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With a land mass just larger than SA’s Kruger National Park and a population of 1-million, Djibouti punches well above its weight politically. The Horn of Africa country controls the mouth of the Red Sea and, with that, access to the Suez Canal, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. As a result, it hosts US, French, Italian, Chinese and Japanese military bases; a Saudi base is also in the works. But the government’s seizure of an Emirati-run container terminal — a move allegedly provoked by China — suggests it is looking to leverage its strategic status. Back in 2006, Djibouti’s president, Omar Guelleh, signed a 30-year deal with Dubai-based DP World — one of the largest port management companies in the world — to build, manage and operate the Doraleh container terminal. The terminal opened in 2009 as a joint venture between DP World, with a 33% stake, and the Djibouti port authority, the PDSA, with 67%. Then, in 2013, Hong Kong-listed China Merchants Port Holdings Company...

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