In my last post I made a two-word comment that may have made no sense if you knew not of what I spoke: “Djibouti sucks.” Djibouti is not, in fact, an exotic Middle Eastern dish, or seaborne disease. Djibouti, as it happens, is its very own country, with territory, people, a government and local traditions no one else knows about. And I don’t mean to slander a whole country.
So let’s first describe why Djibouti sucks, as best explained by this picture taken inside a porta-potty, which is where all the important philosophy happens:
Clear enough, I think.
But despite the possibility of being orbitally divergent from the rest of the Earth, Djibouti is actually really important on account of this picture, taken from the Internet, which is never wrong:
Djibouti is at dead center of this map. Perched right at the Bab-el-Mandeb, the critical chokepoint leading into the Red Sea and thence Suez and the Med, a huge proportion of global maritime traffic passes through Djiboutian waters every day.
Thus, it caught the attention of the French. Beginning in 1883 they started signing treaties with local tribes to gain a foothold in the area, and by 1896 they were running the show. French administration lasted all the way until 1977, when Djiboutians voted for independence in a referendum.
The French administration ended, but they left their stuff – in particular, Camp Lemonnier. The U.S. had expressed interest in leasing the old French military base prior to 9/11, but after the terror attacks and increased counterterror ops in the region, things really took off for Camp Lemonnier. It’s still not the nicest of places – in the last few years people went from living in tents to shipping containers – but there’s a big runway and all the facilities you need to run a military operation, so it’s a major hub for everything that goes on in the area. And the French Foreign Legion is there, too. Because that’s what they do.
Other people have similar ideas. China is in the process of building a base elsewhere in Djibouti – which is not that big, by the way. So this ought to be interesting.
My personal Djibouti experience is limited to walking around the Camp Lemonnier tarmac and using the aforementioned facilities while going to and from a ship at sea – but that’s good enough to say I set foot in Africa, right?
I should add, if you’re a Navy Reservist, you stand a VERY good chance of passing through, for a few hours or possibly eternity. Makes you want to sign up, right?
*Yeah, only a couple people will understand why I chose that title but I don’t care.
Update: I went to France in May 2016 and saw stuff that seemed pertinent here.