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By Dr. Suleiman Walhad
June 5th, 2023
Turkish elections are now over and the man of the hour and the century in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once again won astoundingly in a show of transparent and fine process, which elated many and disappointed a few. Indeed, Turkey won for it completed one of the most contested elections in its modern history, without any difficulties and/or issues, and Erdogan was given the reigns to run the country for another five years, extending his twenty-year rule. The outcome was important for many countries and groups of nations around the globe including the Horn of Africa States region, and especially, when the region is still struggling with its civil strives, hunger and political chaos marred, in the main, by tribal/ethnic discords and international interferences.
The Horn of Africa States was very pleased, indeed, to have Erdogan come back to rule over the Turks. He represents one party they know very well and dealt with over the last decade and half. The relationship between Türkiye and the region was, indeed, created under his stewardship and continues to benefit both sides, although the Horn of Africa States region, has yet to offer anything tangible other than its strategic location and investment opportunities. Türkiye has assisted in the stabilization and security of the region not only militarily but also diplomatically and on the humanitarian front as well. The people of the Horn of Africa States, are, indeed, grateful for the involvement of the Turkish Republic in the region, which has come to its aid at its time of need, without unnecessarily exploiting the region as many others who come to assist seem to be engaged in.
The leaders of the HAS region did, indeed, congratulate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, expressing their commitment to continue working with Turkey and developing the relationship further. The HAS/Türkiye relationship, although appearing to be only recent and starting with President Erdogan, dates back to centuries. The relationship with the region goes back to the early sixteenth century when the Portuguese were attempting to make footholds in the region and the Red Sea/northern Indian Ocean after rounding up the Cape of Good Hope in 1487, which prompted the then rulers of the Ottoman Empire to bolster their presence in the region. The Turks, in fact, indirectly worked with the Adal and Harar Sultanates of the time, where many people of Turkish origin, Azeri Turks or Adari in local languages, settled.
Türkiye, in the years ahead, would face many challenges, which among others would include its relations with the Horn of Africa States region. This is a region which is generally marked by conflicts and civil strives and had it not been for the Turkish involvement, it could have found itself in a more precarious situation. Over the next five years, the chaos and civil strife in the region are expected to be reduced to manageable levels although unfriendly forces in the region still enjoy strong bases. Perhaps, Erdogan’s famous personal diplomacy would continue to assist the region’s leadership to work together for its betterment and development in all fronts.
Peace and stability are the key to development and investments anywhere. Helping stabilize and removal of the evil terror forces from the region would be one of the main tasks of the region’s leadership and any help they get from friends like Turkey and its president, President Tayyip Erdogan would be welcome. It is here where the HAS region needs to establish a strategic relationship with Türkiye, supported by continued engagement of both parties in the process.
The Horn of Africa States region offers opportunities for investments in the oil and gas sectors both onshore and offshore, mining of important metals including, iron ore, gold and platinum, which the region is said to own and even exploiting the huge maritime exclusive economic zone of the region not only for extraction of resources but also for constituting a large blue economy. The region also offers large tracts of land suitable for farming and agricultural development where Turkish firms could invest with local parties.
Key areas of cooperation between the HAS region and Türkiye would include not only the economic and trade sectors but also military, air and naval sectors to secure the region from reverting back to the old civil war days. It would provide further opportunities for developing Turkish defense industries and gateway for entry into the Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Horn of Africa States region remains geostrategically important and would be of interest for Türkiye as it is of interest to other parties both regional and global. The Chinese naval presence in the region, is the only one it has outside its territory and, of course, the traditional western powers would continue to remain in the region. The Russians have been attempting to come back to the region and hence the region would seem to being crowded. This is all related to its close proximity to one of the main sea-lanes of the world – the Red Sea, Bab El Mandab, Gulf of Aden, northern Indian ocean waterway, and of course its resources and large marketplace.
Unlike many other powers both regional and global, Türkiye has built a reputation of being a trustworthy friend of the region. It has contributed to reactivating the port of Mogadishu and the airport of Mogadishu, which are now both functional institutions. They have helped Ethiopia defeat tribal terror groups through provision of its Bayraktar TB2 drones, and its airline, the Turkish Airlines serves the region, connecting it to the rest of the world.
