Turkish military base in Somalia: Risks and opportunities

A handout photo made available by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on January 25, 2015, shows Turkeyís President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (center R) welcomed by Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (center R) upon his arrival for the opening of the new Turkish-renovated Aden Abdulle International Airport in Mogadishu. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2017
0

Turkish military base in Somalia: Risks and opportunities

ANKARA: As a projection of its expanded geopolitical and economic presence in East Africa, Turkey will open its largest overseas military training camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu in September. It will be the first of its kind for the Somali national army, which is being restructured.
Construction began in March 2015. At the cost of some $50 million, the base will host three military schools, dormitories and depots over an area of 400 hectares. 
For training exercises with up to 10,000 Somali soldiers in early September, some 200 Turkish soldiers will be deployed at the base, which will be able to train more than 1,500 troops at a time. 
But such a military engagement carries risks. It is not clear whether Turkish troops will be involved in combat missions against the militant group Al-Shabab, which controls most of south-central Somalia.
Turkey has been very active in Somalia since 2011, helping the country strengthen its public institutions and alleviate a severe famine. 
On Aug. 15, Turkish Airlines carried more than 60 tons of food aid to Mogadishu, to be distributed to 12 locations in Somalia. More than 60 tons of food aid and medical supplies were sent to Mogadishu in April. 
Prof. Sedat Aybar, director of the Africa Research Center at Istanbul Aydin University, said Turkey has contributed positively to Somali development. 
“In terms of building up hard power, establishing a military base is a serious effort, but the outcomes are unknown in the short run,” he told Arab News.
“However, given the situation in Somalia, this effort is more likely to provide positive returns for Somalis,” he added. 
“A NATO member and an inspiring candidate for full EU membership, Turkey’s efforts in Somalia are more likely to generate international coordination and cooperation, rather than creating conflict and turmoil.”
Aybar said establishing a Turkish military base in Somalia has become even more significant since the announcement by President Donald Trump that US aid to Africa will be reduced. 
“Many countries in Africa are aid-dependent, and American aid is an important part of their functioning as nation states,” said Aybar.
“Turkey, being one of the major donor countries to Somalia, is going one step further by establishing a military capacity there,” he added.
“This is particularly important as development requires building up a military capacity that doesn’t fully exist in Somalia.” 
Aybar said Turkey, as a mid-sized regional power, gets involved in development in Africa by taking part in the continent’s new security architecture. “This is expected to provide positive returns for the Turkish defense industry.”
Hasan Ozturk, an Africa expert from the Istanbul-based think tank BILGESAM, said the camp’s strategic location is telling, as it is very close to the entry point of the Gulf of Aden, north of Mogadishu.
“For years, Turkey has been providing military training to officers of many African Union (AU) countries, including Somalia. It became very costly to host and train them each time in Turkey,” Ozturk told Arab News. 
“Such training will also help Turkey’s broader international trade priorities, as the training will involve anti-piracy efforts, to which Turkey has contributed in the past.” 
Ibrahim Nassir, an Africa expert at the Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies, said the camp will boost Turkey’s soft power in the region and enhance its status as an essential player in regional security.
He added that Somalia’s president is very keen to fight terrorism, and that has reduced the number of terrorist attacks in his country.
Nassir said there is no security risk for the military camp because security has improved in parts of Somalia, especially Mogadishu.
“On top of that, Turkey has soldiers and military bases in many countries, and there are no terrorist attacks on its troops,” he said.
“This indicates that many nations trust the Turkish armed forces due to their belligerence against imperialism and injustices around the world.”


Rights groups call for UN action on Egypt 'reprisals'

Updated 1 min 5 sec ago
0

Rights groups call for UN action on Egypt 'reprisals'

  • They called on the UN to "ensure an urgent and robust system-wide response"
  • According to the UN, Farha's visit was the first to Egypt by an expert appointed by its Human Rights Council since 2011

GENEVA: Rights groups on Wednesday called for a "robust" response to a UN expert's allegations that people she met during a visit to Egypt faced harassment, intimidation and other reprisals afterwards.
A statement signed by six organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged an "independent UN investigation" into the accusations.
Last week the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, said she was "shocked" at the treatment of communities she met during her official visit from September 24 to October 3.
According to Farha, several families from two communities she met were later subjected to "forced evictions" and had their furniture thrown in the streets, leaving them homeless.
Other people she had contact with were summoned by the police for interrogation, and one faced "arbitrary arrest and undisclosed detention", the UN said.
"Egypt has failed to adhere to the assurances provided to me that no person would be harassed, intimidated or subjected to reprisal for meeting or providing information to me or my delegation," Farha said.
Her statement triggered an angry response from Egypt which accused her of "fabricating lies".
The rights groups warned that failing to act in response to the alleged reprisals "will only encourage similar human rights violations in the future and risk undermining the accessibility and credibility of the UN experts and wider human rights system."
They called on the UN to "ensure an urgent and robust system-wide response" and said its Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should review "any ongoing cooperation" with the Egyptian government.
The Egyptian authorities have clamped down on dissent, particularly among supporters of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was toppled by the military in 2013 following mass protests against his rule.
The crackdown was later expanded to include liberal and leftist secular activists.
According to the UN, Farha's visit was the first to Egypt by an expert appointed by its Human Rights Council since 2011.