By: Robleh Mohamud Lafcanbe
As Turkey seeks to increase their influence in the Horn of Africa, their image in the Republic of Somaliland is rapidly deteriorating.
Two weeks ago, Turkey’s polarizing President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, embarked on a tour of the Horn of Africa, visiting Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia – leaving out Somaliland on his itinerary.
Why didn’t President Erdogan visit Somaliland?
That is an important question, considering the fact that Turkey has historic relations with Somaliland dating back to the Ottoman Empire. There is also a sizeable amount of Turkish citizens who have opened schools and businesses in Hargeisa and are passionate advocates of stronger relations between Turkey and Somaliland. Most importantly, the Turkish government are key brokers of important talks currently going on between the Governments of Somaliland and Somalia.
Turkey was offered the crucial role of brokering the talks due to their historic relationship with Somaliland and their relationship with the Government of Somalia.
The talks first began in the capital Ankara in April 2013. At the start of the talks, Turkey assured both sides that their government would be fair and impartial brokers and expressed their desire for a peaceful and lasting solution. There was however, considerable concern at many levels in Somaliland that Turkey would end up being partial. It has now become a concern that has only deepened since the start of the talks and the following events.
On numerous occasions the Government of Somalia has violated co-operation agreements signed with the Government of Somaliland. These violations stood out from the rest.
- On October 2013, at a conference in London, then-Natural Resources Minister Abdirizak Omar referred to Somaliland as a “federal member state” and claimed that all oil exploration licenses issued by the Government of Somaliland are invalid. He also called for all oil companies operating in Somaliland to start negations with the Government of Somalia.
- In July 2013, both sides met again vis-à-vis in Turkey to discuss issues regarding Somaliland and Somalia’s airspace. Both sides agreed to setting up a joint commission in Hargeisa to manage their airspace. This agreement was later broken in November 2013 when then-Transport Minister of Somalia Abdullahi Elmoge Hersi travelled to ICAO headquarters in Montreal, Canada and signed an agreement with ICAO, transferring the airspace and millions of dollars collected in taxes to the Government of Somalia.
Somalia’s repeated disregard of honouring agreements with Somaliland is a significant problem, but it is Turkey’s silence on these matters that have been detrimental to the process.
And now to make matters even worse – President Erdogan not visiting Somaliland has added even more fuel to the fire.
It is a disappointment to see Turkey chasing strong relations with Somalia and ignoring their historic ties with Somaliland. It is even more discouraging to see that they have ignored the trust of the people and Government of Somaliland and have turned their backs on us.
During President Erdogan’s eleven-year tenure as Prime Minister, his leadership and foreign policies were admired by many countries of the Muslim world including the Republic of Somaliland. But now Turkey’s stance on the future of Somaliland and Somalia has negatively outweighed his past.
The next round of Somaliland-Somalia talks are scheduled for later this month in Turkey – but now after recent events it’s highly unlikely that it will be held. Last month the Government of Somalia violated yet another co-operation agreement with the Government of Somaliland – this time brokered by Djibouti. Turkey’s partiality is also another valid reason for Somaliland to forego the talks.
Turkey must accept that their government is incapable of convincing the Republic of Somaliland to reunite with Somalia. It’s been twenty-four years since the Republic of Somaliland re-declared its independence and there is no going back. No foreign government – no matter how influential they are – can change that.
The author of this article can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter – @RM_Laf