Turkey takes lead in rebuilding Somalia
Turkish workers have flooded Somalia - a country many have long considered too dangerous to work in - to rebuild it and burnish Ankara's image as a regional player and powerful force in the Islamic world.
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Since last year Turkish relief workers and volunteers have poured into the Somali capital of Mogadishu – a city deemed too dangerous to work in by most governments – building hospitals, schools, and public infrastructure.
“Since the coming of Turkey there has been a paradigm shift,” says Somalia’s interim Prime Minister Abdulweli Mohamed Ali, in an interview with the Monitor.
He says Turkey has proven that reconstruction and aid efforts can work even as African Union troops battle to claw back parts of the country from the Al Shabab Islamist group, which is aligned with Al Qaeda.
“You can do it simultaneously,” says Prime Minister Ali. “You can create peace and stability by working on the security side, but also on the development side at the same time. That is what Turkey is successful at.”
Somalia’s disparate factions are negotiating the creation of a national government, which would be the first since the country was plunged into civil war in 1991.
There is doubt, however, over whether they will be able to meet an August 20 deadline to finish the process, which also involves crafting a constitution and parliament.
Emerging regional power leading by example
Analysts say Ankara’s humanitarian and peace-building drive is part of a campaign to bolster its status as an emerging regional power.
At the conference, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized other nations for lacking Turkey’s on-the-ground presence in Somalia.
"Without living there you cannot devise the correct policies and you cannot help. I invite the international community to open representative offices," he told delegates on Friday.
Prime Minister Erdogan has led by example. He made an official visit to Mogadishu last August, becoming the first non-African leader to set foot in the city in two decades.
Three months later Turkey opened an embassy in Somalia and then in March this year the national carrier Turkish Airlines became the first international airline to operate commercial flights to Mogadishu in 20 years.
“It’s the new emerging imperial spirit,” says Asli Aydintasbas, a foreign affairs commentator at the daily Milliyet newspaper. “It’s part of the global role they want to play, in order to be a regional hegemon.”
Under the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) headed by Erdogan, Turkey has garnered international prestige as a Muslim-majority country with a functioning multi-party democracy and surging economy.