The Republic of Djibouti is located on the Horn of Africa near the Strait of Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden of the Arabian Sea — a region characterized by chronic military-political instability and armed conflicts of various sizes and intensities that have not stopped for many years. The country has difficult relations with neighboring states, and the internal political situation in the republic is periodically aggravated. In these conditions, the leadership of Djibouti pays special attention to strengthening the national armed forces, considering them as an important tool for protecting state borders and maintaining internal political stability. However, given the extremely limited human, financial and economic capabilities of the country, Djibouti is not able to create a large army capable of independently solving the tasks of protecting the state from external threats.
Initially, in protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and solving the problems of building the national armed forces, the Djibouti leadership opted for reliance on assistance from major world powers. At the first stage, it was the former metropolis — France. On the day of independence — June 27, 1977 — Djibouti and France signed an agreement on friendship and cooperation, which provided for the French side to provide military assistance in case the republic was exposed to external aggression. At the same time, an agreement was concluded that France to assist in the creation and training of the Djiboutian army. In January 2011, two countries, in exchange for the 1977 treaty, signed a new defense cooperation agreement providing for close military ties between France and Djibouti. At the same time, the document excludes French military intervention in the internal affairs of the African state. At the same time, the measures that the French military can take in the event of a direct threat to the territorial integrity of Djibouti are not clearly spelled out.
Since the beginning of this century, the leadership of Djibouti, while maintaining close ties with France, has increasingly relied on cooperation with the United States in matters of ensuring external security. “Strategically located in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is a key US partner in security, regional stability and humanitarian efforts throughout the region”, said the head of the African Command of the US Armed Forces, General T. Waldhauser, when visiting the republic in January 2019.
Politico-military ties are developing with China, European countries, Japan, and a number of neighboring African states. Thus, in 2015, Burundi, Djibouti, Comoros, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia decided to create the East African Standby Force (EASF) to ensure regional security and support peacekeeping operations.
The armed forces of Djibouti (10.45 thousand people) consist of ground forces, the air force, the navy and the gendarmerie. Mobilization resources amount to about 110 thousand people, including about 65 thousand people fit for military service.
The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces is the President of the Republic. The country’s highest defense political body is the National Defense Council, which makes recommendations on issues of military policy, the construction of the armed forces and their use, military cooperation with foreign states. The President exercises overall leadership of the armed forces through the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff. The Minister of Defense (civilian) is responsible to the President and the Government for the combat readiness of the Armed Forces, their construction, financing, logistical support and supply. The Minister leads the army through the General Staff, which exercises operational control of the troops, is responsible for developing plans for the operational and mobilization deployment of the armed forces, combat training and use of the army. The chief of the general staff is also the commander of the ground forces, and the chiefs of staff (commanders) of the air force and navy are subordinate to him.
In military-administrative terms, the territory of Djibouti is divided into four military areas (commands): Obok, Tajura, Ali Sabie and Dikkil, which corresponds to the administrative division of the country into districts.
Ground forces (8,000 people) are the main type of the Armed Forces. In recent years, new units have been formed in them, new weapons have been received. The combat structure of the army includes: an armored regiment, four infantry regiments (one in each military area), quick reaction battalion and Republican Guard battalion, artillery regiment, communications companies and engineer, information and computer section, support battalion and repair company. The armament consists of 16 howitzers, including 10 self-propelled guns, 12 MLRS BM-21 “Grad”, 45 mortars, 5 combat vehicles with heavy weapons, 67 armored vehicles of various types, 61 armored personnel carriers, 15 anti-aircraft guns.
In recent years, modern weapons have been purchased abroad for the army. According to foreign military experts, the Djibouti army is “well trained and educated”.
The Air Force (250 people) consists of a transport and helicopter squadron. In service there are 3 combat helicopters (Mi-35 — 1, Mi-24 — 2), 9 multi-purpose and transport helicopters, 7 transport aircraft. The main objective of the Air Force is the transfer of troops, military cargo and patrolling, as well as the fight against rebels.
The naval forces (200 people) are represented by 17 boats (patrol — 16, landing — 1). Naval base — Djibouti.
The National Gendarmerie (2000 people) is an integral part of the Armed Forces and is directly subordinate to the Minister of Defense. The gendarmerie units are located throughout the republic and are designed to ensure security and maintain public order, and serve the protection of the President of Djibouti, important state and military facilities. The National Gendarmerie also serves as the military and border police. The gendarmerie authorities keep records of the personnel of the reservists. In the case of the announcement of the mobilization of the gendarmerie becomes the reserve and base for the formation of new units for the armed forces.
In addition to the armed forces in Djibouti, there are paramilitary forces of the national security forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (2500 people).
The militants of the armed wing of the separatist Front for the restoration of unity and democracy (FRUD) continue to operate in the country, moreover, government troops experience a shortage of helicopters during military operations against the FRUD.
The republic does not have a military industry. There are workshops for the repair of armored vehicles. There are ship repair workshops in the port of Djibouti where one can repair small warships and boats.
The main partners of Djibouti in the field of military-technical cooperation are the United States and France, which, along with the supply of weapons, are engaged in the training of Djiboutian troops. MTC links are maintained with China and several other countries.
Djibouti army units (up to 1,600 people) operate as part of the African Union peacekeeping contingent in Somalia (AMISOM).
The manning of the national armed forces is carried out by recruiting volunteers from among bachelors aged 20 to 26 years. When recruiting contractors, special attention is paid to the loyalty of candidates to the ruling regime. Recruits undergo initial training in a special training center for 3-6 months, and then are sent to military units. Officers and sergeants are trained at a military school in Djibouti. Some officers are trained abroad.
The participation of the army in the political life of the republic is limited. Military personnel are prohibited by law from engaging in political activities, membership in parties, public and trade union organizations.
Djibouti is called the “country of military bases”. Today, the military bases of five states are located on the territory of the republic: the USA, France, China, Japan and Italy. In addition, military personnel from Germany and Spain are deployed on the territory of the French base. The total number of foreign troops in Djibouti is approximately 10 thousand people. On the territory of the Camp Lemonnier base there is the headquarters of the Joint Tactical Command of the American Armed Forces in the Horn of Africa, subordinate to the African command of the US Armed Forces. In addition, the US Regional Counter-Terrorism Center is located in Djibouti.
Institute of the Middle East.
On changes in the military-political situation in the Middle East and North Africa (July 29 — August 4, 2019). Annex.