Assessment of the Military Implication of Chinese Investment in the Port of Djibouti

David Mattingly serves on the board of directors for the Naval Intelligence Professionals and is also a member of the Military Writers Guild.  The views reflected are his own and do not represents the United States Government of any of its agencies.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Title:  Assessment of the Military Implication of Chinese Investment in the Port of Djibouti

Date Originally Written:  March 11, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  June 11, 2018.

Summary:  Since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. policy in Africa has focused primarily on defeating Al-Qaeda franchises and other violent extremists.  Djibouti’s natural deep-water harbor and stable government have made it the primary transshipment point for maritime trade in Northeastern Africa and as a naval base.  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) recent investment in the Port of Djibouti, a country with a U.S. military base, begins another chapter in geopolitical competition.

Text:  The U.S. has a standing requirement for overseas bases to support its global operations.  The U.S. Navy ship USS Cole was attacked in October 2000 in Yemen by Al Qaeda.  In 2003, the U.S. established Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) on the French Army’s Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, to support combat operations in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

In 2007, a reorganization of the U.S. military’s unified command structure created United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) based in Germany.  In Djibouti, since the establishment of USAFRICOM, the CJTF-HOA mission has increased with the growth of al-Qaeda and other groups such as the Islamic State, the conflict in Libya and Yemen, and pirate attacks on merchant shipping in the region.  In addition to the U.S., Camp Lemonnier is used by France, Japan, and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners.

Djibouti’s growth as a transshipment port has increased with the global demand for containerized shipping[1].  Additionally, Africa depends on maritime shipping to carry 90% of its imports and exports.  France created the port of Djibouti in 1888 and it became the capital of French Somaliland in 1892.  Once established, the port of Djibouti quickly became an important refueling station and cargo storage facility for ships traversing the Red Sea to and from the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.  During the closure of the Suez Canal (1967-1975) Djibouti suffered a severe decline in shipping volume.

Today, Djibouti is the linchpin to the PRC’s access to trade with Africa.  Business Tech’s 2015 assessment of African shipping ports states, “Djibouti’s is the only reliable port along the main shipping lanes between Europe and the Gulf and also between Asia on the eastern coast of Africa.” Additionally, Ethiopia lost its access to the sea during its war with Eritrea (1998-2000) and now relies on Djibouti as its transshipment access point.

In 2013, PRC President Xi Jinping, announced the resurgence of the ancient “Silk Road” which linked the PRC to markets in the Middle East and Europe and the idea was formalized in the Belt and Road Action Plan released in 2015.  This plan set out to improve trade relationships through infrastructure investments.  The PRC planned to invest $8 trillion for infrastructure in 68 countries which included Djibouti[2].  The port of Djibouti is critical to both the PRC’s African and European Roads. With the increasing demand for port services, the PRC negotiated to expand existing facilities, build new port facilities, and expand the inland transportation network of Djibouti and Ethiopia.  Due to the lack of natural resources, Djibouti depends on the revenue of its transportation facilities and a 2015 International Monetary Fund Report states “Diversifying [Djibouti’s] economic base remains difficult given that the country lacks natural resources and [its] agriculture and industrial sectors are almost non-existent[3].”

The PRC is the largest source of capital in Djibouti and has provided 40% of the financing for Djibouti’s major infrastructure projects.  Additionally, PRC-based firms built three of the largest projects in Djibouti and the PRC is the minority owners and operators of two of the three[4].

Since the emergence of the Somali pirate threat, the PRC has sought basing rights for the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)) ships which joined in the international effort to protect shipping in the region.  The PRC’s interest in a navy base was born out of several ship engineering problems that developed while PLA(N) ships were deployed to the region and military ties had not been established between the PRC and Djibouti.  Although it was only speculated at the time, the PRC negotiated basing rights for the PLA(N) ships in a 2015 finance package and the base became active in September 2017.  The South China Morning Post reported, “The scale of the wharf should allow for the docking of a four-ship flotilla at least, including China’s new generation Type-901 supply ship with a displacement of more than 40,000 tons, destroyers and frigates, as well as amphibious assault ships for combat and humanitarian missions[5].”

The Trump administration released its 2017 National Security Strategy and though the administration appears to be aware of the situation in Djibouti stating, “China is expanding its economic and military presence in Africa, growing from a small investor in the continent two decades ago into Africa’s largest trading partner today,” the strategy lacks any concrete steps describing how U.S. diplomacy should proceed in the region.

An analysis of U.S. soft power in the Trump administration was recently published in Foreign Policy by Max Boot.  The article notes a recent Gallup Poll of “approval of U.S. leadership across 134 countries and areas stands at a new low of 30%.”  While the PRC is leveraging its economic power to enhance its military position, Boot opines that Trump’s America First campaign has resulted in the declining global opinion of the U.S. which in the long-term may result in a global environment more hostile to U.S. interests.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Henry Kissinger was quoted regarding trends and events that emerged from the Cold War and concludes, “…the rise of India and China is more important than the fall of the Soviet Union[6].”  The U.S. and PRC competition in Djibouti is only the beginning.  While both nations assess each others military forces in Djibouti, other instruments of national power are at work both in Djibouti and elsewhere on the continent.  The U.S. and PRC competition in Africa will likely expand, and be worthy of monitoring over the coming decades.


[1] Africa’s biggest shipping ports. (2015, March 8). Business Tech

[2] Bruce-Lockhart, Anna. China’s $900 billion New Silk Road. What you need to know. World Economic Forum, June 26, 2017

[3] Djibouti Selected Subjects. International Monetary Fund. November 18, 2015

[4] Downs Erica, and Jeffrey Becker, and Patrick deGategno. China’s Military Support Facility in Djibouti: The Economic and Security Dimensions of Chinas First Overseas Base. The CNA Corporation, July 2017.

[5] Chan, Minnie. (2017, September 27). China plans to build Djibouti facility to allow naval flotilla to dock at first overseas base. South China Morning Post.

[6] Mead, W. R. (2018, February 5). A word from Henry Kissinger. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2018, from

Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) David Mattingly Djibouti United States

The Conflict of a New Home: African Migrants and the Push/Pull Factors during Acculturation

Linn Pitts spent a decade in law enforcement prior to transitioning into teaching on a university level.  He presently teaches as an Assistant Professor in the Social Science Department at Shorter University.  He can be found on Twitter @Professor_Pitts and is writing a dissertation on gatekeepers in Countering Violent Extremism programs in the United States.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Title: The Conflict of a New Home: African Migrants and the Push/Pull Factors during Acculturation

Date Originally Written:  February 13, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 28, 2018.

Summary:  Whether migrant has voluntarily relocated to the US from a country in turmoil or a refugee being resettled to the US, the individual may still face factors that pull them towards the conflict of their homeland and may push them from full acculturation in their new society.

Text:  While it is important for the U.S. to have good foreign policies that are able to help address turmoil in African countries, equally important is the posture taken by entities in the U.S. towards migrants that may have moved or been displaced. According to Boyle and Ali [1] the general theories of migration include three broad categories concerning acculturation (the process of social, psychological, and cultural change that stems from blending between cultures) at the end of the migrant’s journey. The categories include group dynamics, reception of the new society, and the nature of the exit from their home country. All of these categories serve as excellent assessment points for developing an understanding of the issues faced by migrants. For the purposes of this assessment, the primary focus is group dynamics and the reception of a new society. If policy makers understand the nuances of group dynamics and the reception possibilities of a new society, they will be better prepared to provide good governance.

Group dynamics include cultural aspects and family dynamics illustrated by interactions within extended families and communities. These group dynamics can be problematic as Boyle and Ali explain as family structures are impacted by what U.S. law has deemed a family such as the exclusion of polygamy, the allowance of only nuclear family members to migrate as a group, and the lack of elder support in their transplanted home. Boyle and Ali further indicate that conflicts from their home countries have already broken some families apart. Each migratory situation will vary depending on the state of being a migrant or a refugee as noted by Bigelow [2]. Boyle and Ali further specified that the loss of extended family members severely impact the migrant families such as limiting child care and a lack of traditional family roles. In seeking to properly conceptualize these aspects, a purposeful interview was conducted with a migrant. In personal communications with Mia (pseudonym), she noted her family moved to the U.S. when she was approximately eight years of age and she is now 21 years of age. The relocation to the U.S. was prompted by tribal conflicts that limited opportunities in her home country in Central Africa. She confirmed that since arriving in the U.S., the lack of extended family was problematic, especially regarding the roles her parents once held in their home country. In general, these issues would categorically further migrant reliance on state resources such as outside parties to resolve disputes and the social service programs.

The reception of the new society as noted by Boyle and Ali entails a period of adaptation and sometimes it is a struggle due to the removal of family support. Whereas dependence on social service programs may provide time for adaptation and development of social capital, it may not completely replace the extended family. Mia stated she found it difficult to acculturate due to bullying, issues with racial identity, and struggles adapting academically primarily based on differences in English, a point supported by Bigelow. Mia was bullied by African-American children in part due to misperceptions, “African-Americans view (sic) Africans as savages, uneducated, and poor,” Mia remarked. Continuing, she said “often time I do not see myself as black but as African.” It is an interesting concept supported by the work of Bigelow revealing migrant parents of Somali youth were concerned about the perceptions of the interactions with African-American children, especially if their children are viewed as unruly. Mia noted the parental views had merit concerning an understanding of the difficult transitions to life in the United States. While Central African and Horn of African nations are distinct entities in different regions of the Africa, Mia described the cultural contexts as “that’s just African,” She found friendship with children who had relocated from Kenya and Nigeria. Bigelow noted that the migrant children are living in two worlds, their world at home and their world at school. This two-world construct was also supported by Zhou [3] in a discussion of cultural identity and the impact on children of migrants.

