Thursday, January 14, 2016

Matt 24 watch, 284: China is to establish its first African military base -- in formerly French-ruled Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa

Djibouti is the intended site of China's first naval/ air/ military/ logistics base in Africa. 

As the AFP/ Times of India indicated in a May 9, 2015 article:
"Discussions are ongoing," President Ismail Omar Guelleh told AFP in an interview in Djibouti, saying Beijing's presence would be "welcome".

Djibouti is already home to Camp Lemonnier, the US military headquarters on the continent, used for covert, anti-terror and other operations in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere across Africa.

France and Japan also have bases in the port, a former French colony that guards the entrance to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, and which has been used by European and other international navies as a base in the fight against piracy from neighbouring Somalia.

For context, Djibouti is a small (8958 sq mi, ~ 2 x Jamaica, about the size of Israel), port based country on the horn of Africa, just north of Somalia and directly across from Yemen on the Gulf of Aden.  It is one side of the Bab-el-Mandeb (gate of tears) straight at the mouth of the Red Sea as it opens up into the Indo-Pacific Ocean. In short, it is a port state sitting on a global trade choke point.

The just linked Wiki article notes:

On February 22, 2008, a company owned by Tarek bin Laden unveiled plans to build a bridge named Bridge of the Horns across the strait, linking Yemen with Djibouti.[4] Middle East Development LLC has issued a notice to construct a bridge passing across the Red Sea that would be the longest suspended passing in the world.[5] The project has been assigned to engineering company COWI in collaboration with architect studio Dissing+Weitling, both from Denmark.
That would be very significant in the context of a spiritually loaded geopolitical contest with Africa a major prize. And yes, that is the half brother of Osama Bin Laden; their family comes from Yemen and have as main business construction (including demolition, which -- no great surprise given 9/11 -- was Osama's specialty).

Google Earth Map:

 Of course, given our recent discussion of geostrategic issues linked to Islamism, the obvious points are:
  • Africa is currently the "soft" continent which is in geostrategic contention
  • Radical Islam is making a major African push (the context of the fighting, terrorism and piracy in and around the Horn of Africa)
  • This part of Africa is in naval and air terms, near the Nile Valley which offers a route into central Africa that gets around the Sahara
  • China has been making a major resources and relationships push into Africa
  • It has also been expanding a network of bases and access arrangements across the seas to Africa:

As the just linked Submarine Matters post by Peter Coates said in introducing the above map:

All of this, fits an emerging geostrategic picture of a three-way contest for influence and/or control in Africa. The Islamist thrust vs. the long resented Western "traditional" domination  vs. the emerging Chinese resources push.

 The current Jan 12 discussion in the UK based The Week, is therefore unsurprising -- though it only emphasises the China vs US angle:
The U.S. and China, major powers with a minor footprint, are both poised for much deeper and more direct involvement in African affairs . . . . Thanks to the much different challenges and priorities facing both powers, African intervention is shaping up as a feast for China and a famine for the U.S.

Look to Djibouti for big clues about why. News is quietly breaking that China has sealed a deal to build its first military base in that little country, a former French colony strategically located across from Yemen on the Red Sea, squeezed between Eritrea and Somalia. Confirming years of under-the-radar suspicions, AFRICOM commander Gen. David Rodriguez told The Hill that the "logistics hub" and airfield will let China "extend their reach" into Africa over the course of an initial 10-year contract. Currently, The Hill observed, China can't do much more than stage some naval patrols out of Djibouti ports.

Given China's breakneck expansion into Africa, that's just not good enough. In Africa, China has found not just a market for money but for jobs and land — crucial components of sustained economic growth. As December's Forum on China-Africa Cooperation revealed, the Middle Kingdom wants to ensure privileged access to that kind of future. Although it's hard to unravel the details, Beijing used the Forum to pledge $60 billion in loans and export credits . . . . 

While China is free to pursue its economic and financial interests with clarity and focus, allowing its military and political agenda to unfold accordingly, Washington finds itself scrambling to keep up with a sour security situation that doesn't play to its strengths. Instead of reaching into Africa's sub-Saharan heartland, where China is racking up lucrative or influential deals, the U.S. will have to stretch itself remarkably thin over the wide and barren expanse of Africa's northern tier.
The Week also points out that the Stuttgart based US AFRICOM has a cluster of its:
top three priorities [that] reach from one end of Northern Africa to the other: "neutralizing" the jihadist al-Shabab group in Somalia to the east, while "containing" enemies like ISIS in Libya and Boko Haram, to the west, in Nigeria and the greater Lake Chad region.
This of course indicates a continent-wide zone of operations in the slow burn global contest that properly is the latest phase of the 1400 year war of Islamist global expansionism. From our C21 perspective, it is World War IV, as WW III -- logically -- was what we term the Cold War.

Here in the Caribbean, we are an extension of Africa in the Americas due to our history of the slave trade based plantation era.

That means that to the Islamists and Chinese, we look like a stepping stone going West and North from Africa sitting on the Panama Canal global trade choke point and near to the United States. To the Americans, we are their backyard and a stepping stone to go South and East into Africa. Hence, the two tidal waves challenge we face (given the current great apostasy of the North):

 Where also in the midst of such wars, turmoils and rumours of wars as the kingdoms of man contend with one another, the church of the Caribbean faces a great Missionary mandate and opportunity. 

Precisely because we bridge North and South, East and West:

To make the best use of that opportunity, we must strengthen ourselves, deepening our discipleship base and equipping ourselves for leadership and service. For which, the Internet age offers the opportunity to create a regional education programme based on cybercampuses and local microcampus centres that use the deep penetration of church resources across our region.

Hence, the AACCS proposal:

 (An Associate in Arts can complement other studies or be a gateway that empowers many by allowing them to access tertiary level studies, perhaps via a supplementary secondary level bridge that rounds out the high school baseline.)

With this base and other studies,we can develop and mobilise a critical mass to take up our challenges and opportunities.

We now face a multipolar, multi-level geostrategic, ideological and spiritual conflict, with sobering consequences in the stakes. We may not be interested in such a chaotic contest, but it is interested in us.

We have no responsible choice, other than to face it and address it seriously.

The question is, are we willing to step up to the plate, first acknowledging what we face then assessing and addressing our strengths and weaknesses, then making the most of our opportunities?

Again: why not now, why not here, why not us? END