Turkey Opens Military Base in Mogadishu

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in Somalia in 2015 (Wikimedia Commons) Turkey opened its biggest-yet overseas military base in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on September 30. Turkey’s government will oversee the training of over 10, 000 Somali soldiers.

The Somali government has responded positively to Turkey’s recent involvement in the region. Somalia’s minister of information stated that the government is “very happy” to be given “modern facilities for [its] security forces,” according to a recent Reuters report. Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire thanked the Turkish government, positing that the new base signals a shift from a clan-based “national force” to one with “well-trained forces that represent the Somali people.”

The new military base is a symbol of long-standing Somali-Turkey relations, tracing back to the Ottoman Empire. The ties between the countries have been strengthened in recent years beginning in 2011 when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Mogadishu during the famine in Somalia. Erdogan’s 2011 visit marked the first time a  “non-African leader” had visited the country in two decades.

The Turkish government has made every effort to secure its role as one of Somalia’s biggest allies. In 2016, the Turkish government opened its largest embassy in Mogadishu. Reuters reports that Turkish exports to Somalia were $123 million during this year, and the country positioned itself as Somalia’s fifth-largest importer.

In exchange, Somalia has offered political support to Turkey. In 2016, the East African nation supported Erdogan after an attempted coup on his government. Somalia denounced the coup, with then-President Hassan Mohamud publicly asserting that it was “unacceptable to reverse the democratic path that the people of Turkey enjoyed in the recent times of their history.” A 2016 Voice of America report noted that hundreds protested the coup in Mogadishu.

Responses to Turkey’s presence in the region are not uniform, as many have suggested that recent Turkish investments in Somalia have been informed by “lucrative interests.” Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera quoted Somalia expert Hamza Egal in a recent report as saying, “The strategic location of Somalia and its political impasse has made it an attractive location for foreign entities that have geopolitical interests in the region.”