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The official visit of the Djiboutian president to France ended Wednesday, March 1, a visit focused on economic and defense issues.Wednesday, Ismail Omar Guelleh met (with a delegation of ministers and business leaders) the French employers at the headquarters of Medef before meeting with the president of the French Senate and then with Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, The opportunity to ensure the continuation of the Franco-Djiboutian partnership. Present in Djibouti for more than a century and a half, the French army has maintained since independence by an agreement of military cooperation. An agreement revised several times, with a recent downsizing, But which always includes an automatic assistance clause in case of destabilization of the scheme.
For a decade, France has been reducing its military expenditure. In 2004 there are 3,000 French soldiers in Djibouti. Paris wants to go below 1000, but a parliamentary report is opposed and the figure is set at 1,350 for 2017. The 13th demi-brigade of the Foreign Legion joins Abu Dhabi, the military hospital Bouffard is retroceded In Djibouti but air and naval bases are maintained as well as the 5th joint regiment (heir of the Somali battalion), four Puma helicopters, one Gazelle and four Mirage 2000-5.
For MEPs, it is a question of honoring the defense agreement between the two countries. France controls airspace and must intervene in the event of destabilization of the regime as in 2008 during the conflict with Eritrea.
Moreover, in Djibouti the conditions are extreme, similar to those in the Sahel where Operation Barkhane is deployed. France therefore trains its own soldiers, the Djibouti army and sometimes its allies like the United States or the Ugandan contingent of AMISOM.
A land of covetousness Strategic
interests go well beyond the small country, because Djibouti is a true hub for deploying on the continent, the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. The French forces stationed in Djibouti (FFDJ) were deployed recently in the Central African Republic, Iraq, Yemen and Mali. Djibouti, It is also a decisive position to secure the hydrocarbon trade and the entry point of communication cables to East Africa.
The territory thus arouses much covetousness. The United States also has a base from which they deploy their drones to Yemen. Djibouti is also home to the European operation Atalante which fights against piracy, the only Japanese base outside the Archipelago and the first Chinese military installation in Africa.
Faced with competition, Paris decides to retain its advanced operational base. The land is leased to the State for an annual amount of 30 million euros plus development aid in the form of loans but also grants. Opponents accuse Paris of "funding" a regime they deem "dictatorial."