Turkey will contribute to the security and stability of Somalia by training the African nation's police and intelligence services.
Despite a recent bomb attack on the Turkish mission in Somalia by the al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organisation al-Shabaab, Turkey is committed to helping stabilise and build institutions in war-ravaged African nation by helping train police and intelligence forces.
The agreement between the two countries to establish co-operation mechanisms in security force training was signed in May 2010 and was approved by Turkish Parliament last November.
"This co-operation is very important for Somalia. After 20 years of instability, such a proposal from a big country like Turkey is appreciated by the Somali people," the Somali ambassador to Ankara, Mohamed Sheikh Abdirahman, recently told Today's Zaman.
"Somalia suffered years of instability. Turkey plays an important role in rebuilding the country," the ambassador also said.
In 2011, Ankara pushed Somalia to the forefront of its foreign policy agenda, becoming one of the few nations to open an embassy in the capital. Since then Turkey has provided $400 million in aid to the impoverished country building hospitals, schools and other structures and educating students in Turkey with scholarships.
However, the recent deadly car bomb attack on the annex building of the Turkish Embassy on July 27th, which killed a Turkish security guard and wounded three others, raised security concerns. The al-Qaeda linked militant group has long been threatening Turkish workers and aid agencies in Somalia, accusing them of spreading secularism as "a stooge of the West."
The Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish International Co-operation and Development Agency (TIKA) representatives in Somalia were previously targeted by terrorists. On August 7th, the Somali prime minister's office released a statement condemning the recent embassy bombing and applauded the work that Turkey has done on their behalf in the international arena.
"Long after Somalia is at peace and these events are but fading memories, we will remember those who came to our aid in our hour of need. Our partnership, forged in history and now consecrated in blood, will endure for generations to come," the statement said.
Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon is expected to visit Ankara in the coming days.
The fragile government in Mogadishu depends on foreign support to prevent the city from becoming a haven for extremists.
Gokhan Bacik, associate professor of international relations at Ipek University, told SES Türkiye that Ankara wants to "show that the recent bombings did not change its position on Africa."
"Turkey wants to give a strong message that it still keeps its same strategic approach to Somalia," he told SES Türkiye.
Apart from a humanitarian mission, Bacik believes Ankara's main strategic interest is "in state formation -- or building in Somalia."
"Basically they [Somalis] need this and it seems that Turkey is one of the few countries -- if not the only one -- which are really eager to help," said Haldun Solmazturk, a retired army general who once participated in international operations in Somalia.
"This can partly be explained by the current Turkish government's intention of becoming the leading force -- if not the leader -- of the Muslim world," Solmazturk, now a senior fellow at the Strategic Research Centre of the Retired Officers' Association of Turkey, told SES Türkiye.
Back in Mogadishu, local analysts such as Abdi Aynte, the director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, Somalia's first think-tank, view Turkey's security co-operation as "vital."
"Somalia's security institutions are chronically weak due to two decades of civil war and poor funding. Turkey has demonstrated that it is genuine about assisting the Somali people and their government whose biggest need is institutional building," he told SES Türkiye.
How can Turkey contribute to peace and stability in Somalia? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Professor Ahmed Samatar has been a leading advocate for a united Somalia and a strong critic of the country’s clan-based political system that continues to divide Somalis. Demonstrating his views through academic writings, interviews and speeches, Samatar once described the current Somali politics as “sewage." In a recent speech, Samatar described a shift in his opinion, from advocacy for a completely unified Somalia to advocacy for independence for Somaliland.
Samatar, an international relations professor at Macalester College, received his undergraduate degree from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from University of Denver
In recent years, Samatar has shifted his role from being a mere political commentator to being an active participant in the process of redefining the politics he’s disparaged for decades: He recently served as a member of the Somali parliament and ran for the presidency last summer, although he lost the election.
On August 10, Samatar spoke to nearly 300 people at Brooklyn Park Community Center about his recent visit to Somaliland, a self-proclaimed independent state, which has been struggling to gain recognition from the international community for the last two decades.
