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.

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