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HomeGeopolitical CompassNile Valley & N.AfricaDjiboutian Sovereignty: Worlding Global Security Networks

Djiboutian Sovereignty: Worlding Global Security Networks

Authors: Elizabeth Cobbett & Ra Mason 

Affiliation: University of East Anglia (Norwich, UK)

Organization/Publisher: International Affairs, Oxford University Press

Date/Place: November 1, 2021/UK

Type of Literature: Academic Journal article

Number of Pages: 17 


Keywords: African Geopolitics, East Africa, Global Security, Sovereignty, Djibouti


Although most view Djiboutis leasing of land to foreign military powers as a compromise of its sovereignty, the authors argue that instead we should view it as a small state practicing the art of being global. Djibouti hosts the first overseas bases of two Asian countries: Japan and China. The country hosts approximately 2000 Chinese servicemen. Contrary to popular beliefs, Djibouti is not a failed or fragile state. Rather, the small African country can exercise considerable agency in terms of how it engages with great powers. As a hub for security networks it has the ability to play great powers off of one another. Djibouti stands as a paradigmatic case for a new type of sovereignty that is emerging: multilayered, topologies that fold and stretch. In Japans case it obtains rights in Djibouti that it concedes at home in the face of US military presence. New global centers for security allow states to stretch their reach and expand their territoriality. What a close study on this particular node in the global security architecture shows is that while in the UN sovereignty is seen as a fixed principled doctrine, on the ground, sovereignty in practice is subject to local possibilities and capabilities limited only by how agency can be managed in different contexts. So this means that while Djibouti is a sovereign state with full control over its borders, it simultaneously sells its sovereignty to increase foreign investment and development. The authors argue that Djibouti is a primary case of how African states can strategically instrumentalize their relationships with external powers and use their agency to gain from changing dynamics in the world.

By: Uveys Han, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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