Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Politics

Somalia: Turkey's Pivot to Africa in the Context of Growing Inter-Imperialist Rivalries

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Politics

Somalia: Turkey's Pivot to Africa in the Context of Growing Inter-Imperialist Rivalries

Article excerpt


With the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War One and after the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became the founding father of the Turkish Republic. Atatürk magnified Turkey's turn to secularization and Westernization, drawing it into the Anglo-American orbit. Turkey was a bulwark for the Western containment of the Soviet Union on behalf of American interests in the Middle East. The United States enlisted Turkey to militarily contain the Soviets in the first years of the Cold War and in 1952, along with French Algeria, Turkey became the only non-Western member of NATO (Phillips 2010, 40). By 1955, through the Baghdad Pact, Turkey along with Iraq, Iran and Pakistan territorially contained this region from the Soviet Union with direct military aid from the U.S. (Miller 2007, 146). The Cold War gave rise to Pan-Arabism, where Turkey proved itself to be a valuable ally to counter the influence of Middle Eastern countries the U.S. viewed as Soviet client states (Egypt, Iraq, and Syria).

In 2010, Turkey had signed major energy-related agreements with a resurgent Russian Federation led by President Vladimir Putin (RT 2010). The energy agreements were suspended by Moscow after Turkey shot down a Russian jet on November 15, 2015 in which Ankara claimed the jet breached Turkish airspace from Syria (Guardian 2015). Erdoğan after stubbornly refusing to apologize finally did so on June 27, 2016 (RT 2016a). Recurring rejections of Turkey to become a member of the European Union have damaged relations with the U.S. and other NATO members. U.S. support for the Kurdish People's Protection Units in northern Syria, who are aligned with the Turkey-based Kurdistan Worker's Party and are recognized as a terrorist group, has driven a bigger wedge between Ankara's and Washington's 'war on ISIS'.

Modern Turkey today stands at the crossroads of inter-imperialist rivalry between the U.S., Russia, and, in the Horn of Africa, with the rise of China. Turkey has one foot in NATO and the other foot free to pursue its own interests as it sees fit.

Turkey has provided both humanitarian and developmental aid to Somalia and played a key role in settling its political stalemate. Following the stalemate, a military cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries, followed by trade and investment negotiations. Turkey's entrance into the African continent must be explored in the context of growing inter-imperialist rivalries. This paper investigates whether Somalia has become a gateway for renewed Turkish imperial ambitions in a region where U.S. imperialism is under challenge by its rivals. Only by closely examining Turkey in the crossroads of the major powers can Turkish interests in the Horn of Africa be properly understood. Such an examination must consider the historical relationship between Turkey and Somalia from the Ottoman Era to the present day.


2.1 The republic era

The early leaders of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk and his Kemalist successors led the country into a westernization process by the formulation of a foreign policy that looked to the West. During the Cold War, Turkey was in the Westernaligned bloc and an active member of NATO. In contrast, Somalia was under the colonial rule of Britain in the northern regions and by Italy in the south, which effectively divided ethnic Somalis (Odock 2013, 413). In 1960, Somalia was granted independence as much of Africa experienced de-colonization. After independence, Somalia was open to Soviet aid and influence while Turkey remained firmly aligned to the Western bloc. Soviet-Somali relations were always unstable and in 1977 Moscow cut all military and economic assistance to Mogadishu (Powell 2008, 658). Somalia renewed its relations with Turkey by opening an embassy in Ankara in 1979 and Turkey established an embassy in Mogadishu in the same year (Addow 2015). …

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