Another point of reception in a new society deals with the aspects of understanding local laws during a period of acculturation. The transition can be aided by groups and religious organizations seeking to aid in the transition to the U.S. While recent arrests and later convictions of Minnesota-based Somalis seeking to join the Islamic State captured headlines, consider efforts of municipal agencies in Minnesota [4] and Clarkston, Georgia located on the outskirts metro-Atlanta. According to David (personal communications), a missionary in Clarkston, the city was chosen to be a refugee resettlement area in the 1990s. He noted the area was a prime location for refugee resettlement due to the high degree of apartment complexes (near 80%), featured a low-cost of living, it was close proximity to a major airport, and it had a public transit available to Atlanta. Moreover, he detailed that Time Magazine deemed this portion of Clarkston as the most diverse square mile in the U.S. As an example, approximately 100 languages were spoken at Indian Creek Elementary School in Clarkston. When asked about the Somali population, David stated it was previously the largest migrant population in Clarkston but population dynamics recently shifted due to the Myanmar Crisis. Clarkston is a success because people who come to the U.S. as a result of U.S. asylum and refugee resettlement programs not only have a place to settle, but that place has many features which, according to Salehyan and Gleditsch [5], can help minimize tensions during acculturation. Clarkston, through its ability to make acculturation smoother, allows grievances to be addressed early so they do not lead migrants down extremist pathways.

Regarding grievances and tensions, Somalis, like most inhabitants of developing countries, have a legacy of distrust with the police [6] an aspect intensified by recent efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials [7]. Boyle and Ali found Somali men feel persecuted in the United States by law enforcement mainly due to enforcement of laws such as domestic violence. Whereas in Somalia, the family elder may intervene to address problems, due to aforementioned issues the elders are not present. Law enforcement officers have a great deal of discretion in their daily activities, unless arrest is mandated by statute such as domestic violence. Even if law enforcement acts in good faith with the intent of upholding the law, issues could still arise. Weine, Eisenman, Kinsler, Glik, and Polutnik [8] identified that law enforcement may create resentment and ultimately diminish cooperation from communities if these communities are policed in a way seen as culturally incompatible. Weine, Eisenman, Kinsler, Glik, and Polutnik suggested a community health approach. This approach was indirectly supported by Boyle and Ali in their examination and later assessed by Cummings, Kamaboakai, Kapil, and Stone. In closing, while generous U.S. policies enable migrants to come to the U.S., unless the location where they finally arrive is prepared to receive them, and local capabilities are ready to provide close and continuing support during acculturation, the migrant will likely continue to face a friction-filled existence. This existence may make the migrant feel pulled back home and simultaneously pushed into a new society which they do not understand.


[1] Boyle, E.H., & Ali, A. (2010). Culture, structure, and the refugee experience in Somali immigrant family transformation. International Migration, 48(1), 47-79.

[2] Bigelow, M. (2010). Mogadishu on the Mississippi: Language, racialized identity, and education in a new land. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

[3] Zhou, M. (2003). Growing Up American: The challenge confronting immigrant children and children of immigrants. Annual Review of Sociology. 23. 63-95. 10.1146/annurev.soc.23.1.63.

[4] Cumings, P., Kamaboakai, E. T., Kapil, A., & Stone, C. (2016). A Growing Community: Helping Grand Forks increase inclusion of new Americans.

[5] Salehyan, I., & Gleditsch, K. S. (2006). Refugees and the spread of civil war. International Organization, 60, 335-366.

[6] Haugen, G. A., & Boutros, V. (2015). The locust effect: Why the end of poverty requires the end of violence. Oxford University Press.

[7] Redmond, J. (2017, April 13). Immigration arrests target Somalis in Atlanta area. Atlanta Journal Constitutional. Retrieved from

[8] Weine, S., Eisenman, D. P., Kinsler, J., Glik, D. C., & Polutnik, C. (2017). Addressing violent extremism as public health policy and practice. Behavioral sciences of terrorism and political aggression, 9(3), 208-221.

Africa Assessment Papers Linn Pitts Migrants United States

Options for U.S. Naval Force Posture in East Africa

Matt Hein is a U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer currently studying for his Masters in Security Studies at Georgetown University.  He can be found on Twitter @Matt_TB_Hein.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

National Security Situation:  Low intensity maritime conflict and engagement in Eastern Africa.

Date Originally Written:  February 11, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  May 21, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article addresses U.S. naval force posture options in East Africa and the implications for a resource-constrained force.

Background:  Demands for counter-piracy operations, countering maritime human smuggling, countering the growth of violent extremism in Sub-Saharan African countries, and partner nation capacity building require the constant presence of U.S. naval forces in East African littoral zones.  Friction arises when high-end combatants such as aircraft carriers and destroyers divert from their East African littoral mission to the nearby Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea to conduct other missions.

Significance:  U.S. naval presence in East Africa has improved maritime security and facilitated operations on land.  Coalition efforts reduced piracy incidents from 237 attempted hijackings in 2011 to only three such attempts in 2017[1].  Joint exercises, such as Cutlass Express, have developed partner nation maritime law enforcement capacity[2].  Intelligence gathering from sea based platforms has enabled multiple U.S. military missions ashore[3].  Increasing demand for high-end combatants in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea leaves the East African littoral mission vulnerable to having its gains reversed and questions the utility of those ships for low intensity missions.  Enhanced naval presence from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the region, most notably the establishment of a port facility in Djibouti, further complicates force posture decision-making.   Despite the incredible gains realized for maritime security in the region, there is a demand signal for deliberate planning to match appropriate naval assets with a growing range of regional needs.

Option #1:  The U.S. maintains its current naval force posture for the East Africa littoral mission.

Risk:  Current naval force posture rotates multiple Expeditionary Strike Groups and Carrier Strike Groups through the region annually, in addition to several independent deployers dispatched for counter-piracy operations[4].  The opportunity cost of these deployments is enormous.  These ships were designed for much more complex operating environments and can often be better utilized in those environments.  Using multi-billion dollar warships for low intensity engagement not only limits the utility of these ship’s advanced combat systems but also inflates the likelihood they will be diverted to other specialized missions such as ballistic missile defense or integrated air defense.

Gain:  The existing force posture is responsible for enhanced maritime security already realized in the region.  While expanding threats may challenge the ability to maintain these gains, this hasn’t happened to the extent that a dramatic rise in piracy or a drop in partner nation capacity has occurred.  Further, the historical integration and corporate knowledge of U.S. ships deploying to the theater gives them an inherent advantage for conducting these types of operations.

Option #2:  The U.S. forward deploys two Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to Djibouti Naval Base.

Risk:  Forward-deploying the LCS is expensive and would require a large logistics and maintenance footprint in Djibouti.  Maintenance issues have plagued the LCS and will be exacerbated by a remote maintenance infrastructure with little experience.  Maintenance issues are compounded by difficult crew rotation schedules that have already hampered a similar forward deployment of LCS to Singapore[5].  The probability that forward deployed LCS will provide a persistent capability for the East Africa littoral mission is limited significantly by these LCS-wide problems.

Gain:  The LCS surface warfare mission package is uniquely suited for the East Africa littoral mission.  The LCS uses a combination of high speeds and shallow draft to operate aviation facilities, dedicated boarding teams, and anti-surface capabilities in littoral environments[6].  These attributes make the LCS ideal for intelligence gathering, capacity building, and counter-piracy missions.  Additionally, the use of LCS allows the multi-billion dollar warships currently conducting these missions to operate in more contested environments and across a broader swath of missions in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.   Option #2 also builds on the surge of LCS in similar mission sets from counter-drug operations in the Caribbean to fisheries patrols and bilateral engagements in Southeast Asia.

Option #3:  The U.S. decreases its naval presence in East Africa.

Risk:  The construction of the PRC naval base in Djibouti means the gap in activity from the U.S. Navy would likely be filled, at least in part, by a PRC presence.  The construction of a military docking facility, capable of berthing most People’s Liberation Army (Navy) ships, means previous PRC task forces deployed to the region could become a permanent fixture[7].  As foreign investment pours into East Africa, a reduced naval presence could cause countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, and Somalia to turn elsewhere for maritime security support of their burgeoning economies.  Option #3 could further challenge the efficacy of counter-extremist efforts on land that require logistical and intelligence support from offshore assets.

Gain:  Decreasing U.S. naval presence does not mean disavowing the East Africa littoral mission entirely.  A P-3 squadron forward-deployed to Djibouti naval base combined with transiting strike groups still leaves intermittent capacity in the region to continue to support the East Africa littoral mission.  Option #3 also eliminates the requirements of keeping ships off the coast of Djibouti.  Not having to keep ships off Djibouti would allow a refocus towards heightened Iranian tensions, threats from Houthi rebels in Yemen, or even relocation to the Pacific fleet operating area in support of growing requirements.

Other Comments:  The Surface Navy Strategic Readiness Review, released in December 2017, stated that increasing readiness “require(s) a variety of naval assets and capabilities tailored to best achieve desired results[8].”  Shifting from a “demand” to “supply” model for naval surface forces means capabilities must be optimized against the mission with which they are tasked.  The options presented in this paper are three examples, of many, for shifting to a supply-based model for naval assets without sacrificing the East Africa littoral mission.

Recommendation:   None.


[1] Sow, M. (2017, April 12). Figures of the week: Piracy and Illegal Fishing in Somalia. Africa in Focus.Retrieved February 9, 2018.

[2] Williams, F. (2018, February 7), Exercise Cutlass Express 2018 Closes. Retrieved February 10, 2018.

[3] Eckstein, M. (2017, July 5).Textron’s Aerosonde Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Eligible for Navy Sea-Based ISR. United States Naval Institute News. Retrieved February 10, 2018.

