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June 03, 2012, Sunday

Turkey’s Somalia strategy

Somalia and East Africa have been facing drought and famine for a long time, Somalia arguably having experienced the most disasters in the world.

The country has been struggling with a civil war since the early 1990s and since the collapse of the Siad Barré regime in 1991, a central government hasn’t been able to be established. The Somali Transitional Parliament (TFG), which was created in 2004 with the support of the international community, couldn’t extend its authority beyond Mogadishu. Scattered armed groups have been clashing with one another for decades. While food is scarce and people have to walk for miles to get water, arms sales have been going on relentlessly in the country.

In Somalia the drought and famine have caused extensive internal migrations. As a result of these migrations, large camps have come into existence. With the two-decade-long clashes combined with the terrorist organization al-Shabaab’s armed struggle for power, the country has been facing the worst starvation problem of the past 60 years.

Turkey has been trying to support Somalia on many levels. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Mogadishu on Aug. 19 of last year, the first time since 1993 that a prime ministerial-level visit was made to Somalia. Early this year the Turkey-Somalia Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group was established in Parliament. In January 2008 Somalia opened an embassy in Ankara. The Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu, which had been maintained in Somalia since 1979 but closed in 1991 due to the civil war, was re-opened on Nov. 1 of last year. On March 6 Turkish Airlines (THY) started flights between İstanbul and Mogadishu.

These persistent positive steps taken by Turkey have changed the attitude of the international community toward Somalia. With the transition from a stance of ignorance regarding the humanitarian tragedy in Somalia, Somalia’s isolation has started to abate.

Turkey has also been making wide-ranging contributions to Somalia in terms of humanitarian aid. With mid-term and long-term development projects, Turkey is targeting the rebuild of Somalia’s infrastructure. Turkish nongovernmental organizations have seen and treated around 70,000 patients in African countries. Turkish NGOs and official foundations have built more than 200 wells. The Turkish Ministry of Health opened a tent hospital in Somalia on Aug. 18 of last year. Additionally, 55 tons of medicine, medical equipment, a mobile clinic, six ambulances, two inflatable hospitals and two tent hospitals for use in severe weather conditions were delivered to Somalia. In March Aden Abdulle International Airport’s terminal was modernized by the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA). A 200-bed Al Shifa Hospital and Eye Center Mogadishu was built under the sponsorship of Medical Park while the Yakup Asibi Mosque was built by the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH). The Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) will build more than 1,000 housing units. The Red Crescent has donated 2,000 tents. A mobile bakery and a mobile dining hall have been established. The Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning together with the Red Crescent have started garbage collections.

Somalia owns around 3,337 kilometers of coastal line but does not utilize the fertile agricultural lands of this coastal line. Turkey has planned helping Somalia in terms of agriculture and fishing.

There are currently 640 Somali students in Turkey, 500 of whom are at university level. Foundation universities accept 230 of these 500 students and state universities accept 270. Turkey will assist Somalia in terms of vocational education. A cooperative venture with vocational schools at secondary school-level in Turkey will be set up.

Turkey supports the political reconciliation process in Somalia as it has been striving for security and stability to re-emerge in Somalia. In Somalia there is no discrimination against language and religion. In spite of that, the country was divided in four camps and there are clashes among these four groups. Turkey has been trying to provide support for Somali security forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in terms of both equipment and education. Within this scope, Turkey has been fighting against piracy.

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