As the world watched events in Libya, Ivory Coast and Nigeria unfold this past weekend, Djibouti quietly held presidential elections on Friday without much international attention or coverage. And it had all the drama you could think of, making it perfect for that “another African-election-gone-wrong” story. Students revolting, protests, attacks on anti-government demonstrators, clampdown on opposition groups, mass arrests, and the expulsion of USAID funded democracy groups.
So how and why did it stay under the radar? Check out Foreign Policy‘s take below. Surprise, surprise – it’s not just because of Libya, Ivory Coast or Nigeria. (For background, here are some key facts about Djibouti, courtesy of Reuters.)
To the West, and particularly the United States and France, Djibouti matters. It matters a lot.
As the forward operating base of U.S. Africa Command, Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier is a friendly piece of real estate in the Horn of Africa, which includes Eritrea, Somalia, and Yemen. Approximately 2,000 U.S. troops are based at Lemonnier, in addition to the naval forces that periodically call at the port of Djibouti. With the nearest friendly African port located in Mombasa, Kenya — 1,700 miles away — the United States, NATO, and the European Union have no alternative to using Djibouti’s harbor as a sanctuary to conduct anti-piracy operations.