Many Americans have never heard of Djibouti, and many less are able to locate it on a map. While this small African country may have eluded the American population, it has not gone unnoticed to US policy makers. This country’s location, social situation and cultural dynamics, establish it as key terrain in the US’s long term strategic plan to eliminate terrorism. The purpose of this paper is to provide cultural information for the country of Djibouti, while examining how the country’s unique culture and social structure can influence the region. Furthermore, it aims to show how the US is attempting to exploit strong tribal ties, key location, and the declining social-economic conditions in this area to advance US operations and positively affect US interests in the region.
Djibouti is slightly smaller than Massachusetts, and is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. As of 2011, Djibouti has an estimated population of 757,074 ; Massachusetts has a population of roughly 6.6 million as of 2009 . The predominant ethnic group is Somali, as 60% of the population, followed by 35% Afar, and the remaining 5% various ethnic groups (including French, Arab, Ethiopian, and Italian) . More than 90% of the population is Muslim and near all are of the Sunni sect . In addition, the population of Djibouti remains very young. The average life span is only 54 years, and 40% of the population is under the age of 15 . These cultural components make Djibouti ideal for non-lethal targeting efforts of the US military.
Djibouti’s strategic placement allows it to capitalize on neighboring countries’ need of a port. However, its contiguous placement to poverty-stricken countries has also made it vulnerable to negative external influences. For instance, meager economic conditions in Somalia have caused a surge in pirate attacks, as young Somali males attempt to overcome poverty. The motive for monetary gain is evident by the demand for ransom, instead of pillaging the ship’s cargo. Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times has quoted interviewed pirates as saying, “this isn't about politics, this isn't about religion, this isn't about any beef that we have with anybody out there. This is about money. This is a way to earn income in a state where the economy is in complete tatters.” Since the cultural and social dynamics of these two countries parallel each other, Djibouti is susceptible to corruption.
Moreover, agriculture and industry are scarcely developed, causing Djibouti to rely primarily on a large Ethiopian market and foreign expatriate community . This puts a great dependence on neighboring countries for economic stability. In the past decade, Djibouti has worked to gain financial independence, looking to improve its commerce. It has become a regional banking hub, and a magnet for private sector capital investment. US and NATO military presence, has also added to increased revenue, helping to provide economic stability...