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The East African : Jun 21st 2015
The EastAfrican 8 OUTLOOK JUNE 20-26,2015 ARO U N D AF R ICA Why is Djibouti so attractive to global military powers? US AND FRENCH BASES Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti is the largest US permanent military base in Africa, and is home to more than 4,000 personnel — mostly part of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. A US marine walks through Camp Lemonnier, the US military base in Djibouti. The military base is taking part in the fight against terrorism in the Horn of Africa. Picture: File The count≥y lies in close p≥oximity to ≥estive ≥egions in Af≥ica and the Middle East By TOMI OLADIPO BBC News D jibouti, a small country on the Red Sea, is already home to military bases from the US and France, the former colonial power, but China’s interest is now becoming increasingly apparent. What makes this Horn of Africa nation attractive to global military powers? Djibouti’s status as a model of stability in an otherwise volatile region is one of its greatest assets. It lies on the Bab el-Man- deb Strait, a gateway to the Suez Canal, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. Djibouti also provides a vi- tal port for landlocked neighbour Ethiopia, even more important now as a railway between both their capitals is completed. Chinese-led infrastructure projects — including the construction of air and maritime ports — are present here, just as they are elsewhere in Africa. But it is Djibouti’s proxim- ity to restive regions in Africa and the Middle East that makes it significant for the location of bases for the military superpowers. Somalia, to the southwest, has been a hotbed of unrest — of global implications — for years, with sea pirates and Al Shabaab militants posing a serious threat to the region. Yemen, currently in con- flict, is some 30km northeast across the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait — also an easy pathway into the Middle East without having to be based there. These crises have warrant- ed international responses and the need for military bases nearby. Djibouti hosts the largest American permanent military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, which is home to more than 4,000 personnel — mostly part of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent trip to Africa included a stopover there, highlighting this tiny nation’s significance even among the continent’s more prominent powers. Even though France and “Djibouti’s status as a model of stability in an otherwise volatile region is one of its greatest assets.” Japan also launch operations from the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport, it is China’s military ambitions that are arousing interests. Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh recently revealed to AFP news agency that talks were ongoing between both nations over the establishment of China’s first official overseas naval base. Beijing has refused to con- firm or deny the reports, but this growing friendship has been frowned upon by the Americans. A US congressman protest- ed before Kerry’s visit to Djibouti that US interests in the region could be jeopardised by China’s growing and “worrisome” presence there. This is made even more glaring with reports that the Chinese base will be established in the northern Obock region, eclipsing smaller US military installations there. It will even have access to an airport there, which the intelligence publication The Indian Ocean Newsletter says is already under construction, by a Chinese company of course. The main US base will re- main at Camp Lemonnier, the lease for which was recently renewed for a further 10 years. China recently deployed a 700-man force to protect its oil interests in South Sudan, showing it is keen to protect its $200 billion-a-year trade With regard to France’s military presence on the continent, there are three maiin bases, the largest being Djibouti. The others two are in Senegal and Gabon. Their purpose is to promote regional security, though the base in Djibouti allows France to exercise a measure of military influence in the Middle East. E Women lack cash to ≥un fo≥ public o∞ce By TREVOR ANALO The EastAfrican ACCESS TO campaign financing is one of the greatest barriers facing Kenyan women running for public office, a new report says. A study by the Interna- tional Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance says the under-representation of Kenyan women in elective positions can only be turned around if they have access to the same resources and networks as their male counterparts. Kenya, however, hit a milestone for women two years ago when President Uhuru Kenyatta nominated six women — the highest in the country’s history — to serve in his Cabinet of 19 ministers. Other factors that con- tinue to be a hindrance for women include demands of family, gender-related values among political party officials and voters, violence, and general discrimination against girls and women, including the fact that girls have lower chances of pursuing higher education than boys; coupled with perceived roles and identities. According to female politicians interviewed in the study, the “majority of Kenyan women were not willing to seek... leadership positions because of the huge financial requirements and gruelling nature of campaigns.” Double efforts The women said they had with Africa. This extends to warding off pirate attacks on the crucial trade routes between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Chinese nationals working on infrastructure projects in the region would also benefit from the proximity of a military base in the region. Hundreds were recently evacuated from war-torn Yemen, as well as from Libya in 2011 as violence escalated. But the Americans are not convinced that Beijing does not have ulterior motives. The US pays $63 million annually in rent for its base and the Chinese will bring in $100 million for theirs, in addition to their ongoing infrastructure projects, so it is not difficult to see why Djibouti is looking past the rivalries of the global powers and enjoying its lucrative role as their landlord. to work twice as hard and in some circumstance had to spend twice as much as the average male politicians to run their campaign. “In Kenya, aspirants of- ten have to pay to even be considered in the nomination process. In some cases, parties seem to use the nomination process as a major source of income, including fees for participating in the candidate-selection process,” according to the study. Even though political parties are funded by the government, they still rely on membership fees and use the nomination process as a major source of income, “including fees for participating in the candidate-selection process and for objecting to errors in the process.” According to one of the female politicians interviewed in the study, she had difficulties raising the Women leaders from Kisumu, western Kenya. Picture: File Ksh100,000 ($1,025) required for party nomination and “the Ksh500,000 ($5,125) to file a petition after I was unfairly locked out of the race.” At 19 per cent, the frac- tion of women in the Kenyan parliament is lower than the East African average of 36 per cent. In Burundi, the figure is 31 per cent while Rwanda has 64 per cent representation. Women in parliament “While the average share of women in sub-Saharan parliaments increased from 10 per cent in 1997 to 13 per cent in 2002, 17 per cent in 2008 and 23 per cent in early 2014, the share of women in the Kenyan parliament has always been significantly below this level,” the study notes. According to the study, progress in achieving gender parity has been very slow despite the fact that many Kenyan political parties claim to be committed to increasing women’s representation in elective offices. Kenya’s Constitution requires that no gender should have more than twothirds of public positions, elected or appointed. But this is now the subject of a heated debate in the country as some male Members of Parliament seek to postpone the enactment of this provision indefinitely. This is despite the fact that early this year, Kenya’s Supreme Court gave the House until August 27 to enact the provision. The report proposes a number of measures for closing the gender gap in politics including introducing a raft of campaign finance regulations to level the political playing field, and encouraging political parties to support women candidates financially.
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