The relationship between the HAS region and Türkiye appears to be based on mutual understanding, where humanitarian assistance, investments and security cooperation remain all part of the matrix. It has generally a win-win characteristic, which if continued would be beneficial to all parties.
The Gulf Cooperation Council countries are moving away from their traditional relationships and asserting a new independent foreign policy, choosing their friends on different grounds based on their interests. A closer relationship is expected to be built with Türkiye and hence the old competition over the Horn of Africa States region is expected to become more collaborative than competitive for the good interest of both parties. It is where the Horn of Africa States region would benefit as both parties are stronger than the region economically and financially.
Perhaps the odd country out of this would be Egypt which appears not to have settled its relations with the Horn of Africa States on the issue of the GERD dam, which it sees as a threat and not as an opportunity. A closer relationship of the region with both Türkiye and the GCC countries would be helpful in reassuring Egypt that the Horn of Africa States region is not out to get Egypt. Their good offices is always welcome, if they stay away from those who have hurt the region and are still bent on hurting it more.
Türkiye’s current presence in the region is about a decade and half years old and has been welcomed in the region generally, although it is not the only country or region that has been active. There is India, China, and of course the GCC countries of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. The traditional western influences in the region and Iran also continued. Many of these countries have appointed special envoys to the region, indicating the importance attached to the region, which nevertheless remains poor and conflicted.
The Horn of Africa States region has, in general, welcomed Türkiye’s approach in developing relations and interactions with the region, which include among others diplomacy, investments and trade, and military/security matters, health and education, and humanitarian activities. One now finds large Horn African communities in Turkey consisting of not only businesspeople but also tourists, students and those seeking health services. It is currently a visible community in Turkey. Likewise, one finds Turkish businesses growing in the Horn of Africa and its investments in various sectors in the region including agriculture, trade, ports and airports and security sectors. The re-election of President Tayyip Erdogan has, therefore, been a welcome relief that Türkiye’s policies towards the region would not falter and/or change. It is expected to continue with an even keel, in the foreseeable future.
Türkiye has one problem similar to what the two largest SEED countries have for decades now. It has serious problems posed by those who want to secede and those with extremist religious agenda. Somalia has the same problems since 1991 and Ethiopia has had destabilizing conflicts rooted in secession with one finding success in 1993. The last thing Türkiye wants to see is its Kurdish nemesis having offices in Addis(Finfine), Mogadishu and Djibouti. Eritrea seems to have been a tough cookie for Erdogan. And there is a potential huge market in HOA for Türkiye’s drones and other military hardware. It seems and without a doubt Erdogan is doing what could end up being a wise investment now. Another challenge for Erdogan is the growing strength out of the Arabian Peninsula. This group of Sultanates come with deep pockets and newly acquired diplomatic skills. I am sure my dear brother has heard the news of major merger today. For months until today PGA Tour had locked horns with the Saudi funded LIV Golf Tour. But today there was a bombshell that seemed to have dropped and hit fans like a supersonic missile. The two have merged now. The influence by deep pocked sultanates will be more and more pronounced in the HOA in particular and worldwide in general. Will that be good or bad. I am leaning to the 2nd one but it is just me being me. It is that layman’s opinion.
Once again, elephant size kudos to Brother Dr. Suleiman for penning and posting this conversation inducing article on this esteemed website.
I must agree with Brother Ittu Aba Farda on the above comments. Indeed, Turkey has the same problems of extreme religiosity and secessions supported by “supposed friends”. I must also agree with his assessment that the deep pocketed new regional powers would practice their new found powers mostly in the Horn of Africa. It is not a layman’s opinion but those of a knowledgeable deep thinker. I wish we had more of you in the region.
Thank you my dear brother for your kind words. Please join me in my prayers that some day soon the intellectuals of the SEED countries will get their acts in line and come together to lead the noble peoples of those nations out of abject poverty with designing a doable plan to do away with the destructive instability that has been bedeviling them for centuries. We should have known better in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s and 2010’s. We are now in 2020’s already but still those countries are profusely bleeding from runaway malfeasance, misrule and being outright cruel to each other. They should take the way you shake hands with this son of Itu pastoralist cattle herders as an example and start talking to each other in a spirit of brotherly/sisterly love.
I am eagerly waiting for your next masterpiece.
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