Turkey's mission to rebuild Somalia

'The Turkish are giving the kind of support we have never seen before. They are changing the face of Mogadishu.'

Photo by: TRT WORLD
Photo by: TRT WORLD

Those were the words of Somalia’s current president, Hasan Sheikh Mohamud, in 2013, and it is something that our team witnessed first hand during our time in Mogadishu. The Turks are cleaning up the city, fixing its roads and infrastructure, building hospitals and schools, and running its international airport.

Turkey’s presence on the African continent has grown immensely over the last ten to fifteen years. In 2008, the African Union declared Turkey a 'strategic partner.’ The relationship is based on trade, diplomacy, cultural exchanges, and development.

But no African country has seen deeper Turkish involvement than Somalia. Turkish governmental and non-governmental organisations have been operating in the country in full force since the 2011.

They came in to provide relief from hunger, and soon enough, it became apparent that Turkey was moving beyond emergency relief and into sustainable development, with the ultimate goal of having Somalis take over functioning transparent projects.

The Turkish model is one of "direct aid" whereby Turkish governmental and non-governmental organisations are on the ground, directly overseeing their projects. This cuts out unnecessary bureaucracy and helps in making sure that aid reaches those it is supposed to reach in a country known for endemic corruption.

And the Turks couldn’t have done this if they were not living in Somalia, with Somalis. This, more than anything else, is what Somalis told us they are grateful for.

They see this as a vote of confidence in their country despite the difficulties and violence and at a time when many other governmental and non-governmental organisations have shied away from having an on-the-ground presence with the people.

But the Turkish model isn’t without its critics. As we travelled north to Puntland, we heard resentment by many who see Mogadishu as receiving a far disproportionate share of Turkish aid and attention than the rest of the country.

Rightly or wrongly, being perceived as supporting Mogadishu at the expense of other cities and regions could potentially come to be interpreted as indirectly supporting the clans who are predominant in Mogadishu at the expense of clans elsewhere, and that could spell trouble.

But none of this seems to deter the brave, dedicated Turkish aid workers we met in Mogadishu. For them, helping Somalia is a moral calling that they will continue to answer, no matter what. This is their story.


Inside Somalia
Article series will continue with "Going Back: Somalia’s Diaspora Return Home" on February 20, 2016

Author: Zeina Awad