Staff writer

Following Japan’s efforts to help bring peace and stability to Djibouti, the opportunity to become more involved with the African nation has increased since the democratic presidential election last week, the country’s ambassador to Tokyo said.

Rachad Farah, 49, has been leading his diplomatic mission in Japan since Djibouti, a northeast African nation facing the southern end of the Red Sea, established its embassy in Tokyo in 1989.

“For many other African countries troubled with ethnic fighting, Djibouti has become a good example of reconciliation among warring ethnic groups,” Farah said. “The voting process of the presidential election was quite transparent, with the help of foreign observers from the United States, European countries and Japan.”

In the April 9 election, Ismail Omar Guelleh, with support of both the ruling coalition and the opposition, was elected Djibouti’s second president after Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had held the country’s top position since its independence from France in 1977. Omar will be sworn in May 10.

“Gouled’s retirement and succession of presidency by Omar reflects the people’s resolve for rejuvenating Djibouti under new leadership,” Farah said. “The new administration is determined to further improve the economy, education and health care while promoting decentralization and privatization.”

Now that Djibouti’s political landscape has been painted anew, international efforts to bring stability in northeastern Africa have gained further momentum, Farah argues. “Djibouti holds a strategically vital position,” he said. “For example, no vessels can safely pass the Red Sea — the only route connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean — without stability in Djibouti.”

Farah praised Japan for its extensive political and economic support for the region, especially for its recent aid initiative under the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD II) held last October.

At the conference, participants reaffirmed their resolve to further enhance cooperation between the industrialized world and Africa in a variety of development projects, many of which have already been launched.

Nonetheless, many social and economic problems remain unsolved in Djibouti, and Omar’s new administration may need more time and effort before completing its task, Farah said.

Japan, Djibouti’s second-largest aid donor after France, offered cumulative grants-in-aid and technical assistance worth some 14.4 billion yen as of the end of fiscal 1997, according to the Foreign Ministry.

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