Opinion

Djibouti: an enclave of global power

Yibuti

Djibouti is a country located in the Horn of Africa, in the area of influence of the countries of the so-called Islamic Arc off the Arabian Peninsula, with coasts on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean. It covers an area of 23,000 square kilometres and has a multi-ethnic population of 950,000, the majority of whom profess Islam. 

The geostrategic importance of this small sub-Saharan African country on the great chessboard of global dominance lies in its geographic location. It is the gateway to the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb, one of the five key points in the control of global maritime navigation and one of the most important routes to dominance and supremacy in global trade.

The Bab al-Mandeb Strait is the route that connects the Indian Ocean with the Red Sea through the Suez Canal, and in passing is the route that links the markets of the countries of the Indo-Pacific region, the Middle East and Europe. It is estimated that 30 per cent of global maritime trade and 40-90 per cent of the oil and gas consumed by Europe, Japan and other Asia-Pacific countries transit through this geographical feature.

A geographical advantage Djibouti shares with the troubled Yemen, given that they share maritime borders in the Yemeni area of Taiz, a territory that after the civil war has fallen under the control of the Houthi rebels, a wing of Shiism that fights against Saudi Arabia's interference in Yemen's internal politics. This ethnic group's domination of the Yemeni area around the Bab al-Mandeb Strait has serious repercussions for the hegemonic rivalries between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

As the pendulum of world power swings to the Indo-Pacific with the growth and dominance of the economies of China and India. And, as rivalries grow between the US and China for dominance of Africa and the Indo-Pacific, Djibouti has become a key player in the strategic dominance of these two strategic regions and, of course, an enclave that hosts the largest number of foreign military troops on African soil. Indeed, Djibouti has become a strategic centre of military operations for the control of economic interests in Africa, the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific for the United States, China, India, France, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. A territory that concentrates the highest density of military troops per square kilometre and number of inhabitants in the world. 

Although it gained independence from France 43 years ago, the Gauls have one of the best-equipped military bases in Africa on their territory. The United States has the largest military presence in Africa at the Camp Lemonnier military base, with the best-trained platoons of its special troops in the Horn of Africa. This base is a strategic military intelligence centre for the control of its strategic interests in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. Japan has its base next to the gringo base. Italy has had a military base and complex for seven years. Saudi Arabia built a military base three years ago to combat the Houthi rebels who attack its oil tankers transiting the Strait of Gibraltar. China four years ago agreed with the Djiboutian government to build a port, a free trade zone and a military base at Obock north of the country's capital. This military base was built as part of the String of Pearls plan that includes ports in Bangladesh, Pakistan and South Sudan.

India and Turkey have also formalised agreements with the Djiboutian government to establish military bases, and Russia has also sought to negotiate the opening of its own. In conclusion: 80% of this country's GDP depends on income from ports and leases of territory for military base facilities that have made it the world's largest military camp.

@j15mosquera

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