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Powerful nations courting Djibouti

Posted May. 03, 2013 08:30,   


David M. Rodriguez, new command of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), made his first visit to Djibouti on April 16. He said at Camp Lemonnier, “It is the only AFRICOM base in Africa and getting more important.”

The Japanese government sent aids worth 3.3 million dollars to Djibouti on April 24. Japan created a naval base in Djibouti with 180 forces in July 2011 to combat pirates. France, which colonized Djibouti for 81 years until 1977, still has about 2,000 forces in the country. In the run-up to the visit by Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh on next Wednesday, the U.K. media says, “We should recognize the importance of Djibouti.”

Djibouti is only less than one-fourth of South Korea with 23,180 square kilometers and a population of about 800,000. In addition, it does not have enough resources.

Powerful nations are courting Djibouti because of its geopolitical location. The country is a sea gate to the northeastern Africa, which is called the “horn of Africa,” and neighbors the Red Sea and the Aden Gulf. It is close to the Middle East as it is only about 30 kilometers away by sea to Yemen.

Around the horn of Africa are Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Somalia is almost in anarchy because of pirates and the Somalia-based Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab. Eritrea is in poverty with the per capital income of about 800 dollars, and has been in battles due to the continuing military tensions with Ethiopia with which it had a war between 1998 and 2000. Ethiopia is better than Somalia and Eritrea, but as an inland country, it is not strategically useful.

Countries that use the sea route from the Aden Gulf to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal need to cooperate with Djibouti to combat Somali pirates. In addition, Djibouti is the optimal place to prevent the spread of the Middle Eastern Islamic militants by blocking their penetration into Africa.