- The only permanent United States military based in Africa is Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti, a small country located on the horn of Africa. The Americans will soon have new neighbours as the Chinese will also build a base in Djibouti.
The head of the U.S. Africa Command, General David Rodriguez, made the announcement. China intends to create a military presence in Africa along with an increasingly larger economic presence on the continent. Rodriguez said China had signed a 10-year contract to set up in Djibouti what will be the first Chinese military base in Africa. He noted China will use the base as a logistics hub "to extend their reach." Peter Barlerin, an official in the U.S. State Department's Africa bureau, said: "We are quite optimistic about our co-operation and our engagement with China in Africa." Some U.S. Congress members were not so sanguine about the base and in August had urged the Obama administration to dissuade the Eritrean government from allowing China to build the base.Camp Lemmonier is a key U.S. base from which drone operations are carried out in nearby Yemen, on the Arabian peninsula, and also in Somalia on the continent. Predators and F-15s operate from the base, which has about 300 special operations personnel. At present, the Pentagon stations about 4,000 troops at the base. The base has recently been considerably enlarged — the Pentagon has spent $250 million on improving infrastructure at the base. The U.S. last year agreed to pay an annual lease fee of $70 million for the next 20 years.China also has spent considerable sums in Djibouti that include a rail link to Ethiopia, an airport, and new port facilities. The Djibouti government of President Guelleh has good relations with both China and the U.S. He told reporters a Chinese military deployment in Djibouti would be welcome. China has contributed 800 troops to a UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan. African analyst J Peter Pham said it makes a great deal of sense for China to build a base in Djibouti. From the base, Chinese aircraft, which have a range of 2,500 miles, would be able to cover a large area of Africa, but also the Arabian Peninsula. No doubt this is why the U.S. sees its own base as quite strategic and valuable. Pham, based in Washington, noted the base would not be in the U.S. strategic interest.Many Yemenis fleeing the civil war in Yemen have arrived as refugees in nearby Djibouti. UN aid to Yemen also operates out of Djibouti.