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Published On: Wed, Aug 22nd, 2018

Somalia: Djibouti’s greatest threat may come from within

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Araweelo News Network

 

PRESS ARTICLE

 

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa(ANN)– A rocky, steep-banked promenade outlines the port of Djibouti. Old men use it for their late-afternoon constitutionals and the odd beggar sleeps on its benches. The breeze is thick with salt, which mostly disguises the faint tang of sewage.

To understand what Djibouti has become, it’s worth taking a slow stroll along that promenade.

The Jijiga, a Chinese freighter named after a city in eastern Ethiopia, is moored at the pier. Towering cranes, like giant mechanical giraffes, are ready to unload its precious contents, destined to sate Ethiopia’s growing consumer demand.

Behind it, a pair of tugboats are manoeuvring a French warship, registration L9014, into dock. It is the Tonnerre, a Mistral-class helicopter carrier, which has seen action during the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire and the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Waiting for a berth behind it is a Chinese frigate, the Yanchang, which was deployed to the region to combat piracy.

“The big boats come all the time, at least once a week,” says Abdi, who works at the marina. “Not just the French. The Chinese, the Americans. They’re all here.”

This strange juxtaposition of international trade and heavy-duty military hardware is no aberration. It has become Djibouti’s trademark, and it’s not hard to understand why.

From an economic perspective, Djibouti is bleak. Crops don’t grow in this rocky, rust-red desert hellscape, where the lakes are salty and it’s 30°C in the middle of winter.

There’s little under the surface, either, except more salt, which is a major — albeit not especially lucrative — export for the tiny East African nation.

Life here is hard and so unforgiving for its population of less than one million people that even refugees, mostly from neighbouring Somalia or nearby Yemen, don’t want to stay. “It’s too hot for them,” said one aid worker. “They would rather try their luck elsewhere.”

But there is one thing that Djibouti has going for it — an irresistible attraction that keeps bringing superpowers to its shores, like alpha dogs marking their territory on the same lamp post.

In geopolitics, as in property, location is everything — and, on the global political chessboard, few countries are more strategically important than Djibouti.

It sits on the Bab-el-Mandeb, which is the narrowest point of the Red Sea. This is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, linking Asia to Europe, making it also the world’s most important trade artery. From Djibouti, superpowers can keep their fingers on the pulse of global commerce and guarantee uninterrupted passage for the dozens of container-laden freighters and bulging oil tankers that traverse the route every day.

The civil war in Yemen, just across the strait, has made Djibouti even more attractive.

“If Yemen had not disintegrated into civil war, you would have seen more basing in Aden rather than Djibouti. But Djibouti has managed to take advantage,” said Timothy Walker, a maritime security expert with the Institute of Security Studies.

Read more: https://mg.co.za/article/2018-03-02-00-djiboutis-greatest-threat-may-come-from-within

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Mail & Guardian.
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SOURCE
Mail & Guardian

About the Author

- Arraale Mohamoud Jama Freelance Journalist and Human Rights Activist Arraale, is a 20 year experience as a professional Journalist and human rights activist Over the years, worked for the major News Papers in Somaliland as a reporter, editor and contributor. 2008 established website Araweelo News Network, he currently runs a web site based in Somaliland. who is the specializes in the investigation and reporting on issues relating to human rights, democracy, and good governance. contact: Info@araweelonews.com jaamac132@gmail.com Send an SMS or MMS to + 252 63 442 5380 WhatsApp + 252 65 910 7347.

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