“I’ve seen peace, security and a trace of law and order everywhere I visited in Somaliland,” Samatar said, addressing his audience in Somali. “I’ve seen people paying tax willingly because they are satisfied with what the government is doing. There is sense of democracy. Freedom of expression. They understood that if you don’t let people speak from their mind, the government would fall.”
Earlier this summer, Samatar visited Somaliland for the first time in about 18 years. Even though he’s never held a public office in Somaliland and has opposed its separation from Somalia for many years, hundreds of thousands of spectators assembled on streets with photos of Samatar in an expression of profound love and respect for the international studies professor at Macalester College.
“No words can describe the reception I received,” he told the crowd, speaking behind a podium placed in between two flags — that of the United States’ and the green, white and red striped flag of Somaliland. “I can’t wait to go back.”
Samatar endorsed a separate Somaliland state, though he cited obstacles that will present tough challenges in that quest.
“The world’s attention is on Somalia right now,” Samatar said. He reminded the crowd, mostly Minnesota-Somalilanders, of the official recognition the United States granted last January to the Somalia government in Mogadishu.
He added that the world is busy in the reconstruction and development of Somalia, suggesting that no one is considering sovereign statehood for Somaliland at the moment.
In case option one — an independent Somaliland — doesn’t work out, he urged the people of Somaliland to have a second option: negotiation with Somalia.
When an audience member confronted his suggestion of having a Plan B, Samatar said, “You won’t go anywhere if you don’t have Plan B.” But he reassured the crowd: “I want Somaliland to win. I mean it.”
Before 1960, Somalia was in the hands of British, Italy, France and other colonial countries that divided the country into pieces. For instance, the southern part of Somalia, including Mogadishu, was colonized by Italy. Its northern part, now called Somaliland, was a British-occupied land.
After a long journey of bloodshed and struggle for a sovereign Somali state, Somaliland gained its independence from Britain on June 26, 1960. Four days later, Somalia got its independence from Italy.
Having shared a common struggle for independence, Somalia and Somaliland decided to join forces and become one strong Somali nation.
While many Somalis say it was a milestone that Somaliland joined Somalia, some people from Somaliland — not all of them — argue that the merger was a mistake. They say Somaliland hasn’t benefited from the 31-year-old marriage to Somalia.
For the past 50 years, Samatar said, there were only two clans that took turns to fill the presidency. The clans Samatar was referring to are Hawiye and Darod, two of the largest clans in Somalia.
Because Somaliland felt disenfranchised, they formed their own government when Somalia collapsed in civil war in 1991. They created their own flag. They created their own national anthem. And they refer to Somalia as nothing more than a neighboring country.
For the Somalia government, on the contrary, Somaliland is just another region of Somalia.
Samatar’s presentation on Somaliland wasn’t all about praise — he also pointed out many low points that the autonomous Somaliland state can improve upon.
Somaliland isn’t that different than Somalia in terms of power sharing, Samatar said. Somaliland feels like a village with one man in power, he said, referring to the major clan, Isaq, which has held the presidency for many years. He called for diversity in the Somaliland leadership.
“The government should reflect on the people it services,” said Samatar.
He also urged the government to work on energy development. “You can’t run a country without electricity.”
Samatar also said that he met people, who don’t have access to clean water. He added that people go on foot four miles, fetching water.
Samatar’s assessment on the issues in Somaliland seemed more like those of an academic than a politician. After Samatar’s presentation, the audience was given a chance to comment and ask questions.
Asked if he would run for Somaliland presidency, Samatar said: “It’s not about me wanting or not wanting to become a president. It’s about the desire of the people. Is Somaliland asking someone who can change? Someone who can lead? I don’t see those questions asked. I see corruption. I see romanticization of clan, which I’m not into."
“It was a fair discussion,” said Said Ahmed, who identifies himself as a Somalilander. “It was very informative.”
Aisha Hassan, who hasn’t been to Somaliland for the past 15 years said she’s glad that Samatar visited “my country” to see the realities there.
“The professor is a genuine man,” Hassan said. “He says it like he sees it. I respect his conclusion.”
The event was made possible by the Northwest Hennepin Human Services Council, Africa Institute for International Reporting, Horn Development Center and the City of Brooklyn Park.
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