Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh gives and interview March 24, 2004 at the presidential palace in Djibouti. Referring to increasing reports over the last few days of a terrorist-based danger in the region, Guelleh said the plot warning would hurt the reputation of Djibouti, which lies at the mouth of the Red Sea and is one of Africa's poorest states, relying on a strategic port for income.
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A general view shows the Djibouti port which is owned by DP World February 26, 2006. The Bush administration has come under fire for approving the sale of the nation's port operations to a state-owned Dubai company.
Residents of Djibouti listen to a speech by Ismail Omar Guelleh, candidate of the ruling alliance, on the final day of campaigning for Djibouti's presidential election. Ismail won the April 9 election with 74 percent and became Djibouti’s second leader since independence. April 12, 1998.
August 10, 2008
Since the outbreak of the ongoing conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1998, Djibouti has become a vital strategic gateway for landlocked Ethiopia, the second most populous state in sub-Saharan Africa. Ethiopia has enjoyed steady economic growth in the past several years, despite its increasing involvement in various local and regional conflicts. Hence, as an emerging regional power in turbulent and insecure Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is coveting to have a secure outlet to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean ports.
President Ismael Omar Guelleh of Djibouti hails originally from the city of Dire Dawa in eastern Ethiopia and enjoys close cooperative relationships with the regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Lately, Ethiopia has bestowed to Djibouti large tracts of fertile land for its agricultural consumption. See:
In a recent interview with the Ethiopian journal, Addis Fortune, President Guelleh was quoted as saying that he will welcome the deployment of Ethiopian troops in Djibouti to ward-off threats emanating from Eritrea. See:
The two countries have the potential to complement with each other. Ethiopia is endowed with fertile productive highlands and abundant water resources, while Djibouti maintains long coastline facing the strategic straits of Bab-el Mandeb straits of the Red Sea. Are the two neighborly countries working towards a comprehensive economic integration or confederation? Would economic necessities transcend ethnic and national aspirations and inevitably determine the configuration of state boundaries in the Horn of Africa region? The following historical documents highlight the national interest and aspirations of both countries towards integrated economies and open borders.
Djibouti to Advance Ethio-Djibouti Relations to Union
May 08, 1998
Addis Ababa - In an interview with the pro-government monthly magazine "Efoyta" (Miazia, 1990 E.C.), H.E. Mr. Ismail Omar Geleh, Djibouti's Defence and Security Minister and Chief of Staff of the President's Office, said that the authorities in Djibouti would make every effort to expand the horizon of mutual cooperation and support between Ethiopia and Djibouti to the extent of political, economic and social integration.
Important statements with economic content made by H.E. Mr. Ismail were as follows.
"With respect to port tariffs and services, we would like to assure our Ethiopian brothers and sisters that we are ready to take measures to reduce port dues and fees and relieve port congestion. To ever cement our eternal brotherly and sisterly relations with Ethiopia, we have already started making a move to lift certain tariffs and provide special customer service for Ethiopians."
"Concerning the security of the Red Sea, Djibouti is an integral part of the Red Sea region. While upholding the fact that Djibouti is strategically located near the strait of Bab el Mandeb, we are nevertheless not aware of any agreement signed among the surrounding countries. It can quite safely be said that the Red Sea is an internationally utilized lake"
"On the issue of foreign military or other bases around the Red Sea, this is a question hat has been firmly laid to rest since the end of the Cold War. On our part, if there are any foreign bases around the Red Sea, we believe they should be immediately dismantled as they pose a threat to the security of the region. Coming back to the port of Djibouti, the port was built with the explicit intention of serving Ethiopia. Similarly, when the first railway in Africa was laid down, the intention was to transport goods from and into Ethiopia. On the other hand, Ethiopia is Djibouti's lifeline. Ethiopia's large size ensures a wide market capable of utilizing ports located not only in Djibouti but also in Eritrea and Somalia."
"There is a bilateral agreement between Djibouti and Eritrea to obviate resort to a price war in respect of the provision of port services to Ethiopia. The port of Djibouti is the country's major source of government revenue. We are ready to lay down the foundation for cooperation among port authorities in the surrounding region. We are holding talks with the port authorities in Aden, Mitswa and Assab to try and establish uniform rates for merchant shipping services and formulate tariffs in a way that will benefit all of us. Although certain changes are certain to be made in some port dues and fees, those pertaining to Ethiopia will remain the same."
