Djibouti(Mogadishu24)-A tiny East African nation has found itself at the center of one of the world’s most dramatic flashpoints.

Not only are missiles fired by Houthi militants from Yemen at commercial ships in the Red Sea falling close to Djibouti’s 195-mile coastline, but the country of just 1 million people is surrounded by upheaval.

It’s bordered to the north by Eritrea, a pariah state for the best part of two decades; to the south by Somalia, which has been ravaged for years by an Islamist insurgency; and to the west by Ethiopia, a regional powerhouse recovering from a civil war.

And yet, Djibouti has successfully positioned itself as an indispensable asset in the region. All while its government walks a diplomatic tightrope to retain neutrality.

That’s been highlighted by the fallout from Israel’s war on Hamas. After the Houthi missile attacks began in October, the US asked for permission to conduct operations against the group from inside its naval base in Djibouti. The government said no, according to Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed.

While it’s highly critical of Israel’s response to Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7, the African nation quietly allowed naval vessels from the European Union’s Operation Aspides to dock and refuel as part of efforts to keep the Houthis at bay.

Djibouti’s Place in a Difficult Neighborhood

Djibouti’s main port is enjoying a boon as a direct consequence of the strikes. More ships now dock to unload goods onto smaller vessels — part of the country’s growing transshipment business — to take them through the perilous Red Sea.

International investments in military hardware and intelligence gathering in the predominantly Islamic, former French colony have never looked more important.

And its location at the point where the Red Sea meets the Gulf of Aden is likely to keep it as a strategic priority for major powers. Already China, France, Italy, Japan and the US have military bases there. And Germany would like one too.

Ironically, Djibouti’s tough neighborhood attracts friends.

Source: Bloomberg

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