Wednesday September 5, 2018
Executives at port and logistics group DP World will doubtless be poring over the latest report (downloadable here) from business intelligence group EXX Africa which is scathing in its comments regarding the behaviour of the Djibouti authorities following their seizure of the facilities and the eviction of the UAE company's staff from the country's Doraleh container terminal which DP had the contract to operate.Meanwhile it alleges the chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority (DPFZA), the outfit DP World are at loggerheads with, is involved in the establishment of banks to launder money and also developing the Puntland port of Garacad which it claims is already a transfer point for illegal arms. Garacad indeed is a possible jumping off point for the incident on August 27 when a dhow was filmed from the air by US forces as it transferred bundles of munitions to a small skiff.
The new report goes far beyond the Doraleh situation predicting that, with DP World out of the way, despite their multiple court victories confirming that the expulsion was illegal, decisions studiously ignored by the Djibouti administration, the port will embrace the illegal import and export of arms, a common trade in the region which EXX Africa claims goes on under the eyes of the smorgasbord of nations which have military interests in the country.
EXX goes into great detail regarding the delicacy of the political situation for such as China, which has its only overseas naval base there, the US with its Camp Lemonnier, from where drone strikes support the Saudi led coalition fighting in Yemen, and the French, who guarantee the security of the state as an ex colony, French Somaliland, and who maintain their largest African military presence in the country, taking overall responsibility for air and maritime security issues.
Obviously with such a controversial document one must always read between the lines and seek out political bias, and many of the criticisms are direct attacks on leading figures in the region, alleging collusion, corruption and naming names and places. It claims that a leading local figure in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations, went to an al-Shabaab training facility in June this year and personally delivered a cache of arms including AK47s and rocket propelled grenade launchers.
The USS Jason Dunham patrolling in the Gulf of Aden later boarded the 'stateless' skiff in international waters and discovered over 1,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. The crew of the skiff were released into the custody of Yemeni forces loyal to the exiled government in Saudi Arabia. Weapons are a common commodity in the region supplying Somali insurgents as well as the Houthi forces active in Yemen. US sources seem to suppose the seized guns originated in Iran but offer no firm evidence of this.
Djibouti is the perfect geographical location for anyone with an interest in supplying either side in the Yemeni conflict being just 32 kilometres from that country’s coast. If the international forces are, as EXX Africa proposes, disinterested in arms smuggling in the region, at least to any meaningful level, then the trade will continue to proliferate. It has already been proven with the international response to piracy of the Somalia coast, that intense, cooperative naval scrutiny can subdue such elements if the political will is in place.
Whatever your take on the regional politics this report gives an insight into the complexities of the current situation in several neighbouring countries in the Horn of Africa, and illustrates sadly yet again that this continent is a long way from political stability, where the interests and welfare of ordinary people are treated as paramount by those in power, both at home, and abroad.
Photo: Two stills of what appear to be automatic grenade launchers taken from the EXX report flank three of the AK assault rifles seized by the crew of the USS Jason Dunham.