Turkey gives hope to war torn Somalia
There is excitement in the local Somali community after a Turkish Airline flight made its first landing at Mogadishu airport this week. This is the first time in 20 years that a major commercial airline landed in the war torn country. For Somalis living in South Africa this was a positive sign of hope. "I’m very excited, because this is a sign that reconstruction will soon start in Somalia," said Amir Sheikh, former secretary general of the Somali Community Board of South Africa (SCOB).
The Turkish Airline said this was the start of a regular service to the Somali capital, the first by an international carrier from outside East Africa. Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bosdag was aboard the flight, which was welcomed by the Somali president. "We will connect the Somali people to the rest of the world. We hope that in the near future Somalia will become a stable place, a very normal country," an official from Turkish Airlines, Faruk Sazar, said after landing.
The twice-weekly flights are expected to make travel easier for Somali businessmen and members of the large Somali Diaspora. "Whenever I wanted to travel to Somalia, I had to go either via Dubai or Nairobi which was very costly," Ismail Mohammed, a Somali businessman based in Port Elizabeth told me in a telephone interview. Millions of Somalis live in the Diaspora as a result of the country's long civil war.
During the 2011 famine, Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, went to Somalia to help famine victims. This was the visit major visit by a Western leader in decades to the war wracked country. Analysts predicted that Erdogan’s visit was designed to demonstrate Turkey's willingness to help victims of a devastating famine, and also showcase Ankara's ambition to become a major political and economic player in Africa.
Ever since African Union peacekeepers and government forces pushed the militant group Al Shabbab out of Mogadishu, residents have enjoyed relative stability. Local media in Somalia reported that ululations, dancing and celebrations welcomed the Turkish airliner.
Originally Published on VOC, additional reporting from BBC