Djibouti is the most militarized country on the face of the earth. One would be tempted to ask, why a tiny African nation, the third smallest in mainland Africa, of about one million people would host more military bases than any country on the face of the earth.
The US, China, France, Italy, Japan, etc all have bases in Djibouti. For NATO members, US et al, military presence in Djibouti provides maritime security over the gulf of Eden which is few nautical miles from Djibouti and which accounts for huge volumes of maritime trade, as well as to counter regional Islamic militant threats.
According to China, it aims to incorporate Djibouti in its belt and road initiative and use the country to launch its peacekeeping operations. France cites the country’s geostrategic importance and hence its military presence. Italy, Japan, and others have similar reasons.
The fact of the matter is that the second half of the 21st Century is Africa’s and Djibouti is going to be the collision point for the new scramble for Africa. That is the covert ambition of all these major powers and each of them is covertly using Djibouti as a launchpad to protect their interests.
What Djibouti should have done
Djibouti should have bargained for capacity development to build its internal maritime and surveillance capabilities to Police the gulf of Eden for the world if safety of the maritime route was the major concern of the world powers.
For China who wants to incorporate Djibouti into its belt and road initiative, or use the country as launchpad for peace-keeping operations, Djibouti could just have bargained for China to avail them the infrastructure and logistical facilities needed for that.
This is why the African Union must institute a Centre for Strategic Studies manned by young African postdoc. Research fellows under a fellowship program to provide Strategic Policy Advisory to member states on issues of strategic importance, policy, and delivery. Leaving such important geo-political and geo-strategic decisions to a unit under a Government may have generational ramifications on the whole continent of Africa and which will be a historical mistake on the part of the African Union.
We must prepare the next generation of Africans for the geopolitical and ecological transitions taking shape.