Mogadishu (UM) – Today, Turkey celebrates the 95th anniversary of of the founding of the Republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the first world war. From 1923 to Present, Turkey has seen remarkable political and socio-economic changes which today has culminated in the modern Turkish State playing a major role in global politics for the better. In Somalia, Turkey has made its mark very visibly and emotionally. The Somali people have placed the Turkish government and people in their hearts and minds but the Federal Government still does not know how to show appreciation.
Turkey changed the narrative on Somalia from a no-go zone ravaged by war, famine and disease to a place where change was urgently needed and deserved by its people. President Erdogan was the first leader to visit Somalia and has since visited multiple times. Turkish humanitarian assistance is direct and not channeled through expensive NGO’s focused on their own financial survival and Turkish investors are among the few, if not the only ones, operating in Somalia. Somali students are in Turkey in the largest number of any other nation, perhaps aside from Sudan and most are on scholarship. This makes Turkey a special friend to the Somali people. Of course, there are partners supporting Somalia, but none have shown the confidence and belief in Somalia that Turkey has.
On this Republic Day, the Somali government must show that it recognizes the value of Turkish contribution to Somalia’s development and celebrate this with them. There is no doubt that the Somali government knows Turkey’s contribution but its actions send the wrong message. These actions include always celebrating the fiscal support of partners like the EU and World Bank who have just started some budgetary support for the Government. Turkey has been providing increasing budgetary support to the Somali institutions and government since before 2014 through the national system and not third parties. At a time when the world said Somalia cannot be trusted, Turkey took a risk and did. What did we give them in return? Some of the worst and most unable political appointees as diplomats in Ankara where the Turkish government has provided financial support to the Somali Embassy in the past. According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs insiders this budgetary support to the Embassy in Anakara still continuing.
Somalia has signed countless agreements with Turkey and none have been implemented effectively. A combination of lack institutional memory, high ministerial and civil servant turnover and poor leadership and guidance at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have all contributed to Somalia not fully benefiting from Turkey’s wide ranging partnership and opportunities. In fact, key members of the Somali private sector who are members of Somali-Turkish Business Council continue to express their frustration with the federal government for its inability to follow any agreement up. As a result, they are losing partners, opportunities and, far worse, coming across as unreliable to their Turkish associates. This wasteful failure in foreign and economic policy must be overcome with professional staffing of the Somali Embassy in Ankara and the review and implementation of all the trade and economic agreement between the two countries. Moreover, the quick-sand that is the Jamal Khashoggi murder that the Somali federal government jumped head first in favour of Saudi Arabia is about to get ugly as Turkey demands Saudis be accountable. The federal government must stand on the side of the righteous and support Turkey’s right to investigate the murder if the need arises. This is just and what an important partner like Turkey has a right to expect.
On Turkish Republic Day, the Somali government should thank Turkey for its contribution to Somalia’s progress and be a better partner for the sake of strengthening the relations between the two countries.