[4] Defense Media Activity for U.S. Navy Office of Information. Navy Versus Piracy  #PresenceMatters. Retrieved February 10, 2018 from

[5] Lartner, D. (2017, February 20) LCS crew marooned in Singapore on open-ended
deployment. Navy Times. Retrieved February 9, 2018 from

[6] United States Navy Chief of Information. Fact File: Littoral Combat Ships – Surface Warfare Mission Package. Retrieved February 10, 2018 from

[7] Chan, M (2017, September 17) China plans to build Djibouti facility to allow naval flotilla to dock at first overseas base. South China Morning Post. Retrieved February 9, 2018 from

[8] Bayer, M. Roughead, G. (2017, December 4) United States Navy Strategic Readiness
Review. Pg.20. Retrieved February 11, 2018 from

Africa China (People's Republic of China) Djibouti East Africa Horn of Africa Maritime Matt Hein Option Papers United States

Assessment of the Security Implications of Environmental Crime in Africa

Zachary Lubelfeld is pursuing a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations at Syracuse University.  He is currently in Maputo, Mozambique on a Boren Fellowship studying Portuguese and the extractive sector in Mozambique.  All opinions in this article are those of the author and do not represent the official positions of Syracuse University or the National Security Education Program.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Title:  Assessment of the Security Implications of Environmental Crime in Africa

Date Originally Written:  January 22, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 30, 2018.

Summary:  Environmental crime is a growing component of transnational crime, as well as an increasingly lucrative one. Organized crime, militia groups, and terrorist organizations all profit off the illicit sale of everything from minerals to animals. This criminal activity poses a significant threat, not just to the communities in which it occurs or where these entities commit violence, but to the health and safety of people around the world.

Text:  As globalization continues apace, and the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the benefits, like greater access to goods and information, are matched by the costs, such as the increased space for transnational criminal activity. One of the least discussed aspects of this is environmental crime. Global environmental crime is a burgeoning market, worth an estimated $213 billion annually[1]. This environmental crime includes a wide range of illicit activities, such as illegal logging in rainforests, illegal mining of mineral resources, and poaching elephants and rhinoceroses for their ivory.  The lack of focus on environmental crime allows criminal organizations to wreak havoc with relative impunity, and nowhere is this truer than in Africa. The pernicious effects of wildlife exploitation are felt across all of Africa, the security implications of which are myriad. Regional stability, armed conflict and terrorism, and global health are all impacted by wildlife exploitation in Africa, with potentially dangerous results not just for Africans, but for people worldwide.

Environmental crime is an important driver of violence and conflict across Africa, as it provides integral revenue streams for many violent militia groups and terrorist organizations. Perhaps the most well-known example of this are conflict minerals, which refers to minerals that are sold to fund violence. Diamonds have long been a driver of conflict in Africa, a recent example of which is the ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic[2]. Violent militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) profit from the sales of minerals like cassiterite, a tin ore worth about $500/kg that is used in products such as phones, laptops, and cars[3]. The value of the illicit mineral trade in East, Central, and West Africa is valued at $2.4 billion to $9 billion per year, which rivals the value of the global heroin and cocaine markets combined[4].

Another key component of environmental crime is poaching, both for bush meat and for ivory. Armed militia groups as well as military units in Africa rely on poaching for food – for example, one adult elephant can feed an average army regiment. Ivory is the more lucrative reason for poaching, however. Elephant tusks sell for an estimated $680/kg[5], while rhinoceros horn is worth upwards of $65,000/kg. Ivory can be sold, or traded for supplies and weapons, and is a major funding source across Africa, from the Lord’s Resistance Army in eastern Africa to transnational criminal networks operating in Mozambique; there is even evidence that the Somali terrorist organization al-Shabaab profits from ivory smuggling. The illicit sale of ivory is also an important revenue source for armed militias in the DRC[6] and groups like the Janjaweed, the notorious Sudanese militias responsible for the genocide in Darfur[7].

Lesser known examples of environmental crime are essential to funding the operations of terrorist organizations across Africa, such as illegal logging. One of the primary uses of illegal logging is the production and taxation of charcoal, which is a fuel source for Africans who don’t have access to electricity. Al-Shabab had earned an estimated $56 billion from illicit charcoal by 2014, making it the primary source of funding for their operations.  Additionally, there are reports that the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram derives funding from the trade[8]. Furthermore, profits from the illegal timber trade are used to facilitate arms smuggling in Africa, arming terrorists, as well as rebel groups such as in Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire[9].

As concerning as it is that terrorist organizations and militia groups derive significant benefit from environmental crime, a potentially even greater danger is the consequences it could have on global health. A variety of animals are trafficked internationally, from rare birds and reptiles to gorillas, as well animal parts like pelts and tusks. This contact between animals and humans increases the risk of transmission of dangerous zoonotic diseases. Zoonotic diseases are transmitted from animals to humans. One example is the Ebola virus, which is thought to come from bats and primates, the latter of which may have spread the disease while being trafficked through cities is western Africa[10].

