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 TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    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.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora