On May 6, Secretary Kerry traveled to Djibouti, where he met high-level leaders to discuss U.S.-Djibouti cooperation and Djibouti’s evacuation support efforts from Yemen. This is the first time that a sitting Secretary of State visited Djibouti.
A year ago, President Obama and President Guelleh announced the annual U.S.-Djibouti Binational Forum, and the United States held the initial meetings this year in Washington. Secretary Kerry’s visit followed-up on that agenda, and his meetings included a discussion with Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf. In a press conference following their meeting, Secretary Kerry addressed how our two countries are working together and underscored our close relationship, saying the “United States and Djibouti, plain and simply are friends.”
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) May 6, 2015
Secretary Kerry applauded Djibouti’s role as an essential partner in international counter-piracy efforts, since 2007, which have yielded positive results. “Just a few years ago it seemed like the pirates were winning…With Djibouti’s cooperation, the world community was able to get itself together and strike back. Today, pirates hold no seaworthy ships in this region – zero – and only a small number of hostages, and we hope that before long, that too will be zero. What it proves is that we do have mutual interests where we can find a capacity to be able to cooperate and make a difference. And it goes to show that international teamwork has an ability to successfully meet some of the challenges that we see in the region.”
The two leaders also discussed our shared efforts to advance peace and stability in Somalia and agreed that it is critical for the government in Mogadishu to finalize its constitution, hold democratic elections next year, and integrate forces from Somalia’s regions into its national army. Secretary Kerry thanked Djibouti for its contribution to global peacekeeping efforts, noting that “the Government of Djibouti has made a very important contribution to this effort, and has also committed peacekeeping battalions – two of them – to AMISOM and has hosted the Italian Carabinieri, who train Somalia’s national police. The United States is going to continue to consult with Djibouti as we consider the provisions of broader security assistance to Somalia.”
Djibouti has provided safe haven for many years to Somali refugees, and now, it is providing it to those seeking refuge from Yemen. In their meetings, Secretary Kerry and Djiboutian leaders discussed cooperating to assist refugees who have fled violence in the region. In addition to the United States’ recent contribution of $2 million to support the UNHCR’s operations in Djibouti, Secretary Kerry announced that the United States is providing another $68 million in humanitarian aid for Yemen. He said, “This contribution will include food, water, shelter and other necessities, and it will support vital work of the World Food Program, the UN High Commission for Refugees, UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration, and other international and nongovernmental organizations that are struggling to deliver aid in Yemen itself, on the ground.”
The United States and Djibouti are working together on a number of issues beyond peace and security. Djibouti has become a regional base for science, education, health, and the environment, and is leaning forward on climate change and new energy sources. In fact, local institutions in Djibouti are developing partnerships with American universities to address the threat of climate change.
Secretary Kerry said, “…I have said many times, I say it again: I believe the history of this century is going to be defined by the remarkable growth and development of Africa.”
Young people will play a critical role in shaping the history of this century. During his visit to Djibouti, Secretary Kerry met with youth leaders and listened to them discuss their ambitions for the future. In an effort to help the people of Djibouti generate a more dynamic economy, the United States and Djibouti will partner on a new workforce development project that will help match the training of young people to the needs of today’s job market. Secretary Kerry underscored, “what we, above all, want to do is prevent any young person from falling victim to the preying of violent extremists and people who offer a dead end instead of all of the possibilities of education and opportunity and work.”
Learn more about Secretary Kerry’s visit to Djibouti and his next stops in Riyadh and Paris. You can also view photos and other notes from Secretary Kerry while he is traveling by following @JohnKerry on Twitter.