Increased transport of wildlife internationally increased the chances of the spread of dangerous pathogens, especially in the case of illicit trafficking. Pathogens that may otherwise have been contained in one location are sent around the world, increasing the risk of pandemic. While customs procedures designed to screen for these pathogens exist, wildlife traffickers bypass these to avoid detection, so infected animals are not discovered and put in quarantine. Therefore, wildlife trafficking could lead to the international transmission of a disease like Ebola, anthrax, or Yersinia pestis, otherwise known as the bubonic plague.

It is clear that environmental crime is as lucrative for criminals as it is dangerous to everyone else, and therefore shows no signs of slowing down. Given the potential harm that it could cause, by funding groups who seek to bring violence and chaos wherever they go, as well as by increasing the probability of devastating pandemic, environmental crime will certainly continue if it is not addressed by law enforcement and policy makers.


[1] Vira, V., Ewing, T., & Miller, J. (2014, August). Out of Africa: Mapping the Global Trade in Illicit Elephant Ivory. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from C4ADS:

[2] A Game of Stones: smuggling diamonds in the Central African Republic. (2017, June 22). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

[3] Morrison, S. (2015, May 16). ‘Conflict minerals’ funding deadly violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo as EU plans laws to clean up trade. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

[4] Environmental Crime. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

[5] Chen, A. (2016, November 07). Poaching is on the rise – most illegal ivory comes from recently killed elephants. Retrieved January 20, 2018, from

[6] Toeka Kakala, Taylor. “Soldiers Trade in Illegal Ivory” InterPress Service News Agency. 25 July 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.

[7] Christina M. Russo, “What Happened to the Elephants of Bouba Ndjida?” MongaBay, March 7, 2013. Available at

[8] Ibid.

[9] ILLEGAL LOGGING & THE EU: AN ANALYSIS OF THE EU EXPORT & IMPORT MARKET OF ILLEGAL WOOD AND RELATED PRODUCTS(Rep.). (2008, April). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from World Wildlife Foundation website:

[10] Bouley, T. (2014, October 06). Trafficking wildlife and transmitting disease: Bold threats in an era of Ebola. Retrieved January 15, 2018, from

Africa Assessment Papers Criminal Activities Environmental Factors Illicit Trafficking Activities Zachary Lubelfeld

Assessment of Infrastructure Development in Africa and Shifting Chinese Foreign Policy

Tyler Bonin is a history and economics instructor.  He is also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he developed and participated in host nation infrastructure projects as a construction wireman.  He can be found on Twitter @TylerMBonin.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Title:  Assessment of Infrastructure Development in Africa and Shifting Chinese Foreign Policy

Date Originally Written:  January 12, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 2, 2018.

Summary:   The People’s Republic of China’s continued infrastructure investment in Africa through its One Belt, One Road initiative has led to incremental change in its foreign policy. Security challenges arising in Africa due to continued PRC investment might lead to an increased PRC military presence on the continent, as well as a complete revision of its non-interference policy.

Text:  In 2013, People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Xi Jinping proposed a $5 trillion international infrastructure plan entitled One Belt, One Road (OBOR), intended to advance land and maritime trade routes between Asia, Europe, and Africa[1]. Initial expansion has included approximately 1,700 road, railway, pipeline, and port projects undertaken by PRC state-owned and private enterprises. The state-developed Silk Road Fund and several multilateral development banks have financed these infrastructure projects, in addition to PRC commercial bank loans to OBOR partner countries[2].

A combination of private and state-owned PRC construction firms have built several railways between major African cities, including the Addis Ababa – Djibouti line, which is Africa’s first transnational electric railway. PRC-built railways have opened landlocked countries’ access to seaports, eased the burden of travel for workers, and ultimately facilitated the development of industrial economic corridors. Additionally, PRC companies have continued their investment in roadways and ports. Construction of a port at Bagamoyo in Tanzania will have the two-fold effect of easing congestion at neighboring ports and attracting foreign direct investment; it is slated to be Africa’s largest port[3]. Overall, views toward PRC development activities have been enthusiastic. Survey data from Afrobarometer demonstrates that 63% of Africans (averaged across all countries) view PRC influence as “somewhat” or “very” positive[4]. The PRC’s increasing global investment in infrastructure improves the country’s access to natural resources and also opens access to markets for PRC goods and services. It also serves as a powerful element of the PRC’s increasing soft power.

The PRC’s ever-expanding investment in Africa has also meant its increased role in security on the African continent. As the PRC has invested heavily in the Sudanese oil industry, civil conflict in South Sudan in 2013 led Beijing to take a proactive mediation position. In addition to promising to continue PRC participation in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, President Jinping has also promised to support the development of counter-terrorism measures within African countries[5]. All of these activities have been a departure from the PRC’s traditional “non-interference” foreign policy stance. Security concerns in the past have arisen as the direct result of terrorist activity in Africa, including the kidnapping of PRC workers by the jihadist group Boko Haram. Furthermore, the PRC is now focusing on security as a manner in which to protect its infrastructure investments. Civil unrest and terrorist activity stalls PRC projects and hinders economic activity; the large upfront capital investment required of these infrastructure projects requires continuity in development, which is interrupted by civil strife.

