In a recent interview with the online newspaper The Africa Report, Djibouti’s Foreign Minister Mahmoud Ali Youssuf commented on the evolution of the crisis in Ethiopia and the possible consequences for Djibouti.

The minister says he is certain of Ethiopia’s ability to resist the current complex dynamics underway in Tigray, and the concomitant regional pressures fueled by ethnic nationalism, believing that there is no risk of fragmentation of the country.

At the same time, Mahmoud Ali Youssuf believes that the security risks for the region are present and concrete, although they have been dealt with by both Addis Ababa and Djibouti authorities.

In fact, the foreign minister’s words reveal a certain fear for regional stability and, above all, for the possible consequences of a prolonged phase of conflict in Tigray and neighboring areas, where – although the minister is cautious in his statements – a security problem could also arise for neighboring Djibouti.

The recent violence that has divided the Afar and Somali ethnic communities in Djibouti is a direct consequence of the conflict in Ethiopia, and this is a fact well known to the Djibouti authorities, who are trying to contain the pressure of ethnic confrontation through a policy of greater inclusion towards the Afar minorities, in stark contrast to the traditional approach of the dominant Somali group.

In addition to the fear of a growing risk of ethnic conflict, however, Djibouti also fears the possibility of an economic backlash deriving from the possible reduction – or worse, interruption – of the flow of goods from Ethiopia to the loading terminals of Doraleh, through the recently built railway line.

The hypothesis of a large-scale conflict in Ethiopia, or even worse a partial or total dissolution of the federation, could determine for Djibouti not only a dangerous instability in terms of security but also a disastrous return on the country’s economy.

This is the reason, therefore, that pushes the Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh to support with conviction the role and the politics of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, even in the context of a contradictory position of international politics where both Ethiopia and Eritrea are in the spotlight of the UN and the United States, risking to see very heavy sanctions applied that would indirectly involve Djibouti’s interests.


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