Turkey’s economic, humanitarian and nation-building efforts in Somalia have forged a bond that cannot be derailed by terror attacks. On Sunday, the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab group killed a Turkish citizen in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
The victim, a construction engineer, working for a Turkish company in Somalia, was mercilessly blown up when explosives planted in his car exploded. Al-Shabaab later claimed responsibility for the targeted assassination. Beyond the personal tragedy, this incident illustrates bilateral relations between Somalia and Turkey.
Turkey is among the very few international actors who believed in Somalia’s success and have subsequently invested in Somalia’s development. In August 2011, Ankara launched its most extensive overseas humanitarian campaign to avert a devastating famine that killed around 260,000 people in the Horn of the African nation.
Once the famine was averted, Turkey became deeply involved in nation-building in Somalia. The country lacked an effective national government since the fall of the military regime in 1991.
Decades of prolonged civilian war, severe humanitarian conditions, and the scourge of terrorism have led to the internal displacement of more than two million people in Somalia.
The multitude of Turkish projects implemented in Somalia over the last five years has attracted both local and international acclaim. To the extent that a new term, “The Turkish Model”, has come into being.
One of the reasons Turkish involvement has been effective is because it combines aid with nation-building.
While Turkish state agencies and NGOs have focused on reducing the humanitarian crisis, other state-sponsored agencies have been building the infrastructure necessary for the country’s recovery.
These include high-impact areas, such as hospitals, an airport and major roads in the capital Mogadishu.
Second, in addition to direct budgetary support provided to the Somali government, Turkey has embarked in capacity-building initiatives to help recover Somali institutions.
Third, the Turkish approach also includes a reconciliation and peacebuilding agenda. For instance, Ankara has mediated between the Somali government and Somaliland, a self-declared republic in northern Somalia.
Lastly, the presence of Turkish diplomats, humanitarian workers and businessmen on the ground was possibly the most significant element that favourably shaped the perception of the majority Somalis towards Turkey.
A Somali friend told me: “The only non-African people in the streets of Mogadishu, after Syrian and Yemeni refugees, are the Turkish nationals. They are building schools, roads and driving cars. They even have conversations with the ordinary people in a city that many consider as one of the most dangerous in the world.”
Abdinor Dahir is an Assistant Researcher at TRT World Research Center, and Project Coordinator for the TRT World Citizen initiative. Prior to joining TRT World, Abdinor was a Ship Chartering Executive at Negmar Denizcilik Yatirim A.S in Istanbul, and a permanent Secretary at Faculty of Management Sciences at SIMAD University in Somalia. He has MBA and M.A in Political Science from Sakarya University. His research focuses on foreign policy, development aid, African governance and geopolitics