Turkey is the newest country to intervene in Somalia and its involvement has produced some positive results. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s courageous visit to Mogadishu in August 2011 at the height of the famine and his decision to open an embassy gave fresh impetus to efforts to establish lasting peace. Widespread Somali gratitude for Turkish humanitarian endeavours and the country’s status as a Muslim and democratic state established Turkey as a welcome partner. Ankara has signalled it is in for the long haul. However, it must tread prudently, eschew unilateralism and learn lessons to avoid another failed international intervention. Over twenty years, many states and entities have tried to bring relief and secure peace in Somalia, often leaving behind a situation messier than that which they found. Ankara must appreciate it alone cannot solve the country’s many challenges, but must secure the support and cooperation of both the Somali people and international community. Trying to go solo could backfire, hamper ongoing efforts and lose the immense good-will it has accumulated.
Turkey’s presence on the ground is relatively small, but because of its timely famine relief and the apparent strength of its commitment, as well as Somalis’ gratitude, its contribution is seen as colossal. In addition to its embassy, there are about a dozen governmental and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with a limited presence on the ground working in Mogadishu. But Somalis’ dream of a quick and comprehensive recovery has created great expectations in the regions that are not receiving Turkish assistance, particularly because of their highly visible activities in Mogadishu. Yet, besides generous diplomatic and political support, its means are modest and its material support to Somalia will probably remain limited. If the Somali people’s high expectations are not moderated and if Ankara is unable to expand its relief and development aid to peaceful regions outside Mogadishu, the Turkey-Somalia partnership could be strained or quickly transformed into a relationship beset by resentment.