Djibouti: Ismael Omar Guelleh in third term bid

Incumbent President Ismael Omar Guelleh shows off his inked finger after voting Ismael Omar Guelleh succeeded his uncle in 1999

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Voters have gone to the polls in the small but strategically important East African nation of Djibouti.

The country hosts the only US military base in Africa, as well as being the base for international navies fighting pirates off neighbouring Somalia.

President Ismael Omar Guelleh is expected to secure a third term despite recent protests against his rule.

The BBC's Daud Aweis in Djibouti says many people have turned out to vote, despite an opposition boycott call.

President Guelleh is facing only one challenger, former Constitutional Council head Mohamed Warsama Ragueh, who is running as an independent.

Some 150,000 people have registered to vote and the results are expected on Saturday.

Ambitious projects

Last year, parliament amended the constitution to allow Mr Guelleh to seek a third term in office, sparking an opposition outcry.

At least one person, a police officer, died in the opposition street demonstrations in February that were inspired by the uprisings in North Africa.

The authorities managed to control the situation by arresting some of the protesters and briefly detaining some opposition leaders.

Mr Guelleh's family has governed the Red Sea city state since independence from France in 1977.

Known by his initials IOG, Mr Guelleh has supported Djibouti's traditionally strong ties to France.

Yusuf Garaad, from the BBC's African Service, says during his time in office he has also developed a close relationship with wealthy Arab rulers in the Gulf.

This has helped attract investment for his numerous ambitious projects, including plans to build a 28km (17 mile) bridge to Yemen.

It would allow Djibouti to not only capitalise on its port, which services several landlocked African countries, but on goods going by land to the Arabian peninsula, Mr Garaad says.

The millions of Muslims in the region who go to Mecca for the Hajj pilgrimage would also be able to use the route, he says.

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