Despotic Djibouti a dragnet to Horn of Africa development
By SAID ABOUBAKER in Djibouti, Djibouti , September 24, 2018
Djibouti’s Doraleh seaport
DJIBOUTI, (CAJ News) – DESPITE its immense economic potential, owing to its strategic location, Djibouti risks becoming an island of poverty in a sea of wealth as investors make the most of a conducive atmosphere promoted by respective governments in the Horn of Africa region.
The Horn of Africa, with an estimated population of over 160 million people, is perched next to the Middle East and along the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes for goods and oil from Asia to Europe via the Suez Canal.
Synonymous with volatility yesteryear, the region is undergoing a makeover and is in the cusp of fulfilling its potential as the next frontier of economic development, thanks to the emergence of liberal governments.
In Ethiopia, since assuming power and in April this year on a campaign premised on rediscovering democracy and national reconciliation, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has taken a series of fundamental steps to liberalise the economy. Key to the reforms includes privatising state entities.
In a major policy shift from the stance from the previous autocratic regime, investors can buy minority stakes in sectors previously regarded out of bounds to private enterprise.
Direct foreign investment has been secured, most prominently the US$3 billion economic aid package granted by the United Arab Emirates, following a visit in June by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed al Nahyan.
Together with neighbouring Somalia, Ethiopia has discussed plans to abolish trade barriers as part of efforts to create a single market in the Horn of Africa region.
Ahmed, in a meeting in Mogadishu with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo (in power since 2017), disclosed plans to invest in a number of Somalian ports and in road networks to link the two countries and expand trade.
Ethiopia has established peace with Eritrea after over a decade of hostilities. They have reopened border crossings, restoring direct road transport for the first time in two decades.
The formal opening of the frontier paves the way for cross-border trade between the former foes.
Eritrea is considering building a port on its Red Sea coastline, challenging Djibouti’s position as host to key port infrastructure at one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.
Berbera (in Somalia), Mombasa (Kenya) and Port Sudan are attracting investments and threatening Djibouti’s monopoly.
Eritrea and Somalia have also agreed to restore diplomatic relations, in another development buoying confidence in the Horn of Africa’s investment and trade prospects.
The probable lifting of sanctions against Eritrea is set to pave way for economic integration of the Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia are spearheading tripartite plans to strengthen the economic and security stability of the region.
Nikki Haley, President of the Security Council, a principal organ of the United Nations (UN), welcomed the aforementioned breakthroughs as representing “a historic and significant milestone with far-reaching positive consequences for the Horn of Africa and beyond.”
However, in contrast to the prevailing positive sentiment sweeping across the region, Djibouti is increasingly emerging a pariah state.
Strongman Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, president since 1999 after succeeding his uncle- Hassan Gouled Aptidon- who ruled since independence from France in 1977, is leading a regime ever more hostile to investment, raising concerns it is lagging behind its neighbors and weighing down prospects of regional economic development.
This past weekend, Guelleh’s defiance of court orders against the stripping Dubai firm, DP World, of its 50-year contract to manage Djibouti’s container port was back in the spotlight, months after the tiny country disregarded a verdict on the mater.
In February, authorities in Djibouti abruptly cancelled DP World’s contract to run the Doraleh Container Terminal (DCT) and seized its facilities, which the port operator had designed, built and operated.
The High Court of England and Wales in London has continued the injunction, first made on August 31, prohibiting the national port company, Port de Djibouti, from interfering with the management of the Doraleh Container Terminal.
DP World has confirmed it would continue pursuing legal means to defend its rights as shareholder and concessionaire in the terminal.
“This is yet another (verdict) in a series of rulings, all in favour of DP World, that demonstrate Djibouti’s continuing disregard for the rule of law,” said a DP spokesperson.
The company underlined its belief that companies intending to operate, or already operating in the country, needed to seriously consider dealings with Guelleh’s beleaguered government.
“By its continued autocracy and defiance to court rulings, Djibouti is throwing spanners into the works of the region realising its potential as a global economic hub,” said Radhiya Ibrahim, Horn of Africa socio-political commentator.
Government insisted it had decided to nationalise DP World’s stake to “protect the fundamental interests of the nation and the legitimate interests of its partners.”
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), DCT has been a major catalyst for growth.
Pessimistic projections of the country’s economic prospects coincide with rampant poverty in Djibouti, despite its strategic position in of the busiest shipping lanes.
Devastating outbreaks of waterborne diseases are exacerbating matters.
The hosting of foreign military bases is an important part of Djibouti’s economy. This is due to its strategic location to the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which separates the Gulf of Aden from the Red Sea and controls the approaches to the Suez Canal.
The United States, France and Japan pay an estimated $123 million, combines, for their military bases in the tiny country.
In addition to revenues earned from military base rent, Djibouti has in the past two years accepted some credit loans running up to $1,4 billion, more than 75 percent of its gross domestic product, from China.
With public and publicly guaranteed debt more than doubling to reach 87 percent of GDP in 2017, there are concerns over the country’s ability to service the arrears.
