Somalia has turned the corner
Abdirahman Dualeh BeilehFrom the collapse of the last official government of Somalia in 1991, led by military strongman Siad Barre, to the election of this new government led by President Hassan Mohamud Sheikh in September 2012, Somalia has experienced enormous changes. Immediately after the government fell, state institutions failed to operate, and government buildings, entire streets and even towns became the strongholds of warlords. Many Somali cities, including the capital city Mogadishu, were utterly destroyed by clan-based violence and governed through fear and death. Somalia had become, and was rightfully labelled, “a failed state” by the world and neglected for over two decades by the international community. Interim government replaced yet another interim government and the Somali public had all but given up on these administrations decided for them in foreign capitals across the world.
Today, Somalia is still a patient in critical care, but it is slowly turning the corner. Where once tribal militias controlled different sections of the same road, where most citizens were armed for personal protection and the government had no control par a few streets in the capital, the Somali government today is working toward achieving its six-pillar plan which, at its core, includes security, constitutional reform and a clear, equitable and workable federal model for a stronger, prosperous and united Somalia among other things.
It is easy for a government minister to speak of changes, and it is often referred to as propaganda by critics. However, a simple inspection of facts on the ground in Somalia will illuminate the progress of our nation. The large Somali diaspora scattered across the world are returning in large numbers to work and invest. The Somali national army is getting stronger by the day and is capable of fighting effectively alongside the African Union peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on raids and liberating cities and entire regions that once were no-go zones controlled by al-Shabab. Additionally, once dark streets infested by terror, fear and almost owned by militias are now lively hubs of business, commerce and family homes. As I travel across the capital Mogadishu, while the physical signs of the past conflict are visible, the hope the public has invested in a better future eclipses it. The message is always made clear to me through these observations and public meetings: The Somali people have had enough of the failed politics and society. They want peace, prosperity and progress. And they want it now, not later.
Turning around a once failed state is extremely difficult, and it is impossible to do it alone even if one had all the resources necessary. The Somali state building process is going well, and we are progressing toward 2016 with every expectation of fulfilling our six-pillar plan as a government. We are hopeful that, if we continue as we are with inclusive politics, accountability and joint partnership working at the heart of all our policies, this government will be able to deliver Somalia to a new historical dawn. However, without the assistance of the international community, the first of which is Turkey, this ambition would not have been possible.
The Somali people will never forget that, while most partner agencies, let alone governments, feared setting foot in Mogadishu, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family arrived with an impressive delegation, including the former Foreign Minister and current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, to highlight the need of the Somali people in the middle of a civil war in August 2011. This first visit by an international leader in nearly 20 years, arguably, returned Somalia to the international spotlight and transformed the country’s image from one of a violent, lawless state, to one that deserved a chance and needed genuine support from the international community. As Prime Minister Davutoğlu predicted at the time, many more nations came and are still coming after Turkey, and are opening their embassies right here in a once war-torn country. This one historic visit opened the door wide open for positive international engagement for our struggling, but improving country.
Aside from destroying negative perceptions of Somalia, the Turkish government had been swift in its support through aid, education and infrastructure rehabilitation and building. Today, thousands of Somali students study in Turkish universities and in military academies through scholarships, and many more will benefit from this vital personal and national life line in the future. The Turkish government is also rebuilding our roads, schools and vital infrastructure to spearhead economic, political and social reform, as well as supporting institutional development through the provision of crucial public servant salaries and training. Turkish aid and expertise is working across our government departments to bolster our future capability to deliver for our people. The Somali people are indeed indebted to their Turkish brothers and sisters and the kind leaders they have chosen to lead them.
Turkey has had a long, proud, but turbulent history of its own and Somalia is no different. We hope as a nation that we are able to resolve our differences, as Turkey did on various occasions throughout its history, and agree on a common path informed by a united national vision as exists in Turkey today. There is much for us to learn from Turkey on our journey to peace, security and prosperity, and we Somalis will remain eager students and loyal friends. In a fast-paced, ever-changing world, informed by globalization and greater interconnectivity and dependency, Turkey has much to offer the world. Its return to the international scene as a donor, and not aid-recipient, nation after a successful national rebirth is something the world should welcome. We certainly do in Somalia.
*Abdirahman Dualeh Beileh is the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Investment Promotion of the Federal Republic of Somalia.