Updated: March 5, 2021
Djibouti, a tiny country in the horn of Africa with only 23, 200 square kilometers, is proud to host the United States’ only permanent military base in Africa, located at the Fort Lemonier, not far from the presidential palace.
France also has its largest unit of the Foreign Legion in Djibouti, and last year, China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti, with room for more troops than the US and France missions combined.
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Djibouti also lies on one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors, which makes it a key player in international trade.
However, even as a recipient of vast amount of international assistance, the nation is in crisis.
There are so many problems that one article cannot do justice to it all. A crippling sewage crisis has led to an eruption of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
Children are also bearing the brunt of the crisis emanating from shocking levels of poor sanitation in the country of about 1 million people, according to a recently published report by CAJ News
So bleak is the situation that in rural areas, three out of four people have no access to toilets and defecate in the woods.
The newspaper said in the capital Djibouti City, home to half the country’s population, a quarter of the population has no access to toilet facilities.
“With the Horn of Africa a dry zone and with only 20 centimetres or less than 10 inches of rain a year, water is at premium in Djibouti. Villages often rely on one or two wells, many of which are now contaminated with bacteria linked to human waste,” CAJ News wrote.
The 26 300 refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen, have added to the problem.
Radwan Bahdon, the government’s Director of Sanitation, disputed report, saying that said that the situation was under control, and new sanitation plant funded by the European Union (EU) is functioning, he added.
“Until 2014, wastewater was discharged into the sea without treatment,” Bahdon said.
Officials are blaming the administration of President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, in office since 1999 after succeeding his uncle- Hassan Gouled Aptidon- who ruled since independence from France in 1977.
Guelleh, whose government is accused of human rights violations, retained power with 90 percent of the vote in February this year.
“Vast amounts of aid have flowed into the Treasury over the years but the country has little, if any, to show for it,” the newspaper wrote.
Critics accuse Guelleh and his family as well as closest advisors of having significant clout in the economy.
Despite the grinding poverty afflicting the majority, Guelleh recently flew to China in a presidential jet. Economists warn that Djibouti’s debt is close to its entire GDP but Mr Guelleh has shown no sign of slowing down on the opulence.
“In Djibouti, we are confronted by a family dynasty built on the suffering of our less than 1 million people,” opposition leader, Daher Farah, said of the impoverished country.
Loans from China have financed the building of a new railway to Ethiopia and cranes hovering over the port and city.
The government earns millions from passing ships.
However, earlier this year, Guelleh signed a decree stripping Dubai firm, DP World, of its 50-year contract to manage the container port.
When a London Court of Arbitration ruled in favour of DP World, government issued a statement it would not recognize the verdict.
The defiance raised fears whether Guelleh could use a similar decree to take back Fort Lemonier, CAJ News reported.
- With reports from CAJ News