Societal expression is one of the most common characteristics of human beings. Nations have a unique perspective to describe their respective culture. For instance, regarding expression, we can take the symbolic representation of the Oromo nation by ‘Odaa’ tree. The two are inseparable . That means one could not get the nation without the symbolic representation of ‘Odaa’ tree. Everywhere and every time ‘Odaa’ tree represents the Oromo society. Since the period the symbolic representation began to be practiced, surfing the tide of time the trend still represent the society. To substantiate this point it suffices to see nowadays one would get Odaa tree on the flag of Oromiya state flag and at the hall of Gadaa leaders ‘Galma Abbaa Gadaa’. As an adornment it is embroidered on the costumes of the society. If one takes a century-long ride back on the time train, orally or historically one will trace the Oromo society with the symbolic representation of ‘Odaa’ tree. Studies show that it is hardly possible to tell the time when the symbolic representation of the Oromo society by ‘Odaa’ tree came into being. Due to lack of evidence on as to when the Gadaa system started,still scholars are debating on it. All institutions that represent the Oromo society are established under Gadaa system. Gadaa leaders proclaim laws and make decisions under ‘Odaa’ tree. Based on historical and oral descriptions of the society I would like to dive into as to what is the secret behind the sycamore tree’s symbolic representation. Before I familiarize you with the details let me define as to what is meant by ‘Odaa’ tree? ‘Odaa’ is an Oromo word that stands for a sycamore tree. It is possible to dilate on why the sycamore tree was chosen among other types of trees. What are the points scholars raise?What are the orally passed down sayings ? What do elders say about it? These things consist of the core points of this article readers are invited to go through . Here we go. What Scholars say about? ” Sycamore tree is the center of religion for Oromo society. Besides it is a historical document that helps to recollect sociopolitical aspects of the past generation” Asafa Jalata as described it in his book. As to him there exists no formal written document that throws light on as to when Gadaa system came into being. Regarding this issue scholars are still locked in a debate. For readers better understanding I would like to explain about the close relation between sycamore tree and Gadaa system. As is known, the Oromo society and Gadaa system are inseparable. Gadaa leaders make decision,proclaim laws under the shade of a sycamore tree. They use it as a conference hall or a court room. That is why the governing system is symbolized by it. Some written records about Oromo history give a clue that ‘Odaa’ has been serving as a pillar of all the affair of the Oromos. “Before the birth of Christ, it was there!” Asafa affirms. Sycamore tree is an ever green tree with too much branches. It covers a wide area. Naturally it grows at wet and fertile areas. In the history of Oromo people or since the beginning of Gadaa institution, when a general assembly is organized for sociopolitical and religious purpose tree. So, ‘Odaa tree’ is traditionally believed as the source of tranquility. The Oda shades serves as both central offices of government where Gadaa assemblies are held and where leaders assemble. It as well serves as a sacred place for ritual practices. In the Oromo culture sycamore tree is regarded as the source of peace, an emblem and oneness of the Oromo society, Asafa stated. According to the diction of another scholar ”Oromo religion is mostly related to the ten commandments of the creator .Oromos give worship to one God. All their religious activities are carried out at places where big trees are found” Haberland German citizen researcher of culture. “ The religious system of all Cush tribes are similar. Specially the Oromos regard sycamore tree as an abode of natural spirites. ‘Ayyaana’ is the place where spirit of God is located and heard,” Trimingham (writer). What are the orally passed down sayings? I got two oral sayings. Let us see the first.. Once upon a time heaven and earth had got closer to each other. Fortunately a heavy downpour raged for long hours. All animals took refuge at a house. From all animals a horse created a mess kicking all animals in the house. Since then drought began to surface for a long period of time. Sycamore tree proved the only drought resilient tree. The others proved less compatible. That is why traditionally the Oromos call the tree the shelter/shade of all human beings or sycamore tree. And ‘Walaabuu’ is the origin of all water. Today Walaabuu is called ‘Madda Walaabuu’ which means ‘Odaa’ doesn’t grow outside wet areas and Walaabuu is the origin of all water. Hence the two are inseparable. So,both of them are entwined and revered, for they ever belong to the Oromo Society. The second saying or belief is as follows. Once there was a generous person who lived amid the Walaabuu society. Fortunately he lost his heifer . After searching for it for a long time he got it at a sycamore tree and felt happy. After a long search he was exhausted. So he reclined under the shade of the sycamore tree and slumbered. Suddenly a cloud descended down from heaven and enveloped the sycamore tree and its surroundings. Though the cloud , the almighty sent to mankind his commandments, to be observed by human beings. God gave the most generous person the responsibility to teach others under the shade of a sycamore tree. Then the generous person began to teach others. This way the religious practices got started. Still the shade of Oda tree is seen as a sacred place where the word of God was heard. It is owing to this reason the Oromo society attach Oda Tree the spirit of God. The gist of this belief is precisely related to the explanation of scholars like Haberland. What elders say about? Sycamore tree is a holy and sacred symbol that belongs to Oromo Society. It is a sign of an ever fertility and evergreen bough through out the year. Its shade is sought after by human beings. According to elders a sycamore tree is free from any dirt and poisonous animals like snake,scorpions and others. Apes and baboons prefer it not for their shelter. It is not befouled by their refuses. Due to this reason, people choose it a shelter without fear of any harm. Either a religious or political law issued under it is take one from ‘Waaqaa’ called God ;so it is respected. In general according to the philosophy of the Oromo society, their religion and political systems are entwined and both are entailed under the Gadaa system. Religion and religious practices reinforce the political philosophy of Gaada such as initiation,participation,transfer of power and other political practices. In the religious institution of Gadaa, Oromo religious ceremonies and Gadaa ritual practice such as Irreecha’, ‘Ateetee’, ‘Nabii’, ‘Boorantichaa’, ‘Dhibaayyuu’, Garanfate’,’Ayyaanaa’,’Wadaajaa’,prayers…etc are performed by riversides, by the foot of big hills, by large water bodies and under the shade of big trees like sycamore tree. There have been a number of historical and anthropological studies on the history and culture of Oromo society. Various explanations were given as to why sycamore tree had become a religious and political centre under Gadaa system. In fact still today it represents the society and it has become inter-generation activities with the same interpretation throughout the generation. Youths of today are expected to keep up, boost and transfer the symbolic representation culture of the sycamore tree to coming generations using the assurance of cultural rite.