Friday, July 13, 2007

Scullduggery in Djibouti

We read , Djibouti ,a statelet with a population of 790,000 , borders Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia and faces Aden across the mouth of the Red Sea. The large French military base there has been partially loaned to the United States since 2001 to help American operations in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.

Recently released classified documents suggest that France covered up the murder of one of its own judges in the tiny African state of Djibouti in 1995 . Judge Bernard Borrel, 39, was officially in the former French colony on the Red Sea - site of France's largest military base in Africa - to help to reform the penal code. It has since emerged that he was also investigating alleged drugs and arms smuggling by the man who was to become Djibouti's president, Ismael Omar Guelleh.

Borrel's partially burned body was found at the foot of a ravine in October 1995. The local authorities, supported by Paris, declared that he had committed suicide. For 12 years his widow, Elisabeth, has fought to prove that her husband was murdered.Last month President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to meet her - the first senior French politician ever to do so. He promised to ensure that all relevant classified information was released.
Within hours the chief public prosecutor in Paris released a statement confirming that the medical evidence proved that Borrel was murdered. This week, two senior former French intelligence officers who were present in Djibouti at the time told a judge that Borrel was investigating the smuggling of drugs and arms through the strategically placed statelet at the junction of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. This "traffic" allegedly involved French citizens and Mr Guelleh - known as "IOG" - the nephew of the then president and the heir apparent to the role. Mr Guelleh was elected head of state four years later.

In recent days it has also emerged that the French military in Djibouti knew about Borrel's death two hours before his body was found by local police. Radio France Internationale has been accused of bowing to pressure from Djibouti and the French government to remove an investigative journalist from the Borrel story in 2005.

Mme Borrel and her lawyers have maintained for years that France tried to hush up the affair because it did not want to jeopardise its strategic interests in Djibouti.

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