Djibouti Attractiveness As Military Base For Global Powers In Africa Grows

Written by Kevin Mwanza

Djibouti, the tiny African nation near the Gulf of Eden, is fast becoming an attractive destination for the global military powers.

The eastern African nation hosts the biggest America naval base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier which is the hub of America’s counter-terrorism war in the horn of Africa and the Middle East. It has about 3,200 U.S troops.

France has the second biggest foreign military camp in the nation. It is the European’s military power largest military base outside the nation, with about 1,900 troops.

China, the world’s third-biggest military super-power, is also building its first ever base in  the horn of Africa country. China’s camp will be home to Special Forces, store weapons and ship and helicopter maintenance facilities. The base is being built on a 90-acre plot.

The Chinese plan brings to five the number of military powers with camps in Djibouti alongside the U.S, Japan and France. Saudi Arabia is also plans to establish its base in the nation, Sputnik reported.

Djibouti has an area of 23,000 square kilometers and no natural resources to attract the globe’s economic powers but its Gulf of Aden-Suez Canal is a key route in the global economy.

About 20,000 ships and 20 percent of the global exports pass through the route. About 10 percent of the ships are Japanese.

China’s trade with the European Union worth about $1 billion annually mainly depends on the sea route for transport.

The two Asian giants have set up bases in efforts to secure area which is crucial in their global interests as they battle for both economic and military supremacy over each other, Sputnik reported.

Scramble for Africa

Djibouti’s location is in close proximity to some of the most restive regions in the world. The nation neighbors Somalia, which is home to Al-Shabaab, one of Al-Qaeda’s foreign cells and Yemen, which collapsed into a civil war last year.

The U.S. has in the past launched drone attacks in Yemen and against Islamist groups in Mali, Libya and Central Africa Republic from the base.

France has conducted major military operations in Ivory Coast and Democratic Republic of Congo from the Djibouti base, The National Interest reported.

The Special Operations Command, America’s military wing that conducts the most sensitive counterterrorism operations globally is based here.

After the Benghazi attack where the U.S ambassador to Libya was killed, the nation set up a 150-member rapid response unit team to handle future threats facing the US diplomats abroad.

The Gulf of Aden Suez-Canal, handling at least 20 percent of the global exports faces piracy as one of its major security concerns. The Strait of Bab el-Mandab is one of the world’s most important shipping points for oil transits.

The nation provides a convenient base for the global economic powers to conduct attacks against pirates in the Indian Ocean waters, spending a total of $1.4 billion in the fight last year, according to data by Oceans Beyond Piracy.

The German, Italy and Spanish militaries joined France in Djibouti when piracy started threatening the shipping industry. Djibouti’s stability is strategic in the anti-pirates war.

Two of Asia’s biggest economies, Japan and China, are locked in a fierce battle for influence in Africa for the continent’s rich mineral resources.

China’s establishment of military base in Djibouti and plans by Japan to increase its camp are at the heart of the two Asian giants’ battle for economic and military supremacy, both at home and globally.

Growing influence

Japan is expanding its base as part of efforts to counter China’s growing influence in the region. The Japan Self Defense Force has a contingent of 180 troops, next to the U.S camp.

The Chinese government, reacting to the expansion plans by Japan urged for a peaceful development path by its neighbor, Reuters reported.

China committed $60 billion to the continent last year, while Japan pledged $30 billion in public and private support of the continent.

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president’s ambitious ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative to establish greater economic and political footprint across the globe made the establishment of a base in Djibouti a key part of the campaign, The Diplomat reported.

Saudi Arabia has led the attacks against rebels in neighboring Yemen since civil war began last year.

Its decision to set up a camp in Djibouti is likely to aid the war against the rebels and help protect Saudi communities bordering the poorest nation in Middle East from the militants.

The civil war in Yemen presents a big security concern to Saudi Arabia, who must decisively act to prevent mushrooming of Al-Qaeda factions or other Islamist militants next-door.

Djibouti’s attractiveness to the world’s powers faces better fortunes as Russia, the second biggest military power in the world and India, a rising powerhouse, both economically and militarily are interested in setting bases in the nation, The Economist reported.

The tiny Eastern African nation is also reaping big economically from the presence of the world’s superpowers. The U.S pays an annual rent of $60 million while China will pay $20 million.