Referring to relations with France, H.E. Mr. Ismail said: "France should realize one basic fact, and that is, Djibouti's sovereignty is decreed and guaranteed by law. Whatever relations we try to cultivate with all counties (other than France) should not be seen as an offshoot of our relations with France. Djibouti is a country that promotes policies that are closely geared to her own national interest."
"The French government has some reservations about some of the policies we advance. Sometimes, it voices direct opposition to these policies. However, we shall not refrain from signing and implementing inter-country agreements which we believe are in the best interests of our country and those of our neighbors. We are the only ones who know how much we will benefit by entering into any separate agreements with other countries. The integration which we are trying to create with our neighbors has a strategic goal. France will leave the region sooner or later, but our neighbors are going to remain here with us. This must be clear. Sometimes, mass media owned by the French government echo words of intimidation. They also attempt to put pressure on us in different other ways. There are also those who still try to make Djibouti a prisoner of her colonial past. However, Djibouti shall proceed with her own policy initiatives undeterred. The promotion of the principle of regional cooperation is an enduring objective of our country."
"The French military base in Djibouti is governed by clear and explicit agreements which ensure the sovereignty of the state of Djibouti and guarantee that it shall not be a source of anxiety for the security of the region. There has never been a time when the French base in Djibouti was a threat to the security of the region. The French military base in Djibouti, whose mission is clear to all and sundry, will never pull the trigger against anybody. On the other hand, those foreign forces alleged to be swarming around the region without having made their missions explicit are, in my opinion, a source of regional insecurity. Since they are here to engage in military and intelligence operations, they pose a threat that is targeted at the region. In view of Djibouti's earnest aspiration to make the Red Sea a region of peace, it calls for the removal of all foreign military bases from the area."
Touching upon Djibouti's relations with the United Stated of America, H.E. Mr. Ismail said: "Relations between Djibouti and the U.S.A. have shown marked improvement. Our diplomatic relations have been upgraded to ambassadorial level. American companies have been granted concessions for the exploration and prospecting of petroleum, gold and other minerals. We shall make unstinted efforts to strengthen our bilateral relations in the economic sphere. I do not accept the proposition that America will replace France in the region. The idea of rotating in a limited orbit in politics is passe. Our relations with the U.S.A should be seen in the context of developing our economy and not in terms of building a military base to replace the French one. Negative comments have been made by the French government on our diplomatic and economic ties with the U.S.A, and as a result, our relations with France are getting rather complicated with each passing day. On top of this, some French organizations have tried to scare the Americans away by alleging that there is no peace and stability in our country. They have left no stone unturned to sabotage the oil and mineral prospecting and exploration work, which is being intensified, through a campaign of disinformation. Such hostile propaganda is likely to strain and damage our relations with France sooner or later. But it will exert no pressure on our efforts to explore our natural resources. American companies are well aware of the objectives of the propaganda being disseminated by Radio France Internationale. The warp and woof of all our relations with other countries are Djiboutian in nature and character. The mining concessions we granted to the Americans are directly tied up with our national economic interests"
Our brief comments on the above statements would be as follows. It would be advisable for the Ethiopian government to reciprocate Djibouti's overtures for closer diplomatic and economic ties with Ethiopia. Joint investment in the improvement and development of the port of Djibouti, the Ethio-Djibouti railway and the road link between the two countries on the basis of clearly stated cost settlement agreements would be a logical first step. As economic links grow and the possibility for further economic integration emerges, the idea of using a common currency could be floated provided strict adherence to internationally accepted principles and practices with respect to such a monetary arrangement by both countries can be guaranteed. On the political plane, a confederation would be an initiative worth considering. However, whatever steps the two countries take to enhance their political, economic and social ties, the principle of mutual and voluntary consent must be honored at all times.
Copyright(C) 1998 ADDIS TRIBUNE.
© 1998 Chamber World Network International Ltd
Djibouti in Transition (Editorial)
April 19, 1999
Addis Ababa (Addis Tribune, April 16, 1999) - The people of Djibouti last Friday elected their second president - Mr. Ismael Omar Guelleh. The election, according to international observers, "passed off in a transparent and sincere manner and conditions of equality prevailed." This is good news to all concerned, including the neighboring countries.
Ethiopia has a vested interest in the welfare of Djibouti and vice versa. Djibouti doesn't only have strategic importance but it contains the important modern port of Djibouti, which is the main port for Ethiopia's international trade and serves as the terminus of the Ethio-Djibouti Railway. The railway runs from the port to Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is also a main source for Djibouti's trade.
