One of the only bright spots in the battle against piracy has been the ability to utilise the seemingly stable base of Djibouti as a staging post. This could soon change.
The tide of Anti-government demonstrations sweeping the Arabic world have spread to the small Horn of Africa nation, where 30,000 people recently marched demanding the resignation of President Ismael Omar Guelleh.
Two people were killed when police attacked protesters in this country’s capital, also called Djibouti. The government detained and released three opposition leaders: National Democratic Party Chairman Aden Robleh, Djibouti Democratic Party Chairman Mohamed Daoud Chehem and Ismail Guedi Hared, whose Union for Democratic Change organized the massive demonstrations.
The former French colony, which still maintains close ties to Paris, has a population of less than 850,000, serves as a strategic outpost for Western forces. Djibouti houses a U.S. military base and is therefore highly significant to the strategy aimed at policing the Horn of Africa, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Peninsula.
The camp is a U.S. naval expeditionary base located at the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport and is the home of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa of Africom.
Although not yet clear in which direction these demonstrations will lead, if they result in the collapse of the existing regime, it could raise the spectre of a new government demanding the removal of the U.S. forces, which could have a devastating effect on the fight against piracy.