Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Djibouti's strategic position draws world's armies

04 April 2016, 08:33

Artra, Djibouti-A French warship ploughs through the sparkling waters between Africa and Arabia on a joint training drill with the US that highlights Djibouti's growing strategic role for the world's militaries.

On the sun-blasted rocky shores of the tiny Horn of Africa nation, some 500 French troops march alongside 50 US Marines near the town of Arta, wearing full kit in the baking heat.

The training, designed to help the two allies work better together, also reflects growing international interest in the former French colony -- bordering Somalia, and just opposite Yemen.

Home to only around 800,000 people, Djibouti is now crowded with the military bases of several world powers.

Its port guards the entrance to the Red Sea and Suez Canal on one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

"This is certainly the reason why in addition to the French there are today many international forces wanting to establish a presence in Djibouti," said General Philippe Montocchio, the commander of French forces in the country.

"There are of course the Americans, the Japanese, the Italians, now the Chinese, and certainly in the near future, the Saudis."

It emerged four months ago that China has signed an agreement with Djibouti for the installation by the end of 2017 of a "naval logistics" base to accommodate up to 10,000 soldiers and serve to secure Beijing's considerable and growing interests in the wider region.

The hub will constitute China's first permanent overseas military deployment.

Terror-fighting HQ

Djibouti is already home to Camp Lemonnier, the United States' only permanent base in Africa.

It is used for covert, anti-terror and other operations in Yemen, as well as the US fight against the Islamist Shebab in Somalia and against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Washington pays some $60 million (53 million euros) a year to Djibouti for the base.

US Major Paul L. Croom, a liason officer between the French and US militaries, said the joint drills in Djibouti "just makes sense" as the allies share key security interests in the region, including combating the jihadist threat in Africa.

"Our operability -- between the French military and US military -- is as important as it's ever been right now, and is only gaining in importance," Croom said.

"Everybody knows that a lot of that threat emanates from areas in which the United States and France have mutual interests."

European and other international navies use Djibouti's port as a base in the fight against piracy from neighbouring Somalia. These are important -- and sometimes dangerous -- waters.

With international navies at sea, Somali pirate attacks have dropped off: 176 attacks were recorded in 2011, and none in 2015, according to the EU naval force.

And just 30 kilometres (20 miles) across the Gulf of Aden lies war-torn Yemen, devastated by a civil war that has pitched Shiite Huthi rebels -- backed by Iran -- against an internationally recognised government backed by Saudi-led air strikes.

Islamist groups, including Al-Qaeda's Yemen-based branch, one of the jihadist network's most dangerous franchises, as well as Islamic State forces, have also joined the battle for power in Yemen.

"Djibouti is located exactly at the epicentre of all this jihadist movement in the Horn of Africa and the southern part of the Middle East," Montocchio said.

China, beyond its new naval base, is bankrolling major infrastructure projects in Djibouti, including transport links for key markets in neighbouring landlocked Ethiopia.

"Everybody was surprised: why China? For Djibouti, there's no question," said Djibouti's Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf.

"China's presence, naval or military, is part of the same logic of countries that have the ability to contribute to peace and security in a region which is very troubled."

But China's entry into this "Great Game" is a risky bet for Djibouti -- it may well unsettle relations with traditional allies, especially the United States.


Tags djibouti

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
George Vodongo
Kalonzo says he will defeat UhuRu...

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka has expressed confidence that he will send the Jubilee government home in the upcoming Presidential election. Read more...

Submitted by
S Mbinya
Why Caffeine Is Used for Weight L...

The following are the reasons why caffeine is used for weight loss. Read more...

Submitted by
S Mbinya
What guys want in relationships

Here are the top four things guys need in a relationship. Read more...

Submitted by
EACC recovers KES3.5 million stol...

EACC has recovered KES 3.5 million stolen from Mukurwe-ini Constituency Development Fund (CDF) by former committee members managing the kitty. Read more...

Submitted by
Governor snubs Mashujaa Day celeb...

The Governor was last seen in public during his impeachment debate at Senate, which he survived, and later went India for medical checkups. Read more...

Submitted by
Ben Wangui
President recognises Kenya’s new ...

From young innovators, to doctors and local athletes who have represented Kenya in various events, here are the young heroes recognised by the President in this year's Mashujaa Day celebrations. Read more...