The President Elect, Mr. Ismael Omar Guelleh has articulated his country's intentions to work closely with Ethiopia. He has described Ethiopia and Djibouti as "complementary states." He has officially stated he would not oppose confederation if that was what Djiboutians wanted. Whether talking to a French journalist or to an Ethiopian reporter, Mr. Ismael on all occasions has reflected the long-standing ties between the two countries and the commitment on both sides to do everything possible to enhance and deepen bilateral cooperation in all fields.
The out-going President Hassan Gouled Aptidon should be complimented for his decision to retire. He has followed the good example of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
We admire the peaceful transition and welcome the President Elect Ismael Omar Guelleh and stress the importance of transparency and democracy in the Horn of Africa, and Africa as a whole.
By Tamrat Bekele
© Copyright 1999 Addis Tribune. Distributed via Africa News Online.
Ethiopia pursues federation with Djibouti
Gregory R Copley
Defence & Foreign Affairs Strategy Policy
September 01, 2000
Volume 28, Issue 9
ETHIOPIAN Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, visiting the US in September 2000 for the United Nations Millennium Summit, and then extending his visit to Washington DC for more substantive meetings, said that an overarching political union between Ethiopia and Djibouti was "vital", as a matter of principle. In response to a question about possible federation or confederation between the two countries, Ato Meles said: "Economic consolidation in the region is essential, and might require political integration."
This would further solidify Ethiopia's revived trading relationship with and through Djibouti's Red Sea port, bypassing the need to resume trading through Eritrean ports, particularly Assab, just up the coast from Djibouti, and in territory controlled by the Afar people who, with the Issas, make up the population of Djibouti.
Prime Minister Meles, at a press conference at the Washington National Press Club on September 15, 2000, responded to a question as to why his Government did not push forward during the recent war with Eritrea to seize Assab, given that "99 percent of Ethiopians feel that Assab belongs to Ethiopia, not Eritrea". Prime Minister Meles said that the 1908 Treaty which Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II had signed with the Italian Government had ceded the area around Assab historically part of Welo, not Eritrea, or the region controlled by the Bar Negus [King of the Ocean], subordinate to the Emperor - to Italian control, for a distance of 60km from the Red Sea coast.
Mr Meles conceded that most Ethiopians, some 85 percent of which live in rural areas, may not have been aware of that legal fact, but said that Ethiopia, "as a law-abiding country" had to reject the seizure of land by force, which was just "thuggery" In any event, he said, "port access is just a service which can be bought or sold. We have the money and we are going to shop around" and in the case of Eritrea [and its control of Assab], we want to know if the "shop" is run by a law-abiding owner. "If we do not use Assab," he said, "it will be a watering hole for camels", noting that there were 10 ports in the Horn of Africa which Ethiopia could potentially use to overcome its landlocked status. Ethiopia was understood to be negotiating actively for the use of Mombassa, Kenya, as a port for southern Ethiopia, and new highways would be developed for that route.
He said that settlement of a final border demarcating the Eritrea-Ethiopia boundary would be based solely on colonial-era treaties, not on colonial-era maps, as well as in line with current international law.
Prime Minister Meles, who officially opened the new Ethiopian Embassy in Washin! ton DC on September 14, 2000, said that he had held talks with the US Secretaries of State and the Treasury, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, Defense Department off cials, the World Bank, and Congress. However, there were few US officials at the official, and lavish, opening of the new Embassy, reflecting the continued caution by the US Administration and Congress over the Meles Administration. There were, on the other hand, many hundreds of pro-Meles Ethiopians flown into Washington DC from Ethiopia and elsewhere in North America to ensure a positive reaction at the Embassy opening. Hundreds of strenuously vocal Ethiopian opponents of Meles were across the street for several hours during the opening, protesting the Prime Minister's visit and policies. There were also protestors at each venue at which Prime Minister Meles appeared.
Ethiopian-born Saudi businessman Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi, who owns more land in Ethiopia than anyone else, donated the lavish catering at the Embassy opening. He had also donated the Ethiopian stone used for the new building's facing.
In a bid to improve his Administration's standing in Washington DC, the Meles Administration hired former US Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Robert Strauss to act as its lobbyist. Strauss's fees are known to be extremely high, and the Meles Administration's coffers were, at least until August 2000, believed to be empty, with some civil service salaries being paid-for directly by Sheikh al-Amoudi. There has been speculation that Mr Strauss's fees, too, were now being paid by Sheikh al-Amoudi.
