EDITORIAL: Should Puntland count on Turkey Somalia promises?

Puntland

EDITORIAL- Turkey looks forward to hosting the Third Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit in 2019, and perhaps Mogadishu owes much of its progress to Turkish development agencies. Turkey not only stands as a partner but also a key player as relations with the continent continue to bag momentum in the face of mounting global crisis, largely perpetrated by the Global Jihadist Movements, with the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) being the most dangerous.

The good news about the ties set to be burgeoning in the coming years should be “African solutions to African problems”, a principle in Turkish foreign policy when it comes to dealing with Africa. For 13 years to date, Turkey’s trade volume in Sub-Saharan Africa alone soured to $8.4 billion by 2014, compared to $742 million in 2000.

However, Somalia is exception. Following then Prime Minister and now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s iconic visit to bullet-ridden Mogadishu, Somalia has enjoyed unprecedented international attention, thanks to that trip which encouraged non-African leaders that Turkey could extend a more generous hand to the drought-ravaged east African nation.

Diametrically, Turkish presence has never been felt in the northeastern State of Puntland which sits on the Red Sea, apart from working trips carried out by Turkish envoys in Mogadishu. Most politicians fault bad images projected to Ankara by Mogadishu charlatans, and politicized agendas of Mogadishu-based federal government that has been at loggerheads with Puntland on issues pertaining to Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC) and centralized international assistance nowadays. Maybe, Turkish diplomats forgot that Somalia is a federal as well, and States are far better than cash-strapped national government beset with militancy and political squabbling over personal loyalty.

Turkey offered Somalia hundreds of scholarship positions meant for Somali students leaving secondary schools. The scholarship grants largely remain unaccounted for, except for known positions filled with students coming from the same clans as Mogadishu-based federal officials. Turkey used to be too strange if not novice to Mogadishu until early 2014 when Ankara was startled with brazen pocketing of payments of --$4.5 million provided monthly as a direct aid via Mogadishu embassy-- colossally in the second half of 2013.

Whatever Turks did in Mogadishu came at a cost. Turkey’s economic and political interests are visible, with ultramodern hospital named after President Erdogan; Turkish company owned by one of Erdogan’s close associates handles services at Mogadishu seaport, Turkish Doctors transformed Banadir secondary school into hospital, and worse, another Turkish agency solicits fees from Somalis at former polytechnic at Mogadishu’s KM4 junction.

Not long ago, on Mar. 30, was former Ambassador to Somalia and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Bursa deputy Dr. Kani Torun alongside Turkish envoy to Somalia Olgan Bakar conversing with Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali at the State House in the capital, Garowe. The bilateral meeting focused on speeding up Turkey-sponsored initiatives in the country.

It is noteworthy that Dr. Torun—in his tenure as Turkish Ambassador to Somalia— visited Puntland under the incumbency of former President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole. Medical doctor by profession and the Chief Executive Officer of Doctors worldwide since 2002, he at the time expressed his interest in having a tour of Garowe General Hospital. At glance inside, the incident was really so shocking after a baby died in the birthing process of a mother, who was driven in car for six hours on undulating terrain.

Access to maternal health services is low; mothers and newborn babies suffer from death that could be prevented. Turkish deputy was very moved, and he pledged that Turkey would equip Garowe General Hospital with modern health gears. We can tell, “This vain promise has not been honored yet” much less Turkey has showed, it is a neutral and reliable partner in Somalia’s convoluted political atmosphere. Another Turkish initiative to build vocational training center unraveled.

Dr. Torun and his colleagues too need to toe different line because—Preparing the Future of Somalia Forum—stresses that the primary responsibility for establishing a political solution in the country ‘Somalia’ lies with Somalis.

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