Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went on a four-day visit of East Africa, stopping in Uganda, Kenya and Somalia to promote trade, tourism and security ties. In an email interview, David Shinn, an adjunct professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and former U.S. ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, discussed Turkey’s outreach to East Africa.
WPR: Who are Turkey’s main partners in East Africa, and what are the key areas of cooperation?
David Shinn: Turkey has an embassy in every country in East Africa and the Horn of Africa, but has made a special effort to cultivate relations with Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. The biggest surprise is the attention that Turkey has given to Somalia, still considered by many to be a failed state. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just completed his third visit to Somalia since 2011. In 2013, Turkey received the first contingent of 120 Somali military personnel that it agreed to train, arm and support. At the beginning of this year, a Turkish official commented that Turkey would build a military training center in the capital of Mogadishu. Turkey offers hundreds of scholarships to Somali students, trains many Somali police, and has provided $500 million in aid. One senior Somali official recently told me that Somalia’s most important bilateral partner is Turkey.