Djibouti sides with Saudi Arabia in Qatar Crisis

Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh at independence celebrations in June 2016 (US Air Force photo / Staff Sgt. Eric Summers Jr.)

Djibouti has announced its ‘solidarity’ with a Saudi-led coalition boycotting Qatar diplomatically and economically over the Gulf nation’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, among other grievances.

Long-running tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar erupted into the open this week with the announcement of a blockade of the Kingdom’s land border with Qatar and severing of diplomatic relations.

Saudi Arabia also closed its airspace to Qatar Airways, dealing the commercial airliner a major blow, forcing Europe-bound flights to be rerouted over Iranian airspace.

Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE also cut ties with Qatar. A few African countries have taken sides, with Senegal recalling its ambassador from Qatar, among others, while Sudan and Somalia remained neutral and offered to help mediate.

Djibouti’s position was unequivocal: “The Government of the Republic of Djibouti officially announces that it has decided to reduce the level of its diplomatic representation in Qatar,” reads a statement released Wednesday by the country’s foreign ministry.

The statement adds that the decision was taken “in solidarity with the international coalition for combatting terrorism and violent extremism together with the countries of the Gulf and the Arab nations.”

However, the final paragraph of the three-paragraph statement called for the “brotherly Arab countries” to resolve their differences through dialogue, saying Djibouti wants to maintain good relations with all.

Professor Harry Verhoeven, who has written extensively on the politics of the Horn of Africa, said Wednesday in an interview that he expects some African nations to face pressures or inducements from the Emirates and Saudi Arabia to cut ties with Qatar.

Both sides have influence in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Sudan and Somalia, so Verhoeven cautions of a possible ‘bidding war’ for loyalties, which could in turn influence local politics and conflicts.

Djibouti, for its part, is a member of the Arab League, and its support for Saudi Arabia will add symbolically to the pressure on Qatar, albeit without necessarily adding practically to the strength of the economic embargo.

Ties between Saudi Arabia and Djibouti have been strong, with plans underway for a pact that would allow the former to build its own military base in Djibouti.


The Messenger – Reliable. Clean. Intelligent. Sign up for our free newsletter today.