Why the Istanbul conference is different from the London conference?
As the conference on Somalia concludes in Istanbul, I cannot help but to express my raw emotions towards the new political and military developments in Somalia as I cannot hide my higher expectation that our nation is finally coming out of the long and dark tunnel of a protracted civil war that caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Somalis and the destruction of properties and other resources. Indeed, these days the magic word in the media is that Somalia is finally getting rid of its bad image as a failed state.
First of all, let me shed some light on the Istanbul conference on Somalia, comparing it with the London conference.
In my view, the Istanbul conference is a genuine event organised by a neutral mediator with the best interest of Somalia and its people at its heart. This is because the host cannot be accused of ambitions of neo-colonialism agenda, as it cannot be associated with Somalia’s dark colonial history. Although the Ottoman empire once ruled some parts of the Somali nation it did not get its hands dirty by not participating the balkanisation of the our country by the European powers. Therefore, unlike the London conference, the suspicion that some past and neo-colonial interests might have propelled Britain to lead the conference, including helping Somaliland, its former British colony appear on the world map and stage, is totally absent from this conference. Put it simply, Turkey is free from guilty-laden colonial baggage that could destroy its reputation as a genuine mediator in Somalia’s protracted civil strive.
As they say action speaks louder than words. Turkey is one of the few countries whose presence on the ground in Somalia is making much difference to the lives of thousands of Somalis. Turkish humanitarian organisations are running hospitals performing life saving operations, as its engineers are rebuilding roads etc. Its national airline is shipping many young Somali students out of the country giving them the opportunity to follow higher education in Turkish universities. This kind of “hands-on” approach to aid projects is what has been lacking from most of the international aid operations in Somalia since the collapse of the central government. Although Americans and other countries adopted “hands-on” approach in delivering humanitarian and developmental projects during the UNOSOM operation, their action was tainted by the presence of a huge military force, which was actually committing atrocities against the Somali people. One only needs to remember when some Canadian soldiers were filmed torturing a Somali boy by grilling his body over an open fire. Turkey cannot be accused of this because it does not have any military presence in Somalia.
As well as being a neutral country, Turkey is a Muslim country whose model of tolerant secularism and democracy mixed with the Islamic faith could help the Somali nation gear towards a more secular and tolerant Republic as the case was prior the civil war. Indeed, Turkey is a beacon and model for all Arab and other Muslim countries that are trying to get a balance between militant Islamism and the desire for democratic, liberal and tolerant societies. And Somalia is lucky to have attracted Turkish attention at this moment in time when Somalis are confused over Islamism vs. democracy and secularism, and peace vs. war. It can only be described the Turkish intervention as a God-send mission designed to save Somalia from it self; the Istanbul conference helps a lot.
Unlike the London conference, Somalia sovereignty is not being compromised by including some scrupulous secessionist groups and by excluding the Somali president as the case was in the previous conference. As you may remember, while other heads of the so called regional administrations “Somaliland” were being sandwiched between powerful regional and global heads of states, president Sheikh Sharif, symbol of Somalia’s sovereignty, although he made the opening speech, was actually excluded from the main photo opportunity of the conference. At the Istanbul conference, the president was at the fore-front of the photo opportunity, robbing shoulders with other heads of states without feeling threatened by the presence of the head of the so called “Somaliland Republic” whose presence in the London conference had undermined our nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Again as they say action speaks louder than words. Why the head of the “Somaliland Republic” was present at the London conference and not the Istanbul conference? The answer is simple. “Somaliland” leaders could not dare to say no to the orders of its former colonial power which they thought could help their ambition for international recognition, while they could not stomach attending the Istanbul gathering, a genuine conference that is intended to support Somalia’s territorial integrity and unity.
More importantly, the Istanbul conference enjoyed a wider representation of the Somali society. Unlike those few figure-heads of the so called “Puntland, Galmudug and Somaliland” entities who were entertained in London, the Turkish government air-lifted hundreds of prominent traditional leaders, who had been meeting in Mogadishu to approve the constituent assembly, to Istanbul to bless the conference. These traditional leaders are the ones who are actively engaged in the nitty-gritty business of governing and running the human affairs of a clan based society. And although representation and legitimacy are disputed topics in war-torn societies, the attendance of the traditional leaders surely gives the conference more authority and legitimacy than the previous one. I can only thank the Turkish government for being wiser and intelligent than the British government!
And finally, while the Al-Shabab terror group was threatening to disrupt the momentum towards peace while the London conference was being held, the days of this terror group are numbered as an invigorated national army is dismantling the terror group’s structure. Indeed, hardly a day passes by without more towns and cities being liberated from this murderous cult. I was delighted to see a new Somali commando unit called “Alpha” with their faces masqueraded hunting down the much hated face-covered Al-Shabab militia who are now being gradually kicked out of Somalia.
Let us salute our new commando units which remind me of the brave and respected commando units of the Somali National Army. The sons and daughters of the former commando heroes, who liberated Godey from Ethiopia, are today liberating our nation from the clutches of the much-hated and murderous cult of Godane and his coward Mafia. by muuse yuusud
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