the opposition amid complaints over widespread irregularities. He is often referred to in the region by his initials, IOG. Guelleh has been characterized as a dictator, and his rule has been criticized by some human rights groups.
Guelleh was born in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, into the politically powerful Mamassan subclan of the Issa clan. When Guelleh was younger he attended a traditional Islamic school. In the late 1960s, Guelleh migrated to Djibouti before finishing high school. He later joined the police, becoming a junior non-commissioned officer. He entered the service in 1968. After Djibouti became independent, he became head of the secret police and chief of the cabinet in the government of his uncle Hassan Gouled Aptidon. He received training from the Somali National Security Service and then from the French Secret Service, and was intended to become his uncle's successor. "The key to Guelleh's success is the skillful way in which he has played the cards in his strong hand", according to PINR.
Ismail Omar Guelleh meets U.S. President George W. Bush, January 21, 2003.
On February 4, 1999, President Gouled Aptidon announced that he would retire at the time of the next election, and an extraordinary congress of his party, the ruling People's Rally for Progress (RPP), chose Guelleh as its presidential candidate. As the joint candidate of the RPP and moderate wing of the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD), Guelleh won the presidential election held on April 9, 1999 with 74.02% of the vote, defeating his only challenger, the independent candidate Moussa Ahmed Idriss. He took office on May 8. Moussa Ahmed Idriss was arrested the following September for "threatening the morale of the armed forces" and detained at an undisclosed location.
In December 2000, Guelleh sacked the chief of staff of the National Police Force, Yacin Yabeh; policemen loyal to Yacin unsuccessfully rebelled following his dismissal.
Guelleh was nominated by the RPP as its presidential candidate for a second time on October 7, 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 April 8, 2005. Without a challenger, he won 100% of the ballots cast and was sworn in for a second six-year term, which he said would be his last, on May 7.
However, in 2010, Guelleh persuaded the National Assembly of Djibouti to amend the nation's Constitution, allowing him to stand for a third term. This cleared the way for him to place his name on the ballot in Djibouti's 2011 election. It also resulted in large protests beginning in 2010 similar to the larger movement for democracy in the Arab countries. The protests were quickly put down.
Opposition parties boycotted the election, leaving only one little-known candidate against him on the ballot. Guelleh won almost 80% of the vote. Human Rights Watchquestioned whether the election could be called fair when opposition leaders were jailed twice prior to polling. He has again said that he would not run for another term.