So far, however, hiring Mr Strauss has not helped. Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jesse Helms, earlier in September 2000, reportedly said privately that he would ensure that neither Eritrea nor Ethiopia received any financial support from the US after wasting billions of dollars on the "senseless war" which they conducted during the previous two years.
Prime Minister Meles - whose background in the Tigre People's Liberation Front (TPLF) was left of center - was asked whether he felt that the proposed November 5, 2000, final interment of the late Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I would be a unifying event for Ethiopia. Meles equivocated. It would not, he said, be a "disuniting event", but it would not be a "uniting event" Nonetheless, he said that it would be "an event worth noting" Significantly, however, although Government handling of the matter had been delegated to Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin - ostensibly the second most powerful figure in the Government - it is known that Sheikh al-Amoudi had donated US$100,000 to the funeral organizing committee. This would not have occurred had the Government been unmindful of the potential for problems if the funeral did not go well.
The Crown Council of Ethiopia, the last remaining Ethiopian Imperial institution, in exile in Washington DC, is also known to be concerned about the funeral arrangements, being undertaken by a group of infighting private Ethiopians who seem bent on making personal capital out of the event. Haile Selassie's grandson, Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie, President of the Crown Council, will, however, attend the funeral.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on September 15, 2000, to authorize the proposed 4,200strong UN peacekeeping force (UNMEE) to monitor the ceasefire between Eritrea and Ethiopia and oversee the redeployment of troops from the disputed border. The vote came as Prime Minister Meles said that negotiations on reaching an overall peace settlement with Eritrea would start at the end of September or in early October 2000.
UNMEE will supplement the UN observer mission of 100 military personnel approved by the Security Council on July 31, 2000. The first seven observers arrived in the border area on September 13, 2000. The agreement to end the hostilities was signed June 18. Prime Minister Meles said that the final list of peacekeeping donor countries had to be approved by both Eritrea and Ethiopia, but reports indicated that the UN had already asked Japan to contribute personnel to UNMEE.
Mr Meles was asked whether the Ethiopian Government planned to end its practice of ethnic separation of Ethiopia's 70 or so main ethnic groups, especially in light of the murder recently of a number of Amhara farmers who had gone into areas occupied by Oromo peoples. Meles said: "We have had armed conflicts based on ethnic differences. I know that we have taken a different approach to handling this [matter]." However, he said, "ethnicity is not a sickness; it should not be the cause of conflict". As a result, the Government did not plan to allow the ethnic groups to move from region to region. He blamed earlier attempts by Ethiopian governments to create an Ethiopian identity, and to end ethnic differences, as the cause of conflict.
Mr Meles, in fact, was himself instrumental in such conflict, as a leader of the TPLF, which had been fighting for Tigrean secession from Ethiopia until it won control of all Ethiopia in 1991 as a result of the collapse of the former Dengue Government when the collapse of the Soviet Union ended foreign military and economic support to it.
He also said that his Administration would not end the process of land nationalization. He said that land reform had been "distorted" after 1975 when the Dengue had forcibly collectivized farmlands. "We have preserved since 1991 the rational elements of [the post- 1975 collectivization] he said. " [Today] the peasants can do everything with the land except sell it" They can, he said, lease it, leave it to their children or farm it. "In the famine, the first thing people would do with their land is sell it," forcing some 10-million people onto the urban job market. Ethiopia could not possibly hope to sustain such a situation, he said, and added that there was therefore no intention to change the land nationalization situation. He did say, however, that nationalized properties and factories would not be returned to their former owners, but compensation would be paid to all, as a matter of policy. Some compensation claims were still being processed, he said.
© Copyright International Media Corporation Ltd. Sep 2000
Horn of Africa Nations to Use EU Model
Bernama Daily Malaysian News
April 04, 2002
KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 (Bernama) - Seven countries in the Horn of Africa which a re emerging rapidly from decades of political instability are now working towards a grouping in the model of the European Union (EU), Sudan's Foreign Minister Dr Mustafa Osman said here today.
The seven countries which are strategically located in the Horn of Africa are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia and Uganda.
Dr Mustafa said the plan was to turn the region from an area of political conflicts and instability into a zone of peace, development and prosperity.
He did not rule out the possibility of the introduction of a common currency like the Euro once the idea became a reality.
"We are looking into the possibility of a confederation of the Horn of Africa nations," he told the media here.
Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia and Uganda are also members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which held a three-day special meeting of its Foreign Ministers here to discuss terrorism. Dr Mustafa led Sudan's delegation to the meeting which ended yesterday. Dr Mustafa said towards achieving the creation of the EU model, the countries concerned were now striving for regional peace, food security, health programmes and economic integration which would be the key elements of the plan.
He said the countries concerned agreed towards getting rid of any lingering political differences and to create an environment conducive for more development, investment, trade and tourism.
As part of efforts to achieve this objective, a freeway between Khartoum (Sudan) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) is to be opened next month and a Sudan-Ethiopia rail connection is in the pipeline.
The seven countries with a combined population of 200 million possess vast economic potential but political and ideological differences, border disputes, hunger, drought and other natural disasters have prevented them from working closely for their common good.
Dr Mustafa said the seven countries, which are also members of the Djibouti-based Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) founded in 1986, were making joint efforts towards achieving peace and security with more frequent meetings among their leaders.
He said positive developments in recent years indicated that the countries in the Horn of Africa, which were once known for wars, conflicts and refugee problems, were now moving towards, what he termed, as "a programme for peace."
For example, Ethiopia and Eritrea which fought a war following a border dispute are currently engaged in peaceful negotiations, while Somalia is trying to put the country together under new President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan after more than 10 years of civil war and political disintegration.
Sudan itself which once faced political instability is now moving ahead with rapid economic development and political reforms as peace negotiations were underway with the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to end an 18-year civil war in the southern part of Africa's largest country.
"Everything depends on how far we succeed in moving forward. But (I think) success will not elude us," he said.
© 2002 Bernama - Malaysian National News Agency
Conference on the Horn of Africa Explores Possibility of Confederation - Common interest needed to link Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia
State Department Press Releases and Documents
November 20, 2002
Washington -- The formation of a confederation of East African states including Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia -- with the objective of achieving peace, stability, accelerated development and democracy -- was the topic of an international conference organized by the University of South Florida and U.S. Africa Education Foundation. Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, representatives of the White House Council on AIDS, the State Department, several United Nations and regional organizations, as well as professionals from universities, NGOs and the private sector, attended the November 14-15 event, which included an agenda of plenary sessions and workshops to discuss the region's critical themes: political and social stability; economic development including agricultural and water resources; and health issues. The talks were unofficial but sought to initiate momentum for the establishment of such a confederation.
Zachary Teich, Deputy Director for East Africa, Bureau of African Affairs, Department of State, said the conference examined the prospects for linking the four Horn countries "in some form of confederation," adding "that means creating some kind of governance arrangement in which sovereign states cede specific portions of their individual freedom of action to a central authority for the common interest."
In his remarks to the conference, Teich posed the question, "Does a sufficiently strong 'common interest' exist that can unite the four states?
"While geography has placed them in the same general area, and they all are desperately poor, the countries of the Horn are surprisingly diverse. They do not share a single supranational religious or ethnic identity, although ethnic Somalis live throughout the region. In fact, a credible argument can be made that there are more differences than similarities between the four Horn states.
"Between them, the four countries of the Horn of Africa -- Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia -- have known long-term independence and colonial servitude, nascent democracy and cruel dictatorship. All too frequently, they have also known chaos and conflict. Even now, one of them, Somalia, is struggling to end a decade-long period of virtual statelessness and anarchy.
"Two others, Eritrea and Ethiopia, are trying to overcome the effects of a costly war. And Djibouti, approaching significant democratic elections, is struggling with seemingly intractable development challenges. If all this were not enough, the Horn now is threatened with a drought-induced food crisis of a severity that has not been seen in 20 years."
The conference organizers reported that the exploratory sessions "reached several sound conclusions with specific practical recommendations" that it is hoped will serve as a basis for future talks and actions.
[Editor's Note: An earlier pre-conference report, based on a reliable source, had erroneously suggested that the central theme would be regional responses to threats by terrorist organizations in the Horn. Additional information from the conference indicates that this was not the focus of the discussions, but how a confederation of the states might prove helpful in achieving peace and development.]
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)
Office of State Department Public Communication Division, 202-647-6575
© 2002 Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc
Overview of Djibouti Port
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (C), Eritrean Minister for Agriculture Arefaine Berhe (R), Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (2nd R), Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh (2nd L) and Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir cut a cake to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Kenyan capital Nairobi March 20, 2006.
Ismail Omar Guelleh, candidate of Djibouti's ruling alliance, talks to reporters after voting in presidential elections. Ismail won the April 9 election with 74 percent and became Djibouti’s second leader since independence. April 12, 1998.