News / USA

Djibouti Rebels Threatening Stability in Strategic Country

Analysts are expressing fear that increasing rebel activity in Djibouti in recent months could threaten the stability of one of the most strategically important nations in the Horn of Africa. The internal upheaval is some of the worst since Djibouti gained independence from France 33 years ago.

Last month, three Djiboutian soldiers were killed in an ambush in the north of the country, where a low-intensity anti-government rebellion has been simmering for nearly two decades.

The incident has been followed by near-daily reports of armed clashes in the area, stoking public fears that the country is sliding toward another civil war.

Horn of Africa observer Jack Kalpakian at Al-Akhawayn University in Morocco says the latest unrest began in April, when Djibouti's second president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, tried to pressure the parliament into changing the constitution so that he could serve a third, six-year term in office.

Kalpakian says the move by the president, who belongs to a Somali sub-clan called the Issa, deeply angered Djibouti's other major ethnic group, the Afar.

In the early 1990s, an Afar rebel group, the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy, led a bloody insurgency over the lack of representation in the Issa-dominated national government. The conflict officially ended in 2000 when the rebel group signed a peace treaty with the government in return for cabinet posts. But some Afar rebels have continued their quest for autonomy in the north, where the Afars form the majority.

"The underlying structural issue has to do with Djibouti as an Afar-Issa state, literally, and that was its original name by the French," said Kalpakian. "They have been trying to go at a power-sharing arrangement, but the real power remains with the Issas and that, of course, feeds resentment with the Afars."

Djibouti, a tiny country of just 800,000 people bordering Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, has little natural resources or industry. But in the past decade, its strategic location in the Horn of Africa has turned Djibouti into a key partner for the United States and Western countries fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia and conducting counter-terrorism operations in the region.

Djibouti is home to France's largest military base in Africa, and since 2001, the U.S. military's Combined Task Force, Horn of Africa, now numbering about 3,000 troops, has been based there. The military bases earn President Guelleh's government millions of dollars every year in lease revenue.

The former French colony is also an important economic ally of the region's landlocked giant Ethiopia. Virtually all Ethiopian imports and exports pass through the port in Djibouti.

Kalpakian says there is no evidence to suggest that external actors are involved in fueling the latest round of turmoil. But he says Djibouti's ties to Ethiopia and the West leaves the country vulnerable to destabilization by groups interested in destroying those relationships. "It would not surprise me at all if we find out there was some linkage with the Shabab or with Eritrea in this messKalpakian. "If I was an opponent of the United States, one of the things I would be thinking is how to use Djibouti's internal divisions to destabilize it and to make it less of a secure toe-hold for the United States and France in the region."

Al-Shabab is an al-Qaida-linked Somali extremist group, whose top leaders have been targeted and killed in U.S. counter-terrorism operations run from its base in Djibouti. Eritrea has been accused by the West and the United Nations of supporting Islamist insurgents in Somalia as part of a proxy war against Ethiopia.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More