The small African nation of Djibouti will soon be home to China's first major overseas military base. In fact, several world powers have outposts in Djibouti, which turns out to be one of the most valuable patches of real estate on the planet.
In today's Seeker Daily video, we take a look at why this small republic on the Horn of Africa is so popular on the international scene.
As Jules Suzdaltsev explains, it really boils down to three things: Location, location, location. Djibouti is close to multiple conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East, including Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Strike forces staged out of Djibouti can reach trouble spots within minutes.
The U.S. military base in Djibouti, Camp Lemonnier, is critical to maintaining U.S. interests in the region. The country remains a major hub for counterterrorism operations. A 2013 Washington Post report estimated that upwards of 16 drone flights each day were deployed out of Camp Lemonnier.
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Djibouti is also close to the Suez Canal, one of the world's busiest shipping routes and a constant target for pirates. Several countries stage their own anti-piracy operations out of Djibouti. The country also shares a border with Somalia, home to what some term a regional piracy industry. In addition to the U.S. and China, France and Japan have large military facilities in the country.
So what does Djibouti get out this arrangement? Rent, for one thing: The U.S. pays the country about $70 million per year and China is likely to pay upwards of $100 million, according to recent reports. Djibouti also enjoys the security of having multiple military allies heavily invested in the country's well-being.
The downside of the arrangement is a familiar one. Western powers greatly value Djibouti's strategic location and relative political stability. As such, they tend to look past the country's autocratic government. Despite recent elections, Djibouti is a de facto dictatorship: The national parliament has no opposition legislators and current president Ismail Omar Guelleh recently extended his own term limits.
-- Glenn McDonald
BBC: Why are there so many military bases in Djibouti?
NPR: China Breaks Ground on Naval Base in Africa
The Diplomat: Confirmed: Construction Begins on China's First Overseas Military Base in Djibouti
Washington Post: Remote U.S. base at core of secret operations