The two articles copied below were posted on the Voice of Djibouti website in late June.
The first is an unbridled fermentation of rift and rivalry among Somaliland clans, cities and different hierarchies of its administration and public, and especially as it pertains to the question of development to Djibouti’s arch-rival in the region – Berbera port.
There is no question that the article was an unintended revelation of Djibouti’s role in the opposition it drummed up for the DP World-Somaliland agreement through its sleeper saboteur units in Berbera, Hargeisa, and Mogadishu.
The article does not make any pretense of hiding what it thinks of Somaliland, the First Lady, and the UAE Ambassador or how it wishes to see the projected development to Somaliland’s major seaport flop on its face.
“The First Lady’s greed makes her a hated figure inside her own clan”, and “Dhega Weyne is seriously mulling Sillanyo’s overthrow..” are some of the hate-cum-jealousy inspired words used in the article.
The second article is an exaggerated gloss over of the ‘virtues’ of a tiny enclave that wishes to make readers believe that the world shines out of its tinier port.
The heading – Djibouti: Africa’s Tiny, Surprisingly Popular Port Nation – says it all.
If nothing else, the two articles, viewed together on a single-lense, magnifying else disclose; (a) how spooked Djibouti is of a better-positioned, more prospective port in Berbera; and (b) how a Djibouti that reneged from the Greater Somalia notion, which created the Somali Republic union between Somaliland and Somalia in 1960 would go to all lengths to keep the Republic of Somaliland infernally and eternally fettered to a Somalia domination – and perhaps to another massive, more successful drive to obliterate its rightful claim to sovereignty from the world psyche.
Here are the two articles:
Djibouti: Africa’s Tiny, Surprisingly Popular Port Nation
With a population of less than one million and little more than a port to its name, the dry, arid country of Djibouti may not be the first African nation that comes to mind.
If you happened to visit this tiny country, though, you would be joining a multinational crowd of Americans, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, French, Japanese, and more recently Chinese.
These aren’t tourists you would be sharing your trip with, however. No, Djibouti’s tourism industry is all but non-existent. This unlikely mix of nationalities is of a purely military nature. You see, Djibouti is home to military bases of no less than seven different overseas nations – all of which have a vested interest in this small, strategically placed country.
Why does everyone want to come to Djibouti?
It’s not because of the oppressive heat or equally smothering regime ruling over Djibouti – that’s for sure. It’s probably not the arid plains of dust and rubble that make up the majority of its intolerably dry landscape either.
Instead, it’s Djibouti’s privileged position of being a relatively peaceful spot in one of the world’s most conflict-ridden region. Sitting just above Somalia, where militant group Al-Shabaab causes a constant threat to security, Djibouti falls the opposite side of the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, where Al-Qaeda runs riot.
Suddenly Djibouti found itself surrounded by the war on terror, without succumbing to any of its violence. When the US military scrambled to create its first counterterrorism base in the region, Djibouti was the only country not smoldering from conflict.
This reputation for peace makes Djibouti one of few secure entry points into Africa from the East. This was until a new threat emerged from Somalia – this time from pirates attacking ships on their way in/out of the region. Djibouti’s position along the narrow Bab el-Mandeb strait – which just so happens to be one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes – prompted Germany, Italy and Spain to join a French military presence that remained from colonial times.
The growing threat to major trade routes and security concerns in the region keep the list of countries coming to Djibouti growing. Japan arrived in 2011 – building its first military base on foreign soil since World War II – and now China with the first overseas base in its history.
The fruits of popularity
Economically speaking, the country itself does very well out of its privileged position in the Horn of Africa. Aside from the money being pumped into Djibouti via investment, it earns a cool $70 million every year from leasing Camp Lemonier to the Americans.
There’s also the fact Djibouti has all but secured its safety in a volatile region. It may be the smallest country in East Africa and surrounded by conflict but it’s hard to imagine anyone knocking on the door to challenge its seven nation army.
The dark side of Djibouti
All of this popularity doesn’t come without its drawbacks, though. Ongoing human rights abuses in Djibouti are no secret to the world. Sadly, it’s equally well-known that Djibouti’s allies are afraid to speak up about such atrocities, for fear of damaging ties with the valuable nation.
“America and the EU [European Union] are terrified of upsetting countries like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan because of the role they play in the ‘war on terror’,” Professor Gregory Stanton told MG. “In Africa, that honor goes to Djibouti and, even after police opened fire on a crowd before Christmas, we have barely heard a peep out of Washington, London or Paris.”
So Djibouti President Ismail Guelleh gets something of a free pass with his regime. This doesn’t look like ending anytime soon either with his third term approaching its end and a fourth looking inevitable. Which means Djibouti’s status as the smallest, most popular police state looks set to continue.
27 June 2016 (Article re-posted from The East Africa Monitor to coincide with Djibouti’s 39th anniversary)