It Takes Two to Tango

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Winston Churchill

Conventional wisdom dictates that one must first understand the rules of the game before deciding to play it.  Throughout  history, in times of war and peace, every nation on earth used to seek allies. The country that  was part of a strong alliance had much higher probability of surviving than the one without  and that is how diplomacy and politics have been evolving since then. Today we are in an age where one single nation cannot survive on its own.Even the U.S who is the sole hyperpower of today can’t do things on its own when it comes to certain issues. Building fortresses to protect your self is a thing of the past because leaders realized that it  will not serve any good and that  it will only work against you as it will make you a potential target, isolate you  from potential allies and invaluable information. We are in an era where one must first win the battle of ” court of public opinion”before even thinking about confrontation with others.

If history serves memory to us, the most critical lesson we have learnt from the 77′ War with Ethiopia was that we didn’t lose the war because of a lack of  military  might, courage and will power from our side. The simple reason we lost the war was because  of our feeble strategy, failed foreign policy that led to  the loss of allies  and the poor judgments  and vision of our military strategists. In a nutshell, what made the difference in that war was “allies” period. While Ethiopia’s allies came to her aid even some coming from the other side of the world we stood there defeated, isolated,  helpless and the odds were  stacked against us. What followed was history.

As they say, history repeats its self. Time and time again we have failed to understand the power of diplomacy and as a result of that we  have failed to make our arguments and cases palatable  and win allies in the courts of politics. Some argue that  Somalia is isolated because it is small and  it is located in the horn of Africa and it is bordered by countries which are hostile to it. What I say is this: It doesn’t matter if you are a big or a small country or if you live at the edge of the world- what matters is how you organize the human and natural resources God has endowed on us. What matters is how you lobby,  campaign and advocate for your rights,  how you reach out to those that matter and side  your country with those nations that will come through for us when push comes to shove.  You must always have a voice in the international arena. To put it into more perspective, New Zealand has more diplomats in the world than India!

Lately, I have been observing  a mutual consensus of disillusionment and anger  by the general public specially  by  our elders, intellectuals , and learned teenagers towards the attitude and lack of interest shown by  Muslim leaders specially the Gulf states to our country. They don’t understand and can’t digest the fact that for almost 20 years they were watching their Muslim brothers and sisters plunge into civil war ,anarchy and starvation and never came to their rescue while just last year Saudi Arabia rushed its forces to Bahrain which is another Muslim country in order to stop the violence and rebellion that was taking place there. They also hear from the  radios and watch on TVs the Arab league  reacting swiftly to the situation in Syria and trying to find a political solution. The question that always lingers in their heads is: Why this double standard?

The fact is that just because we share a common culture or common faith with some countries doesn’t mean that those countries will always come to our rescue .What we fail to understand is that as much as some of our brothers would love to help us the simple reality is that firstly, today most of the Islamic world’s leaders  don’t have  the political means and freedom   to help us as they face pressures from outside forces  and I imagine that is what made them hesitant and  forced them to mend their own businesses and look after their interests. Secondly, majority of those countries are also ruled by either dictators or monarchs  and they are just there to protect their own seats and pursue their self interest. Hence, the biggest motivating factor that is shaping  international politics today is “self-interest”. The sooner we realize that, the better we will be off.

What I recommend is that our national policy makers must design a thorough and dynamic foreign policy blueprint that  systematically takes into account the need for strategic, economic, political and ideological alliances. We need to take our fate into our own hands. We  need a policy that allows us to curve our own paths . Finally,  What Somalia needs today is a “Big Brother(s)” who  lobbies for us, who protects  us from  bullies , a brother  that has a real desire of working with us, a brother that sees us as his equals and respects our sovereignty, territorial integrity and our right of self-determination .

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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.