US can keep military base in Djibouti for 30 more years

Tuesday May 06 2014

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh (left) and US President Barack Obama wait to make statements to the press before a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House May 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI

The United States and Djibouti agreed on Monday to extend the lease on a growing US military base in the small country for up to 30 more years.

The terms of the deal were reported by the Associated Press following a White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh.

As the only long-term US military installation in sub-Saharan Africa, Djibouti's Camp Lemonnier has considerable strategic significance to the Pentagon, which has stationed about 4,000 US troops and large amounts of equipment at the base.

“Obviously,” President Obama said on Monday, “Camp Lemonnier is extraordinarily important not only to our work throughout the Horn of Africa but throughout the region. And we very much appreciate the hospitality that the Djiboutians provide.”

READ: US military presence growing in Djibouti, other Africans sites

The US is substantially upgrading and expanding its presence at Camp Lemonnier, with some $500 million in construction projects planned or underway.


Since 2002 — the year after the attacks on New York and Washington — the US has used the former French installation for air and sea surveillance operations throughout the Horn and for occasional strikes on militants believed to be associated with Al-Qaeda or Al-Shabaab.

Critics contend that the Djibouti base signifies a growing “militarisation” of US policy toward Africa.

In remarks to reporters prior to Monday's meeting, Mr Obama said only that the US and Djibouti would be signing “a long-term lease” for access to Camp Lemonnier.

But the AP reports that an unnamed US official later specified that the cost of the new lease would be $63 million a year for the next decade. Under the previous agreement, the US paid Djibouti $38 million a year for use of the facility.

The deal also includes an option to extend the lease for an additional 10 years without renegotiating its terms. It further includes a provision allowing a 10-year extension beyond that at a renegotiated rate.

Djibouti's strategic value to the US takes the additional form of troops it supplies to the Amisom force in Somalia and to UN peacekeeping operations in Darfur, Cote d'Ivoire and Western Sahara. Djibouti has also agreed to send forces in the Central African Republic as part of a UN deployment there in the coming months.

The US and Djibouti further agreed on Monday to establish a Binational Forum — the third arrangement of this kind involving the United States and an African nation. The US has previously established binational commissions with Nigeria and South Africa.