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US Signs Long-Term Lease for Military Base in Djibouti

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 calls a critical part of the fight against terrorism.

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

Mr. 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 President Guelleh for agreeing to a long-term lease.

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

But President Obama said human trafficking in Djibouti remains a concern. He said the U.S. will engage with Djibouti on human rights issues. A Freedom House report rates Djibouti as "not free."



The White House says both presidents talked about their commitment to keep al-Qaida and the Somali-based Islamist terrorist group al-Shabab from gaining ground.

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

In an interview with the VOA Somali service, President 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.

The president also 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.

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

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