Djibouti: A Showcase
Controlling access to the Red Sea, Djibouti is of major strategic importance, a fact that has ensured a steady flow of foreign assistance.
During the Gulf War it was the base of operations for the French military, who continue to maintain a significant presence.
France has thousands of troops as well as warships, aircraft and armoured vehicles in Djibouti, contributing directly and indirectly to the country’s income. The US is also stationing troops, at Camp Lemonier, its only African base (coming under the AFRICOM banner) in an effort to counter terrorism in the region.
Djibouti’s location is the main economic asset of a country that is mostly barren. The capital, Djibouti city, handles Ethiopian imports and exports. Its transport facilities are used by several landlocked African countries to fly in their goods for re-export. This earns Djibouti much-needed transit taxes and harbour fees.
After independence from France in 1977, Djibouti was left with a government which enjoyed a balance between the two main ethnic groups, the Issa of Somali origin and the Afar of Ethiopian origin.