By Mohemed Salah Ahmed
Turkey’s unprecedented engagement in Somalia has started from 2011 as a response to the catastrophic famine which ravaged Somalia at the time, while the most momentous event was the visit of the former Turkish Prime Minister and current President Erdoğan. Since then, Turkish-Somali relationship has been praising locally, regionally and caught the attention of the major Global Powers. In a short period of time Turkey became one of the closest ally that Somalia has in the international political arena. The unparalleled success of Turkish assistance and aid projects in Somalia has yielded many responses and results. The most significant has been a direct review and renewed approach by other international donors who have been present in Somalia far longer than Turkey.
Instinctively, the curiosity and inquisitiveness about the Turkish Assistance Model in Somalia has become global subject, not only by western donors but even the other Muslim donors. Most importantly, two questions every global donor asked themselves were, – how Turkey’s assistance model has become more effective and valuable? What are the factors helping Turkey to accomplish all those projects to accelerate Somali state recovery? All these questions and more had been presented to the international political arena which led to discussions and research directives at global research centers as well as into multi-national political discourse. I am of the opinion that Turkey’s ability to accomplish this unprecedented success was as a result of two intertwined reasons.
It’s said that once history is more than a path left by the past; it influences the present and can shape the future. Perhaps, what’s undeniable is that history vitally influences any relationship; nations structure their relationship with the historical connections alongside their mutual interests. Moreover, for the past two decades the world has witnessed a global socio-political shift, new emerging powers are entering into the international political arena with a unique foreign policy as compared to the elite powers. Turkey encompasses this shift; the Ottoman Empire’s immaculate history has become a significant tool for Turkey’s Foreign Policy, an ultraclean civilization which was left by their Turkish ancestors in a wide range of former Ottoman Empire territory, without any record of colonization, exploitation, and so on.
The strategic advantage is over and above the colonial history of their Western counterparts and the negative connotations that is associated with Western colonization. Of course, that allows Turkey to initiate close relationships with the majority of the developing countries. Moreover, this is not only influenced by the Ottoman empirical history but also by modern day foreign policy decisions, Turkey’s leading party is deploying a unique foreign policy and strategy, with key principals such as a non-political interference role and perhaps more significantly, provision of aid without special conditions, which in turn mutually inclusively shaped an era of Aid diplomacy. This has assisted Turkey in engaging and establishing more responsible and realistic relationships with global partners and allies. Somalia remains a good example of this.
Despite historic connections an additional significant secret of Turkey’s success in Somalia, dramatically, is the assistance model which Turkey deploys in Somalia and doing so at the right time, while the opportunity of structuring a new relationship was there, and internally the economic and political matters was settled. Meanwhile, when Turkey arrived, Somalia was in the middle of multiple crises, the severe famine which was a result of around two decades of a failed state, terrorism and the recklessness of international donors or in other words, the global powers who were involved in Somali issues in that time. In addition with the neglected support of the UN and other international organizations who was keeping at arm’s length, largely engaging by remote control from offices in neighboring Kenya with the occasional short trip to Mogadishu’s heavily fortified airport? .
Moreover, Turkey placed the convenient tactics to establish this relationship successfully; than Prime Minister Erdoğan visited the intercity of Mogadishu which global leaders was considering as the most dangerous place in the globe, a war zone and became the first famous leader to visit Mogadishu since the state collapse. A smart move of re-generating a relationship and most importantly, gain the credibility and trust of that society. It was an important key for the success of regenerating Turkey and Somalia relationship arguably.
Not only had a visit, during his tour the Prime Minister Erdoğan launched multidimensional projects of assistance inclusive of humanitarian aid and developmental projects to support the rebuilding process of the Somali state. Additionally, with a high quality implementation strategy, the two assisting projects being implemented together, totally opposite technique from the traditional donors only deliver Humanitarian aid occasionally. Furthermore, with the integration of local communities, delivering assistance to them in speedy and time efficient based priority and visibility of their projects, putting all those pieces into context, we can come to comprehend why Turkey became successful in helping Somalia.
Lately, the speculation of common identity, belief systems and values influences this relationship was brought to light after the remarkable success as mentioned above. However, I am hesitant that, many countries which share a similar Islamic identity and values with Somalia have been involved as well but are unable to cultivate a similar relationship to that which Turkey shares with Somalia or their projects aren’t effective and constructive as those of Turkey. The flourishing capitalization by Turkey on their opportunity which the western donors and even the some Muslim donors have created for them, made this relationship unique and productive.
However, Turkey is indicating clearly that its relationship with Somalia will go beyond the assistance and support. The recent establishment of both Turkey’s biggest Foreign Embassy and Foreign military base has categorically set a precedence as to how much Turkey is willing to develop its relationship with Somalia. Meanwhile, the new political developments in the region particularly the Gulf crisis has left behind two significant questions; 1. How Somalia will hold their allies together particularly, the global powers and emerging powers? 2. Specifically, the Muslim emerging donors which also demonstrating again their interest for the country?
Mohemed Salah Ahmed
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