Djibouti: Increasing Chinese Influence Amid Multilateral Military Competition

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter critically documents the evolution of Djibouti’s contemporary intelligence culture. It emphasizes the increasing influence of China in shaping practices and processes inside Djiboutian sovereign territory as well as its role in shaping regional intelligence infrastructures amid the complex security environment. This chapter focuses on the organizational alliances, rivalries and inter-relationships between key actors in-country that encompass five permanently stationed foreign militaries (China, Japan, France, Italy and the United States), two further prospective newcomers (Saudi Arabia and India), additional international anti-piracy forces, and the official government representatives of Djibouti’s longstanding authoritarian leader, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (IOG). In so doing, the chapter assesses the shifting relative significance of multiple external influences. These include the great power interests of the those stationed within the state and the often-underestimated importance of domestic culture and internal agency in adapting to and reshaping Djibouti’s intelligence community. Ultimately, the evidence suggests that a combination of localized nepotism and corruption, the complicity and inaction of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, and increasing influence from the relatively recently established Chinese military presence and its related infrastructural investors is transforming Djibouti’s intelligence culture into one that prioritizes the growing strategic interests of Beijing. Furthermore, the country’s state-led information gathering and dissemination processes remain complex and opaque, as IOG seeks to retain a tight grip on power, with related policies often being determined arbitrarily or clandestinely as a function of leveraging the competing interests of China and the US and its allies. Amid this, the cross-section of primarily qualitative data examined finds a substantive shift towards Chinese ascendency in asserting its own intelligence-related directives and surveillance practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of African Intelligence Cultures
EditorsRyan Shaffer
PublisherRowman & Littlefield Publishers
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-5381-5998-9
ISBN (Print)978-1-5381-5997-2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Djibouti
  • International Relations
  • international relations
  • Security
  • Intelligence
  • China's rise

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