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The quintessential soft power? On Turkey’s foray into Somalia

turkey somalia soft power

Turkey's "Arab Spring" forays into Middle Eastern diplomacy, have drawn much attention on the international stage. Its launch into Africa, however, has gone little noticed by a world more focused on China's involvement in the sub-Saharan region.

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June 3, 2012 5:42 by



There may also be rich trade pickings for Turkey’s thriving economy in the energy, construction and agriculture sectors; but first comes the most basic rebuilding.

 

Beneath Mogadishu’s gutted parliament building, Turkish medics perform surgery in a packed makeshift field-hospital.

 

“We come here with our hearts, not for money,” said one doctor scampering between the inflatable tented wards.

 

“COVER FOR WESTERN INVADERS”

 

While security rules restrict foreign U.N. staff and diplomats to fleeting visits beyond the military-protected airport in armoured troop carriers, Turkish aid workers move freely in vests adorned with the national flag

 

Their access, it seems, has nothing to do with religion. The Islamist al Shabaab militant group has denounced Muslim Turkey’s involvement as a “cover for the Western invaders” and has targeted Turkish interests.

 

A suicide truck-bomber in October killed 72 people, many of them students applying for Turkish scholarships. Two months later a car bomb blew up metres from Turkey’s newly re-opened embassy but caused no Turkish casualties.

 

Turkey’s Ambassador C. Karin Torun, on his first ever diplomatic posting, described it as a question of political will.

 

“Our aim is to show a different model can work in getting help to the people,” said Torun, Turkey’s first ambassador in Somalia since civil war erupted in 1991.

 

Istanbul has just hosted an international conference on Somalia, focusing on improving infrastructure and security.



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