Spy and stability: Djibouti grows strong in the “return to the Cold War”
Ab Hassan Ali, on top of the lighthouse on the deserted headland, crossed the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and headed to war-torn Yemen. Then, behind him, went to Ethiopia, which was suffering from the war. Then, on his right, in troubled Somalia. Finally, on the left of Eritrea, the dictatorship participated in the Tigri conflict in neighboring countries.
“This is a peaceful trading point,” said the witty man in charge of this work. Djibouti used to be a French colony. Only 1 million people lived in the past. This is a rare point of stability on the way to the Suez Canal (the hub of global trade) at a very strategic location (the southern end of the Red Sea).
About one-third of the world’s daily transportation passes through the northeastern edge of Africa, where the current narrows to a bottleneck across Yemen.
According to the forecast of the Ministry of Finance of China, Africa’s average economic growth rate this year will reach 7%. With the help of China’s huge investment in ports, free trade zones and the railway to inland Ethiopia, Djibouti will become the fastest growing African economy One of the countries. The fastest growing economy on the African continent.
It is China’s first overseas military base since 2017. This is the location of five naval bases. Its significance is not only in the geopolitical sense, but also in the economic sense. Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority and one of the most influential figures in the country, said that this is all about “location, location, location”.
Whispers, spies and snoops
“It’s all location with Nima Dirieh Warsama, CEO of ATD-GIE, a transport industry organization, emphasized. French tanks, American helicopters, Chinese soldiers and Japanese ships helped to achieve this stabilization, because the area around Djibouti is “powder barrels” and therefore common, said a Western military official in the country.
Despite this, the government still plays a pivotal role, becoming the neutral host country of the global powers, and sometimes easing the tension between the Americans and the Chinese. Senior government officials called it “return to the Cold War”, in which “Djibouti is definitely a center.” The official added: “The reason Djibouti is effervescent is that there are big powers here, so it means it is safe.”
The French have trained 11,000 regional soldiers, mainly Djiboutians, and have used Mirage fighter jets to protect the country’s airspace. “We are indeed a guarantee of safety here,” said Gen Stéphane Dupont, the base commander with 1,500 French soldiers. The United States and other major countries also agree. Djibouti is the backbone of the global coalition against Al-Qaeda-linked Somali terrorist organization Al-Shabaab, and it is also the current declining threat of piracy.
But for some people, the arrival of China is disturbing. Between 2005 and 2019, China’s investment reached US$853 billion, accounting for 30% of Djibouti’s total debt. A senior Western official in Djibouti said: “This is a tsunami, it is actually a tsunami.” He was referring to the presence of Chinese people, from investments to soldiers. “They are not enemies, but they are not friends. We must live together.”
Djiboutian politicians, American contractors and French officials gathered at the Lagar Café, whispering to what the Chinese military might be doing on its specific fort. It is China’s first overseas military base to maintain merchant ships. Gen Stephen Townsend, the Supreme Commander of the United States in Africa, has a dock that can support China’s “future aircraft carrier.” Recently said.
Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssouf said: “Djibouti is located in an important geostrategic area, and all members of the international community have vested interests.” He added: “We recognize that there are serious problems between major powers. Economic competition,” he emphasized that his country “does not belong to any sphere of influence.”
The country’s finance minister, Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh, did say: “This statement is completely wrong, that is, China will completely take over Djibouti. This is a myth. ”
Many people agree that the atmosphere of the port city where the majority of the population lives is similar to Casablanca, This is a movie about conspiracy and romance in World War II. A senior foreign diplomat quipped: “Everyone is spying on each other.”
“We know very well that the Chinese want to engage in espionage activities. This does not mean that we will not do the same thing,” said the Western military officer in Djibouti. “We are all friends here, but we all want to know what the other person is doing.”
Democracy erosion or 99% support?
Many people say that another key factor in stability is the 73-year-old President Ismail Omar Guelleh. He has been in charge of the country since 1999 and is widely known as the clever and astute leader of what critics call a centralized and authoritarian regime.
A non-African diplomat said: “He is the only game in town.” “Over time, the democratic front has been eroding.”
Guelleh is believed to have made Djibouti a base for freight and foreign troops. The size of the economy has jumped from US$536 million when he took office to US$3.3 billion in 2019. His portraits are everywhere in every shop, office and building. last month, He won the fifth semester Has 99% of the votes.
Newcomer Zakaria Ismail Farah, a major opposition rival, said: “Apart from an extreme dictatorship, 99% of incidents have never occurred in the world.” He said that Djibouti’s foreign powers “sacrificed Djibouti’s democracy for regional stability”.
The President’s Supreme Adviser Alexis Mohamed (Alexis Mohamed) refuted Farah’s criticism and emphasized that there have been discussions about “Djibouti’s political future” after Farah. Legally speaking, this is the last term of the president.
He said: “The president has managed to maintain peace and social cohesion in Djibouti. Djibouti is a tense area in Ethiopia and Somalia.” He added: “God did not provide us with oil, but the lighthouse gave us a strategic point. .”