Mogadishu (GPA) – Following the decision by Turkey to back Qatar in the Gulf conflict, the neo-ottomans are opening military bases further abroad.
After two years of construction, a Turkish military training facility is set to open in Mogadishu next month. The camp will serve several purposes including training and limited military operations.
The new facility will be Turkey’s largest foreign military base, with a plot of land that’s about one and a half square miles. The camp will be capable of training up to 1,500 soldiers at a time.
200 Turkish troops will be located at the camp to both train Somali forces as well as provide security in a country that’s currently facing a multitude of threats.
Somalia suffering from extreme economic instability and Turkey is seeking to help them manage. Turkey opened an embassy in Mogadishu last year to help the Somali government deal with a severe drought that affects more than half the country’s population of 12 million people.
While Turkey’s diplomatic mission helps Somalia cope with drought and a cholera outbreak that has killed 1,000 people just this year, the new military facility will train Somali soldiers to deal with security issues. The security threats include everything from pirates and al Qaeda affiliated al-Shabab to other terror groups including another al Shabab faction allied with the Islamic State.
While the military base in Somalia isn’t like the facility, Turkey has in Qatar the Somali government is still pleased to have helped since they currently only actually control the urban areas of the country. Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo said as much in March when he told Turkish news agency The Daily Sabah, “The largest Turkish military base in the world is almost ready, and the Somali army will soon be strong once again.”
To many, this looks like a continuation of the expansionist policies of Turkish President Recep Erdogan, but don’t worry, the Turkish ambassador to Somalia, Olgan Bekar, assured journalists that “Turkey has no colonialist policy in Somalia.” This follows the official government line that Turkey is just doing good for the sake of doing good, which isn’t the image that usually comes to mind when you think Turkish foreign policy.
According to Bekar, the mission of Turkish troops in Somalia is “to help Somalia rebuild its public institutions that have been ruined since 1991. Turkey will train Somali soldiers here so that the Somali army can recuperate.” Since this is the government line, the real reason Ankara feels it’s important to help the fight against al Shabab in one of the world’s poorest countries is anyone’s guess.
Bekar also asserts that Turkey has an interest in getting the issues of Somalia back in the international spotlight. This sounds like a noble task until you also factor in Erdogan’s own words from an op-ed he wrote for Al Jazeera last year where he spoke of Africa’s vast untapped workforce of young laborers, the entrepreneurial spirit of the continent and – this one may shock you – the abundance of natural resources. If that doesn’t sound like it has potential to turn into creeping colonialism, then we don’t know what does.
Also published on Medium.