Turkey’s New Interest in Somalia

It took a natural disaster (famine), the worst to happen in the region for nearly 60 years coupled with piracy on the Indian ocean to bring the international community’s focus and cooperation back in Somalia. While the international aid was hindered by severe lack of funds and security fears in the region it was the Turks who became the good Samaritans and sat on the driving seat and led a humanitarian assistance that was unheard of before in the history of the country.

The Turks saw their humanitarian aid and assistance to the Somali people as moral obligation on their side. They organized funds and donations from religious, governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as local citizens so that emergency food, water and medicines could be supplied to the people affected by the drought.

Almost after one month the Prime Minster of Turkey Mr.Racep Tayyib Erdogan arrived in Mogadishu. He was the first non-african head of state to visit Somalia in 20 years. President Sheikh Sharif said the prime minster’s visit ” displayed the determination and will of Turkish people and government to stand side by side with their brothers and sisters in Somalia“. However,his visit was a historic and symbolic one for various reasons. Firstly, the prime minsters arrival showed that Turkey was not just going to deliver food and then leave. It showed that this act was a sign of full commitment and determination from their side and that the government of Turkey will be involved with Somalia for a long time to come.

Secondly, they went against the notion that Somalia was a “no-go-area” which was a very dangerous place to operate in and that the only way to get involved with the country was through the neighboring countries and the offices of the United Nations in Nairobi.

Their long term commitment in the country is holding true till now. They have opened the Turkish embassy in Mogadishu. Today the Turkish government is involved with many projects inside the country such as modernizing Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle international Airport. The Turkish airlines has started commercial flights to Mogadishu twice a week. Under the process is the building of water supply and waste disposal facilities as well as the rebuilding of the war ravaged roads and hospitals. Last but not the least, thousands of Somali students are studying in Turkey under scholarships. What the Turkish government is doing is not only restricted to the drought affected regions in the South. They are now planning to open development and co operation centers in semi-autonomous region of Puntland and Somaliland.

“Turkey has done more in three months than the U.N did in 5 years” -this is what Prime Minster, Abdiwali Mohamed said of the achievements of Turkey in Somalia.

Now, the question is: why Turkey is doing all this and going into great pains to succeed in Somalia?

Apart from the moral obligation that I have already discussed above, Turkey has a strategic vision in the region as they want to become a influential geo political player and a model Muslim democracy. They also have economic interests in the region as Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa which is a strategic location for trade and commerce.

Finally, as Somalis we are very grateful for the great generosity, help and assistance the Turkish people and their government has extended to us.

Paradigm Shift

                         Lets not cling on to the past, lets all embrace the future and its endless possibilities

                        – Abdulkadir  Mahamud

History has blessed us with great leaders who inspired their people and whose ideas have transcended all religions, ideologies, races and creeds. Some we have witnessed them in our life time and some we have read about them in history  books.  Some of these  leaders led their people through difficult and impossible times. Some over came great obstacles and challenges despite all the odds being against them. Some sacrificed their time, energy and wealth and finally paid for the ultimate price which is their lives  just for the betterment of their people. They were leaders who have inspired  their nations to greatness and gave their people hope even when they couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

 The biggest mystery to me is that as Somalis we are all a people of one color, one religion and one culture we even speak the same language yet even today our country is being divided along tribal lines due to the historical rivalries and animosities between different tribes plus the self-serving warlords and proxy wars by regional and international forces which as a result caused wars, destruction, disunity, poverty and created a general level of animosity and lack of trust between us.

There have been efforts many times in the past and even now but still all our efforts and the attempts of the international community to unite the country and bring back lasting peace and harmony has miserably failed and our country is still in a state of limbo.

Today we are witnessing an ever increasing number of states declaring themselves to be semi-autonomous and one already adamant to separate from the country. Our country is being hijacked my selfish politicians who claim to represent their people just to get to positions of authority and in fact do nothing for their people but instead pursue their selfish desires and advance their personal positions. We are also hijacked by blood-sucking and merciless warlords who actually benefit from the existing anarchy and never want to see our people united and country peaceful. The sad thing is that we are the ones supporting and electing these politicians and thinking that they are advocating for us and advancing our interests when indeed they do nothing for us but only pursue their personal goals and agendas.

What we need to do is to wake up from the hibernation we have been in for the past two decades. We need to abandon our medieval thinking and have a paradigm shift.We need to look at our leaders and politicians from a neutral perspective and know who they really are.We need to withdraw our loyalty and support from those who are putting their interest before the interest of the general public. We should support and give our loyalty to leaders who are patriotic and really working for our common interests. We also need to support Leaders who are pragmatic, impartial and whose ideas and aspirations transcend all of our differences.

The great African-American civil rights activist Martin Luther King,Jr said in his inspirational speech “I have a dream” that one day my children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream of my own too, I have a dream that one day our leaders will not be judged by which tribe they hail from but by the integrity of their character.

The Cost of Tribalism

For those who have seen the Earth from space,

and for the hundreds and perhaps thousands more who will,

the experience most certainly changes your perspective.

The things that we share in our world

are far more valuable than those which divide us.

-Donald Williams

Tribalism is the root and fabric of the African society.It is a phenomenon that has been haunting the continent of Africa long before the colonial rulers had arrived. Kwame Nkrumah– Ghana’s first president and one of Africa’s greatest statesman at one time said of the tribal system in Africa as “the main impediment to Africa’s independence, industrialization and growth”. Nkrumah’s words are still echoing in most countries in Africa. From Senegal to Nigeria in the west, to Kenya and Somalia in the east.

It is this tribal system that dominates every sphere of life in most countries in Africa. From economics to politics one cannot rise to level of high authority without the consent and support of his/her tribe. Allegiances are  first given to the tribe one belongs to then to the state. Tribalism also leads the state to commit atrocities against those tribes that oppose them. It also causes divisions, revenge killings and skirmishes between competing tribes for resources. In rare occasions even genocides were motivated and inspired by one ethnic group who saw themselves as victims  and caused the 1994 slaughter of 800000 people in Rwanda.

When the British came to colonize the continent they perfectly understood the social fabric of Africa and the strong importance tribes had in Africa. It is under this context and the lack of unity tribalism created that facilitated and enabled the colonialists  to implement their strategy which was to first divide the people and then conquer them. We all have seen the negative impacts tribalism has in the society. It creates rifts and hatred between the community. It divides and disintegrates the society and makes them susceptible to foreign invasions. Finally if taken to an extreme it leads to wars and horrific genocides.

However, I want to reiterate that there is absolutely nothing wrong with claiming your tribe and being proud of your roots. It is perfectly natural- we are who we are and there is no denying that. The problem starts when one or few tribes think  that they are superior to other tribes and have more right than others. When loyalty to ones tribe leads to favoritism, cronyism and the subjugation of minorities. When politicians play the tribe-card and incite hatred and bigotry. And last but not the least when the benefits that comes with allegiances to tribes outweigh those of the nation.

I strongly believe that we should all appreciate and respect our differences. We all should cherish our diversity and always remember what Almighty Allah has told us in the holy book of Quran:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).Al-Hujurat 49:13