However, security concerns in Africa may also surface as a direct result of PRC infrastructure development. While PRC activity in Africa has been viewed positively on average, PRC labor practices have received negative attention in particular regions. While PRC construction firms have used local workers for projects in regions where the pool of skilled labor is steady, PRC nationals have been brought into regions where skilled laborers do not exist in large enough numbers. Thus, a narrative of foreign workers taking jobs in which local workers could be employed has given rise to periodic populist movements in Africa. One example of populist movement activity is in Kenya, where a group demanding that a PRC project provide jobs to local citizens attacked PRC railway construction workers[6].

Furthermore, young and unemployed populations provide the foundation for rebel movements; As rebel groups may seize access to a country’s resources—and use the sales of such for continuing to fund the movement—participation in rebellion essentially provides young individuals with their only means to income[7]. Many fragile states are the product of extended civil war. Subsequently, these states have seen low levels of education and loss of skills among their working age populations. These fragile states, such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, represent the situation in which PRC workers are used[8]. Thus, PRC activities are a possible catalyst for violence in fragile states where infrastructure projects continue.  In these fragile states, local resentment and populist fervor may build due to the perception that political elites only profit from the governmental arrangement with Beijing, while persistent unemployment exists during an ever-increasing influx of PRC workers. These factors combined may provide the impetus for rebellion that would harm the long-term goals of the PRC’s OBOR.

Due to the preceding, PRC roles in security in Africa may continue well beyond the current financing of counterterrorism measures and the provision of troops to UN peacekeeping operations. Specifically, the PRC’s non-intervention foreign policy may give way to a policy that seeks to actively finance state police forces and provide a stronger military advisory role.  While Djibouti currently maintains a permanent PRC naval station, an active PRC military presence seems likely to grow as investment in Africa increases, especially in fragile states. The dynamics of increased PRC economic and military influence in Africa are just now coming into existence and will pose interesting questions for future security considerations.


[1] van der Leer, Y., Yau, J. (2016, February). China’s New Silk Route: The Long and Winding Road. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from

[2] Gang, W. (2017, May 9). SOEs Lead Infrastructure Push in 1,700 ‘Belt and Road’ Projects. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from

[3] Tairo, A. (2017, October 3). Tanzania Surrenders Bagamoyo Port Project to Chinese Firm. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from

[4] Lekorwe, M., Chingwete, A., Okuru M., and Samson R. (2016, October 24). China’s Growing Presence in Africa Wins Largely Positive Popular Reviews. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from

[5] Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. (2012, July 19). Fifth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC Opens Further China-Africa Cooperation. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from

[6] White, E. Analysis: Unpacking Attacks On Chinese Workers in Africa. (2016, August 5). Retrieved January 22, 2018, from

[7] World Bank’s World Development Report (2011). Retrieved January 12, 2018, from

[8] Coroado, H. and Brock, J. (2015, July 9). Angolans Resentful As China Tightens Its Grip. Retrieved January 12, 2018, from

Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Tyler Bonin

Options to Build Local Capabilities to Stabilise the Lake Chad Region

Fulan Nasrullah is a national security policy adviser based in Nigeria.  He currently works for an international research and policy advisory firm.  Fulan tweets at @fulannasrullah and blogs here.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government.

National Security Situation:  Counterinsurgency and stabilisation campaigns in the Lake Chad region.

Date Originally Written:  December 11, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 5, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point Of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a Nigerian National Security Advisor, offering options on the building of key local capabilities in the Lake Chad region to further degrade destabilising non-state armed groups in the region, while fostering stability in the area.

Background:  With the launch of conventional offensives by the Nigerian and Chadian armies in 2015, non-state armed groups in the Lake Chad region and Northeast Nigeria have lost much of the territory which they had earlier captured.  The successes of the regional governments’ conventional offensives have forced the non-state armed groups to return to a heavy emphasis on revolutionary and asymmetric warfare, which the local armies and governments are ill prepared to confront.

The conventional offensive resulted in a situation where local security capabilities, already inadequate, are  increasingly overstretched and worn down, by having to manage multiple security problems over such a wide area.

The Nigerian Army has an estimated 40,000-45,000 combat and support personnel (out of a total 130,000+ personnel) deployed in Northeast Nigeria, in over forty combat battalions.  These include the battalions that make up the in theatre 7 and 8 Divisions, plus those backfilling from 3, 1 and 2 Divisions.  These forces represent the majority of the Nigerian Army’s combat deployable strength, most of whom have been serving a minimum of 2 years of continuous deployment in the Northeast theatre.

However, unlike the much larger Nigerian military, other regional armies involved in this conflict have fewer manpower and material resources to expend.  These less capable forces struggle to combat an insurgency that has proven itself adaptable, and which despite losing conventionally, has sustained itself and progressively gained momentum on the asymmetric front.  The insurgency specifically uses armed groups to offset the disadvantage they suffer in conventional strength, through guerrilla operations, terror, and a heavy focus on information operations and ideological education and propagation targeted at local populations in rural areas.

Weak institutional capabilities, in addition to lack of intelligence and analysis-based understanding of these armed groups, have contributed to multiple conflicting and unrealistic strategies from the regional states, plus enhanced insurgent momentum.

Significance:  United States investment in building local capabilities is a necessity for both the U.S. and Lake Chad regional states, both to degrade active non-state armed groups in the region, and to build, foster, and maintain stability.  Without this investment by the United States, regional states will  be unable to stop the conflict which, though currently at a  strategic stalemate, could turn into a strategic victory for the insurgent groups.

While Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad poses a serious threat to local stability, the Islamic State’s West African Province (ISWAP) is a greater worry for United States’ interests globally and in the long-term.  The power vacuum created by regional states failing to degrade insurgent capabilities[1], thus ceding territory, will create a huge opening for ISWAP and its local affiliates in the Lake Chad, Sahel, and Libyan regions to exploit.  Power vacuums have already been created in the Lake Chad Islands[2], and will be further created as the Nigerian government plans to abandon the rural Borno State[1].

Option #1:  The U.S. invests solely in a kinetic buildup, by establishing a regional infantry and counterinsurgency training centre in Nigeria, in the mold of the Fort Irwin National Training Centre, drawing on lessons the U.S. military learnt in Iraq and Afghanistan, to train local militaries.  A kinetic build up would also involve providing training and funding for more troops and units for the Nigerian and Chadian armies.  These troops would be dedicated to the clearing out of the Lake Chad Islands and areas around the Lake, in addition to training and funding more special operations units with the firepower and mobility necessary to engage in relentless pursuit of insurgents.  Finally, this option would invest in training, funding, and arming already existing local volunteer militia and paramilitary organisations such as the Civilian Joint Task Force in Nigeria, while embedding U.S. advisors with both militia, paramilitary, and regular armed forces units down to the platoon level.

Risk:  Option #1 results in the U.S. de facto owning the war against non-state armed groups in the Lake Chad region.  In the U.S. this owning would lead to deeper engagement in yet another foreign war in an era of President Donald Trump’s “America First,” and increase the risks of more American combat deaths in this region with the accompanying political blowback.  Within the region, Option #1 would increase resistance from local political and military elements who do not want to admit they are incapable of dealing with the crisis themselves, or who may simply be war profiteers not interested in this conflict ending.

Gain:  Option #1 results in the degrading of the military, logistic, and organisational capabilities of ISWAP and Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad and the rolling back of ISWAP’s growing structure in the region.  This degrading and rolling back would place destabilising actors under constant crushing military pressure, increase the tactical performance of local military forces, and use existing volunteer militias to stabilize the government-controlled areas when the conventional military forces depart.  All of the preceding will enable military units to concentrate on offensive operations thus eliminating the ability of global-level actors, e.g. the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, to use bases and ungoverned spaces in the region to attack U.S. interests.

Option #2:  The U.S. invests in a non-kinetic build-up, by helping to establish and expand regional states’ information operations capabilities particularly in electronic warfare, psychological operations, and targeted information dissemination via “Radio-In-A-Box” and other mediums.  Option #2 also includes the U.S. providing training and funding for comprehensive reformations of local intelligence services to create lacking signals intelligence, human intelligence, and intelligence analysis capabilities.  Option #2 will enhance the U.S. Security Governance Initiative programme[3] which seeks to enhance local civil administration capabilities in law enforcement, anti-corruption, and criminal justice, and enhance local capabilities to deliver humanitarian support and government services to communities in the conflict zone.

Risk:  Option #2 reduces emphasis on degrading insurgent capabilities so soft-power efforts are properly funded.  This option would leave the insurgents alone and lead to indirect validation of regional government falsehoods that the insurgents have been defeated and the war is over.  This indirect validation will foster nonchalance and complacency from states of the region, to the strategic advantage of the insurgents. Option #2 will ensure de facto reduction of pressure on the insurgents, which gives room for the insurgents and their external allies to exploit the resultant power vacuum.

Gain:  Option #2 strengthens local governance capabilities, increases civil stability in government controlled areas, and is less expensive, less visible, and shorter term in an era of “America First.”  Option #2 would greatly reduce the risk of American combat deaths.

Other Comments:  None

Recommendations:  None.


[1] Carsteen, Paul and Lanre, Ola. (December 1, 2017) “Nigeria Puts Fortress Towns At Heart Of New Boko Haram Strategy”, Reuters, retrieved from:

[2] Taub, Ben (December 4, 2017), “Lake Chad: World’s Most Complex Humanitarian Disaster”, New Yorker Magazine, retrieved from:

[3] Chalfin, Julie E. and Thomas-Greenfield, Linda. (May 16, 2017), “The Security Governance Intiative” PRISM Vol 6. No.4, Center For Complex Operations, National Defense University (US) retrieved from:

Africa Fulan Nasrullah Insurgency & Counteinsurgency Irregular Forces Lake Chad Option Papers United States

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