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In June 2020, the United Nations General Assembly will vote to elect five non--permanent members to sit on the Security Council for two years. Djibouti has an excellent case for being elected to take the seat reserved for an African nation, as the country's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Can you outline the geo-strategic importance of Djibouti in the region?

As you may know, Djibouti is located at the entry of the Red Sea on the world's busiest shipping route, namely the Bab el-Mandeb strait, through which more than 30% of world trade is channelled, making it highly sensitive from a security point of view. To put it another way, my country connects three continents--Africa, Asia and Europe--as well as the Middle East. The Bab el-Mandeb is only 20 miles wide between Djibouti and Yemen, a war--torn nation. Djibouti is a gateway for a number of landlocked African countries such as Ethiopia, South Sudan, Rwanda and beyond. Our country is already almost the only outlet for 90% of Ethiopia's maritime trade.

As Djiboutian leaders, we are strongly aware of our country's unique strategic position in Africa and in the world at large. That is the reason why Djibouti has engaged in a very pragmatic form of diplomacy that has resulted in good relations with all world powers, no matter what their ideological positions or aims are. In short, Djibouti aspires to become not only a world-renowned commercial, logistics, and financial services hub but also a deployment centre for counterterrorism, anti-piracy and humanitarian intervention.

As a member of the International Authority on Development (IGAD), how has Djibouti contributed politically to important questions of peace and development in the region?

Let me remind you that Djibouti is the only country which has preserved its political stability in a very volatile region for the last three decades or so.

The central government in Somalia collapsed in 1991. In 1998, a devastating war broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Yemen has experienced political turmoil since 1994. The current war in Yemen broke out nearly five years ago. Since then, Djibouti has welcomed more than 60,000 Yemeni refugees, struggling with internal and external armed conflicts.

The military weakness in our region and the lack of stability drove terrorism as well as piracy to the region. That's why Djibouti has signed military agreements with several world powers to secure the Bab el-Mandeb strait and, therefore, avoid a serious disruption in global trade.

Furthermore, Djibouti has been keen on restoring peace in Somalia. Soon after President Guelleh was elected, in 1999, Djibouti hosted the Somalia National Peace Conference in Arta, which was a successful move. Since then Djibouti has been participating in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). More than 2,000 Djiboutian troops have been deployed in Somalia to help stabilise troublesome areas in the Hiiraan region. Djibouti is also involved in mediation between conflicting parties in Southern Sudan. The IGAD special envoy to Southern Sudan, Ambassador Ismail Wais, is a Djiboutian citizen, working hard to bridge the gap between the stakeholders in this brother country.

Therefore, Djibouti is naturally promoting its bid to serve as a non-permanent member at the Security Council for the period 2021-22.

How has the expanding free zone in Djibouti contributed to trade and development and what is the potential for Djibouti's further role in trade and politics for a more global reach?

Djibouti's International Free Trade Zone, around 4,000 hectares in size, will be the biggest of its kind in Africa. The project, scheduled for completion in a decade, will cost $3.5bn. The Zone enables users to operate without paying property, income, dividend or value-added taxes.

As President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti said at the inauguration ceremony, the Free Trade area is a "Zone of hope for thousands of young jobseekers."

Indeed, the Free Trade area has the potential to create around 200,000 jobs, once the project is complete.

The AU's nomination of Kenya oversteps rules of rotation

On 22 August, African Union (AU) member states nominated Kenya over Djibouti to represent Africa on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The AU's nomination of Kenya was not only unprecedented, but overstepped existing principles of rotation. The AU should have considered the principles of rotation, used by many international organisations to determine bids. These principles rely on two major criteria: recency and frequency of service on the UNSC. Both criteria support Djibouti's bid, not Kenya's. By calling out this major irregularity, Djibouti is asking the AU to respect and follow the rule of law. It is not too late for the AU to correct this in June 2020, when its members will have the chance to vote for Djibouti as their representative at the United Nations General Assembly. Neither the executive nor the summit of the AU are bound by the outcome of such a flawed process.

Election of non-permanent members of the UN Security Council

The United Nations Security Council is one of the six main organs of the United Nations and has responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. It has the power to establish peace-keeping missions, impose international sanctions and authorise military actions. The body has five permanent members (Russia, France, China, the UK and the US) and 10 non-permanent members. Each member has a vote, although only the permanent members can veto a resolution. The nonpermanent members are elected for periods of two years, with one seat allocated to each of the regional blocs represented in the General Assembly: Africa; the Asia-Pacific Group; Latin America and the Caribbean; and Western Europe and Others. The next election of non-permanent members will take place at the 74th session of the General Assembly in June 2020, and the successful candidates will take up their seats for two years from 1 January 2021.

Caption: Above: The Doraleh Container Terminal. Located 5km west of Djibouti City, it is the most technologically advanced container port on the African continent.
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Title Annotation:Communique
Author:Youssouf, Mahamoud Ali
Publication:New African
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Dec 1, 2019
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