In these troubling times of terrorisms, climate change, civil war and intimidation at the international stage by superpower countries, one can never be too sure of allies, countries keep shifting alliances in line with their personal interests, finding a dependable ally who always got your back is Habar fadhida legdin la fudud. “Easier said than done.”
Business Insider SSA recently had a candid conversation with Turkish ambassador to Kenya, Her Excellency Ambassador, Deniz Eke for the Home away from Home series.
“Our relations with Somalia have a history at the time of the Ottoman Empire we had many interactions so we feel sort of historical ties with Somalia” Ambassador Eke explained.
Between July 2011 and mid-2012, a severe drought affected the entire East Africa region, the situation was however, dire and severe in Somalia which on top of the drought was also battling with insecurity, governance challenges, poor and sometimes inexistent infrastructure among other several evils.
Described by Aid workers and Somali elders as the worst drought in 60 years, the drought was even nicknamed as Lagamalito, which means “the worst” in Somali.
More than half of Somalia’s 12m populations were in dire need of assistance, with 2.9m at serious risk of famine.
In the midst of all these suffering, deaths and hard times, Turkey came to the aid of Somalia when it needed assistance the most.
“Things changed in our policy when Somalia become more visible after our president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he was the Prime Minister visited Somalis during its worst drought in 2011, and seeing the dire situation on the ground Turkey felt the need to extend a hand of help to those people in need because at the time the international community was not as active and that is how we started.”
The international community was slow in response and criticised for not heeding the early warning leading to a worsening of the crisis. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network, financed by U.S.A.I.D. had already anticipated the crisis as early as August 2010, but no action was taken.
Once the disaster had been averted though at a great personal cost, Turkey was convinced Somalia needed to put its affairs in order and went out of its way to stabilize and secure Somalia.
“And that is how we started development corporation projects, we started first and foremost with the relief assistance, opened a resident embassy there to coordinate the efforts and then we initiated many projects in the field of education, health and agriculture“ Ambassador Eke disclosed.
Since then Turkey has remained a steadfast partner and continues to offer assistance to Somalia in the form of offering hundreds of scholarships to Somalia students to study in Turkey and acquire much-needed skills to solve Somalia’s problems, offer financial and consultant support, basically walking with Somalia in every step of the way.
“Definitely Somalia is much different now than what it used to be in 2011, but still there are enormous challenges to be dealt with, still the country needs continued commitment and support of the international community which turkey is trying to foster but I think there have been many positive improvements on the ground as well”
Among the positive improvement Somalia has realized is the improved security levels in the country, the Al-Qaeda linked militia, Al-shabaab despite once in a while carrying out terrorist attacks, through a combined effort between AMISON forces and the international community, the militia has been crushed and it is on its deathbed.
“Most recently Turkey has opened a military training center in Media it is wrongly defined as a military base but it is actually just a military center. Our aim to create a national army and national security forces and there we underline the word national, if there is going to be sustainable peace and security in Somalia and that affects directly Kenya’s security and safety as well if that is going to be secured there has to be a credible force which can fill the security gap after Al-shabaab is defeated and Turkey is willing to build that capacity in Somalia”
During October’s deadliest terrorist attack in Somalia which killed at least 276 people with around 300 others injured, after a truck packed with explosives blew up in a busy commercial district, as usual the international community was slow in offering humanitarian assistance compared to how quick it normally responds when a terrorist attack is committed in the west but not Turkey.
A day after the attack, Turkey's Health Minister Ahmet Demircan, accompanied by 33 staff, including a medical team specializing in emergency services, arrived in the Somali capital to oversee Turkish humanitarian efforts.
A Turkish aircraft loaded with medical aid and emergency services workers, including 13 workers from the Turkish Red Crescent and the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, landed in Mogadishu on Monday to offer humanitarian assistance which included ferrying 35 critically wounded people to Ankara for specialized medical attention.
“Our assistance in other sectors is going on very very well, apart from responding to Somalia deadly attack by offering Humanitarian assistance, Turkey has established a big hospital and we are now managing the hospital where we have Turkish doctors working and training the Somali doctors but after a certain period if I am not mistaken is 5 or 6 years we are going to hand it over to Somalia so we are extending our assistance in all areas of institution building, capacity building in Somalia”
Turkey hopes the world can learn a thing or two from its activities in Somalia and around the world and commits to make the world a better place by helping not only maintain peace and stability but also allow nations to prosper.
“Somalia is definitely a good example of what Turkey stands for and is trying to do when it supports peace and stability across the world”
“We believe that if there is security and safety in Somalia then it affects the security and stability of the whole East African and the horn of Africa region but Turkey is not doing this in Somalia alone of course for many Africans Somalia is more visible but when you look at Afghanistan we are also there and we are one of the biggest contributors of institutional building and peacekeeping, we have a trilateral cooperation agreement with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey where we are trying with small confidence-building steps to create meaningful difference on the ground”
For Somalia all it can say to Turkey for its unwavering support and commitment is; Guulle haydin gargaaro! “God bless you!”