A pier construction project sponsored by the United States will help bring income to this impoverished village and make access to the area easier for U.S. Navy ships fighting the war on terrorism.
The first thing you notice about this village on the north coast of Djibouti is the goats. They're everywhere -- on the porches of the houses, in the streets, blocking the roads.
It is a sign of the poverty of this area. The village is in a country where the average per capita income is $450 a year. Shark fishing and raising goats are the main sources of income here.
But that will change as a new project sponsored by the United States gets under way. Navy Secretary Donald
C. Winter, U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti Marguerita Ragsdale and Djiboutian Defense Minister Ougoureh Kifleh Ahmed cemented cinder blocks in place to signify the start of a $7 million project to build a pier in the village. The pier will support operations by both Djiboutian and U.S. Navy vessels
in the war on terror, Winter said.
"The United States government greatly values the strong friendship it has with Djibouti, and this pier is symbolic of the relationship," Winter said during the ceremony April 20.
The pier also will make it easier for humanitarian aid to reach people in the Horn of Africa and provide commercial berthing for local vessels. "In short, this new pier will become a vital component to Djibouti's increased security and prosperity," Winter said.
By the end of the year, the Djiboutian navy will triple its number of patrol boats. "This will allow the Djiboutians to patrol their waters, really for the first time," a U.S. embassy spokesman said.
Djibouti is a strategic country at the mouth of the Red Sea. Increased patrols will help curb smuggling, human trafficking and piracy in the region. Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa officials said the Djiboutian patrol boats will join those of neighboring Yemen and coalition forces to help maintain safety in the vital sea lane of communication.
Officials said that local people will build the pier, and patrol boats will be permanently based in Obock, giving an economic boost to the village.
Djiboutians dressed in colorful outfits sang and danced as Winter and Ragsdale arrived. The drum they used to keep the beat was an old plastic jerrycan. "We do not have much here," said a Djiboutian navy officer
. "But now there is hope."
Obock was the scene of heavy fighting during the Djiboutian civil war in the early 1990s and with the help of nongovernmental organizations, is beginning to rebuild, U.S. Embassy officials said.
"This is a major part of helping the Djiboutian navy and the Djiboutian economy," Winter said in an interview following the ceremony. "It's a win-win situation."
By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service