Eye on India: China to appoint special envoy to Horn of Africa

China will appoint a special envoy for the Horn of Africa, a cluster of countries on a key shipping route close to India, foreign minister Wang Yi, a signal that Beijing wants to play a bigger role in the conflict-torn region.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Kenyan counterpart Raychelle Omamo bump elbows during a news conference in the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya on Thursday. (REUTERS)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Kenyan counterpart Raychelle Omamo bump elbows during a news conference in the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya on Thursday. (REUTERS)
Published on Jan 06, 2022 06:36 PM IST
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Sutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Amit Chanda

China will appoint a special envoy for the Horn of Africa, a cluster of countries on a key shipping route close to India, state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi announced on Thursday, a signal that Beijing wants to play a bigger role in the conflict-torn region.

Wang made the announcement in Mombasa during a joint press conference with his Kenyan counterpart foreign affairs cabinet secretary Raychelle Omamo.

“China will appoint a special envoy for the Horn of Africa to support efforts to overcome security challenges and ensure the region’s long peace and prosperity,” a Chinese official media report, quoting Wang said.

“In order to discuss ...this matter, to share political consensus and to coordinate actions, China will appoint a special envoy of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs for the Horn of Africa,” Wang said, according to media reports from Mombasa.

The Horn of Africa includes the countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea.

Wang began his visit to three African countries, Eritrea, Kenya and Comoros on Tuesday, a diplomatic tradition marking 32 years of Chinese foreign ministers choosing Africa as their first overseas destination in the new year.

China formally opened its first overseas military base in the Djibouti in the Horn of Africa on August 1, 2017, which marked the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) 90th founding day,

The opening of the base in Djibouti’s strategic position on the northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean was closely followed in India because of its potential to become another of China’s “string of pearls” ports like in Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

“Djibouti, located at the far end of the Horn of Africa, is the country with the smallest acreage on the African continent. But its proximity to the Middle East, its location on the energy transit roads, and its position on the Bab al-Mandab Strait all make this country of great importance for global powers,” the foreign affairs website The Diplomat had reported earlier.

The region, according to Reuters, is threatened by instability in South Sudan, where China has substantial oil investments, and by Islamist militancy in Somalia, which frequently spills over into deadly attacks on civilians in neighbouring Kenya, where China also has substantial investments.

Wang’s announcement comes as US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman, a veteran diplomat, prepares to step down this month after more than nine months in the job, dominated by the crisis in Ethiopia and a coup in Sudan.

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