Lasting stability with Somalia and Turkey



By Hasan Kanbolat


The Paris attacks showed that we need to think about the jihadist hybrid Salafi ideology and how the environment of poverty and instability that contributes to the emergence of this ideology in the Muslim world can be destroyed. For this reason, Turkey’s humanitarian and developmental aid to Somalia is valuable. To better understand Turkey’s political activities in Somalia, we need to analyze the domestic war in this country.

There are three reasons for the ongoing civil war in Somalia. First, a substantial part of the geography known as Somalia is not part of the Somali state. Somalia is a huge geography that comprises five regions. Somalia, Somaliland, Djibouti, the borderlands shared with Kenya and the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. Out of nationalist reflexes, the militant Islamist group al-Shabab emerged as a response to the Ethiopian invasion into Somalia in 2006.

Neighboring countries are normally not allowed to send troops into the area for peacekeeping missions. However, AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) has troops from Kenya and Ethiopia. Somali people and al-Shabab are against the presence of foreign military forces in Mogadishu. And Somalia’s neighboring countries, Kenya and Ethiopia, do not trust Somalia. They hold that if Somalia rises up, new problems will erupt in the region. It is necessary to save Somalia from Kenya and Ethiopia and make it part of the international community.

Secondly, Somalia is a country of clans which have been fighting each other since 1995. Because of the clan identity, social resistance and solidarity is also strong.

There is also a large diaspora integrated with the clans. Somali people are known as tradesmen. There are wealthy Somali businessmen in Nairobi and Dubai. The Somali diaspora is also strong in the US, Canada, northern Europe and Britain. After then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Mogadishu in August 2011, the Somali diaspora paid visits to Turkey’s diplomatic missions. As stability is attained in Somalia, the Somali people abroad started to return to their country. This reduced the impact of clan identity.

Thirdly, different parts of Somalia have an experience of a colonial past under the rule of different Western countries. In addition, there is huge ethnic and cultural diversity. Djibouti was a French colony which gained its independence in 1976, Somalia was an Italian colony and Somaliland was ruled by the British. Somaliland became independent on June 26, 1960 and Somalia on July 1, 1960. Somalia and Somaliland remained a united republic up until 1991. Most recently, South Sudan was recognized as an independent state by the UN and African Union. Now there are concerns that recognition of the independence of other states in Africa will have a domino effect. For this reason, the recognition of Somaliland’s independence is not expected. The best solution for Somaliland is to be a part of a federated Somalia. There are Ottoman historical artifacts in Somaliland. The irrigation system the Ottoman state built in Berbera, a port city in Somaliland, is still in use. The positive image left by the Ottoman state allows Turkey to be more active in the region. Turkey is achieving in Somalia what the Ottoman state did not in the 16th century. A Turkish consulate was opened on June 1, 2014 in Hargeysa, the capital city of Somaliland. Turkey is also serving as mediator between Mogadishu and Hargeysa.

Turkey’s first two envoys to Mogadishu are Kani Toru and Olgan Bekar respectively. Both do not fit into the classical definition of a diplomat. They are on the ground all the time. And they make firsthand contribution to the reconstruction and social and economic development of Somalia.


Hasan Kanbolat

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