30 March 2018

East Africa: Ethio-Djibouti Ties - Smooth Sail in Troubled Horn

Ethio-Djibouti cooperation has reached to a point of no return even under any regional complication.

Ethiopia and Djibouti are enjoying warm and rosier period of economic cooperation and the countries, in a joint effort, ought to continue staying on the same page to counter real and perceived threats which would go against their interests, so said scholars.

The relation is more than economic partnership."As it may sound contrary to many people, the relations between the two countries are not only about accessing port or about importing fresh foods," says Dr. Tarekegn Adebo, Associate Professor and Senior Adviser for Peace and Conflict Resolution at Addis Ababa University.

In fact, those views emanate from the economic interdependence with Ethiopia using Port Djibouti to transit 95 percent of its import-export business whereas Djibouti importing fresh goods, potable water and energy from the former,but the ties also include cultural and linguistic similarities.

"These are requisite to establish an all-weather friend even in the midst of swiftly changing regional political scenarios and huge interests from world powers," he adds.

External pressures and regional security dynamics are likely to trigger shift of interests, he states, underlining that Ethiopia and Djibouti have reliable mechanisms to overcome such fluxes, corroborated Dr. Belete Belachew, a Researcher at Center for Dialogue, Research and Cooperation.

"The various ministerial level institutional set ups could be a case in point in this regard," he says.

This is not to mean that the two countries' cooperation lies external to regional and global peace and security dynamics, he argues.

Foreign military presence is also growing in the Horn under the guise of counter terrorism efforts and Djibouti is hosting various military missions, he says.

More troops have stationed in Djibouti with the world powers increasing focus [from Red Sea, Bab-el-Mendb to the Gulf of Eden] making the

the Gulf of Eden] making the geographically tiny country a big player.

As history proves, rivalry and competition will be inevitable affecting individual country's interests.

"However, Djibouti cannot substitute the long-standing cooperation it has with Addis to other interests," he stresses.

Seconding Belete's argument, Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies Institutes Deputy Executive Director Mogos Tekelemichael says: "We have to see Djibouti in terms of security in the red sea and Suez-canal as well."

Ethiopia is also one of the great players in maintaining the peace of the region, he adds.

In the eyes of Mogos the cultural, linguistic and economic interdependence of the two countries stands high shouldered and their separate relations is complementary to that.

He adds that the countries at issue are in the same boat - with similar opportunities and challenges. "The two-side joint effort is wider in scope. "Illegal human and arms trafficking as well as terrorism are tough challenges in the Horn region, and they also work together on such critical issues," Mogos underscores.

Their ties are getting new momentum ever time, he says, adding economic integration is like to be achieved in the near future.

[Economic] integration between both countries cannot be attained all of a sudden but there is a possibility that they could attain it, he states, supporting his argument citing the joint infrastructural development of the two countries.

"Ethiopia's infrastructural development attracts integration in the region and the overall economic cooperation with Djibouti should be seen in terms of regional integration framework," he asserts.

Asked whether or not Ethiopia's plan to diversify sea outlets may affect the two-side relations, Mogos says that it is undoubted as Ethiopia's major access to sea is always Port Djibouti.

But the astronomical economic growth is sure to urge Ethiopia into looking additional sea outlets of neighboring countries, he argues.

But, the stock in trade should not be weighing their relations in terms of Port dimension only, doing so may shutter perceiving the bigger picture, he adds.

The bigger picture's small parts include all-round economic integration, promoting additional infrastructural facilities and efficient ports that serve entire region as well as people to people, security and other mutual interests, he notes.

To attain this, both countries ought to develop additional far-sighted strategies to transform their cooperation into the next level," Mogos says.

No matter how the region goes through state of flux, the two countries need to further concentrate on harmonization of positions and interests with mutual benefits at its heart.

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