News / Africa

US Signs Long-Term Lease for Military Base in Djibouti

US Expands Presence in Strategically-Located Djiboutii
X
Carolyn Presutti
May 05, 2014 3:19 PM
President Barack Obama met Monday with the president of Djibouti. The tiny East African country is strategic to the U.S. as a hub for anti-terrorism in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. There are many who worry, however, about any pivot of U.S. foreign policy toward what they call “the militarization” of Africa. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti reports.
The United States and Djibouti have signed a new 10-year lease on a U.S. military base in the Horn of Africa nation that the White House called a critical part in fighting terrorism.

President Barack Obama announced the deal Monday at a White House meeting with Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh.

Obama called the base a critical facility and extraordinarily important to the U.S. role in the Horn of Africa. He said he is grateful to Guelleh for agreeing to a long-term lease.

Guelleh thanked Obama for what he called a vision for the development of Africa, including heath care, education and food security in Djibouti.

Both presidents promised to continue working together to increase economic development and fight terrorism in the Horn of Africa, including their committment to keep al-Qaida and the Somali-based Islamist terrorist group al-Shabab from gaining ground.

In an interview with the VOA Somali service, Guelleh said $3 billion of Western pledges to help Somalia rebuild its army and the country have not been met. He said there is no getting around the fact that rebuilding the army is a necessity if the world wants to see Somalia stand on its own feet.

Anti-terrorism hub

The tiny East African country of Djibouti is strategic to the United States as a hub for anti-terrorism efforts in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Djiboutian solders are part of the African Union force that has had some success against al-Shabab in Somalia.

Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti houses about 4,000 U.S. soldiers and other military personnel. The United States regards it as a major staging area for attacks against terrorists in Yemen and Somalia. It is the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa, and Washington pays $38 million a year to lease it.

Until recently, the facility was used to launch U.S. drone strikes against suspected al-Qaida fighters.

In a joint statement from the White House, the two leaders noted their shared commitment to combat violent extremism, to counter piracy and to secure Djibouti's borders.

Obama announced the United States would increase technical and financial aid for Djibouti civilian projects and, according to the statement, would "provide enhanced security assistance and equipment to Djiboutian security forces."

Militarization fears

There are many who worry, however, about any pivot of U.S. foreign policy toward what they call “the militarization” of Africa.

The Republic of Djibouti is a geographical gold mine. With its busy port, it sits strategically in the Horn of Africa. It’s across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen and bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia -- making it a prime counter-terrorism partner for the United States.

“The U.S. has calculated that putting the money into what’s seen as a relatively stable country in a very strategic location with access to a lot of unstable countries will pay off both in the near and the long term," said Joe Siegle, research director at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

Ben Fred-Mensah, who teaches international relations and government at Howard University, said, “terrorism is very much alive. As America always says, ‘It’s better we fight them outside, than to wait and fight them at home.”

But Djibouti residents complained when five drones in three years crashed, one just 1.5 kilometers from the capital, Djibouti City. So the U.S. moved the drone fleet to another airstrip 13 kilometers from the airport.  

Abayomi Azikiwe, the editor of Pan-African News Wire, opposes the U.S. military buildup. In a Skype interview, he said there’s more at play than terrorism.

“More and more oil is being imported there from Africa into the United States, as well as other strategic minerals," Azikiwe said. "That, in our opinion, is guiding this increased military presence."

Fred-Mensah said his opposition stems from his African roots. “I begin to question whether we still enjoy our sovereignty or whether we are losing our sovereignty because we are relatively weak,” he said.

The Pentagon plans to spend more than $1 billion over the next 25 years to expand and renovate Camp Lemonnier - reaffirming its presence in Africa.

For the U.S., investing in Djibouti is a matter of balance. Djibouti has a less-than-stellar human rights record. Freedom House, a human rights reporting agency, labeled Djibouti as “Not Free” in last year’s Freedom in the World report. It accused Guelleh of suppressing civil liberties and ranked the nation's political rights near the bottom.  

In the interview with VOA, Guelleh said he is not bothered by the Djiboutian opposition claims that security forces arrest and harass its members and squelch protests and a free press.

The president said people in Djibouti are arrested because of a crime and are given the right to a trial with a lawyer.

Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: DiDi from: US
May 14, 2014 6:25 AM
To think that the presence of the United State is a bit naive.To be more realistic,Americans have many reasons to increase there presence in Africa and democracy ain't one of them. The sad reality is that during this expansion two things will be accomplished, one is that they will make dictators more legitimate and more powerful.

by: Kehinde from: Nigerha
May 05, 2014 6:37 PM
It is better to have more of US present in Africa than to have the present of our disquise enemy (china) in Africa. who built useless palace for our leaders in other to steal wealth of Africa from our.Jackas leaders.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs