The total performance principle as key of Turkish activism in Somalia



The total performance principle as key of Turkish activism in Somalia
The total performance principle as key of Turkish activism in Somalia
The trip of the former Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the summer of 2011 has
opened the increase of Turkey’s presence in Somalia. At the same time Erdoğan’s visit has represented
the turning point in the Somali process of stabilization following twenty years of political vacuum, civil
war, anarchy and humanitarian crises. The Turkish commitment in Somalia has been presented as
‘moral imperatives’ (Erdoğan, 2011a) having a particular characteristics that distinguish it from
previous attempts of mediation and peacebuilding made by external actors and intergovernmental
organizations. The Turkey’s policy in Somalia highlighted the process of diversification of foreign
policy actors marked by the progressive involvement of non-state actors1.
This trend reflects a long underestimated principle of the new course of Turkish foreign policy: the
total performance principle. The work has the aim to present the growing role played by various social
groups in Turkish foreign policy within a strategy (Central Country) designed to gain international
centrality and relevance. Turkey’s pro-active policy toward sub-Saharan Africa also provides a lab to
probe the ‘total performance principle’ practical application. The increasing activities in Somalia as
well as the loss of relevance in the Middle East have forced Turkey to fix its strategy in order to
revitalize its soft power-oriented approach. The Somali case shows how total performance has fostered
a new kind of interaction between state and non-state actors under the label of humanitarian
diplomacy or humanitarian oriented approach. The same demiurge of Turkish foreign policy, the
current Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, underling the official and civilian capabilities in pursuit
common foreign policy objectives, stated that «Turkey’s approach to the Somali crisis is one of the visible
examples of Turkey’s humanitarian oriented foreign policy» (2013b).
In the first part I will analyze the Turkish foreign policy shift in the last decade focusing the total
performance principle. The role of non-state actors in the Turkish foreign policy has increased
following Arab Spring when Turkey has expanded its (strategic) depth over its neighbors towards a
long ignored regions. In the second part I will present the Turkish rapprochement toward the subSaharan Africa as an hybrid actor different from the traditional ones as well as emerging powers. The
study of Somali case is an attempt to explain and problematize the characteristic, challenges and limits
of Turkey’s action as stabilizing force and peace-promoter. Turkey has sought to become a trusted
partner and mediator in Somalia through the application of the total performance principle. This
Turkey’s approach has allowed to overcome one of the main obstacle faced by other external actors:
the lack of confidence. The Turkish diplomatic mediation and development assistance in Somalia could
be a demonstration of Turkey multifaceted paradigm in foreign policy. Greater involvement of non-
In the traditional classification, non-state actors are divided into two categories: international intergovernmental
organizations (IGOs) and transnational or international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The work refers to the
second category of non-state actors. They are established not by nation-states, but by certain group of individuals,
businessmen and other societal forces. This group has no legal bonds with nation-states; therefore, they are truly
transnational (Brown, 1995; Miller, 1994).
state actors as soft-power tools could also increasing Turkey international profile and attractiveness. In
order to analyze Turkey’s intervention in Somalia I adopted area studies interdisciplinary approach
through a qualitative method and diachronic framework.
Turkey’s deepth in post Arab Spring era
The challenges of the Arab Spring have generated a scholarly debate on the viability of Turkey’s foreign
policy discourse and practices adopted after the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma
Partisi, AKP) that assumed power in 2002. The Arab Spring of 2011 brought a critical challenge for
Turkey. The post-Arab Spring environment has largely invalidated Turkey’s drive to become an
influential regional power and has led to strategic reorientation towards Middle East and other regions.
The impotence shown by Turkey in the face of the Egyptian military coup and in front of Syrian civil
war have downsized the diplomatic successes achieved in previous years. The long wave of Arab
uprisings has undermined the distinctive ‘alchemy’ among Islam, democracy and secularism, which
had been the strength of Turkish soft power for years. The fluid situation in the Middle East and the
inability of acting autonomously have convinced Turkish policymakers to review their strategy,
focusing their attention to other regions.
This work doesn’t argue that there was a totally rupture after the Arab Spring with the previous foreign
policy but rather an attempt to recalibrate it to new contexts. Indeed, it is possible to ascribe recent
changes to a wider transformation or ‘shift of axis’ that began after AKP electoral victory in 2007. The
shift during last three years is shaping as an Arab Spring consequence but it does not constitute a clear
break with the broader Davutoğlu’s strategy known as “Strategic Depth”. Without mixing Davutoğlu’s
academic theory with his actions as an adviser and Foreign Minister there is no doubt that the new
course of Turkey’s foreign policy has been strong influenced by his ideas. Davutoğlu has greatly
affected Turkish foreign policy by infusing new theory and practice into it. In the last decade Ankara
has adopted a new pro-active paradigm based on the overturning of Kemalist foreign policy approach.
The traditional Turkish ‘Western oriented’ foreign policy was conservative and suspicious with the aim
of preserving the ‘status quo’ and it considered the other regions only as potential threats to its
national security and domestic stability (Aydin 2003; Robins 2003). The new Turkey’s foreign policy
under the AKP governments has adopted a dynamic foreign policy through a multidimensional and
multidirectional approach which prioritized integration and cooperation with the regional countries.
Ankara has turned its attention to regions long ignored thanks to its rhythmic diplomacy activism and
the development of soft power tools. Turkey’s ‘strategic autonomy’ has been favored by the excellent
economic performance which allowed Turkey to take new centrality and to diversify its spheres of
influence. In globalist terms Turkish foreign policy has been framed in the so-called transition from a
regional central country to a global actor (Kardaş, 2012b).
In the last decade the multi-directionality of its foreign policy has made Turkey a hub and epicenter of
a large region called "Afro-Eurasia": from the Balkans to the Caucasus, from Central Asia to Africa
through the Middle East. Afro-Eurasia region represents for Turkey a wide area of potential political,
economic and cultural influence. From this consideration Davutoğlu introduced a new language based
on certain principles such ‘zero probems with neighbours” that became the cornerstone of Turkey’s
foreign policy methodology and strategy mainly in the engagements in the Middle East. The ‘zero
probems with neighbours’ policy was a new vision that allowed the country to adopt a constructive
approach towards its neighbourhood, and provided it with new tools (Aras, 2014). The main aim of
‘zero problems’ was minimizing the troubles in Turkey neighboring regions (Aras, 2009).
The challenges of the Arab Spring and the Syrian stalemate have increased the debate surrounding
Turkey’s foreign policy in particular on the Turkey regional role and the validity of the ‘zero
problems’2. Several scholars have judged the 'zero problems' as a failed strategy defining it as
‘obsolete’, unable in dealing with the changes and challenges emerged from the Arab Spring (Taşpinar,
2012; Űlgen, 2012). Rather than arguing that there is a totally new line of foreign policy, this paper aims
to show the recalibration of Turkish foreign policy’s principles in an unchanged strategic framework.
Although the term ‘zero problems’ appears abused and has been inappropriately used to define the
whole Turkish foreign policy setting, it represents only one of the principles that form wider
Davutoğlu’s geopolitical framework defined as "central country’ or “central power” strategy (Kardaş,
2012b). Turkey has experienced the last decade with discussions on the re-location and re-orientation
in the global political context. As stated by Davutoğlu, the claim is to maintain a transition from
Turkey’s role as a ‘frontier country’ of the Western bloc during Cold War and a ‘bridge country’
between the East and the West during the 1990s in order to become aware of Turkey’s potentialities
(2008). Davutoğlu believes that Turkey’s unique geographic and geocultural position gives it a special
central-country (merkez ülke) role, and therefore Turkey cannot define itself in a defensive manner.
Following the directives of Davutoğlu Turkish policy-makers have begun to develop a new political
strategy able to legitimize the recovery and the strengthening of relations with neighboring countries
on the basis of economic interests and affinities ignored or silenced for a long time, including religion
and culture. The main objective of this strategy became the protection of Turkey stability strictly
connected to security and peace in the region
(Davutoğlu, 2007). Turkey is identified both
geographically and historically with more than one region and one culture, enabling the country to
play a central status and finding the capability to maneuvering in several regions simultaneously
(Davutoğlu, 2008). As Şaban Kardaş argued the ‘zero problems’ policy has drawn wide scholarly
attention and media coverage but the ‘central country’ concept is more important to understand
Turkey’s new foreign policy (2012a). Also following the 2011 events, ‘Central Country’ theory remains
the main framework of Turkish foreign policy and, at the same time, Turkey’s aims are unchanged:
national and regional stability through a balance between security and democracy; rising its own
position as regional power and relevant international intermediary; protect and promote Turkish
economic interests in the world to face changes and challenges of the global economy (Davutoğlu,
Since 2011 Turkey has assumed a more liberal value-based approach because the post Arab Spring
environment created a new space of opportunity to get in direct contact with the people and increased
the prospect for more liberal foreign policy based on the promotion of stability, economic cooperation,
democratization and interdependence (Aras, 2014). There has been an increasing involvement of nonstate actors and new soft power’s tolls including mediation, peacebuilding and development assistance.
There are several works on the issue among which: (Oğuzlu, 2012; Taşpinar, 2012; Űlgen, 2012; Kardaş, 2012a
Robins, 2013; Aras, 2014).
As a consequence of this shift Turkey government has accentuated the discourse on humanitarian
oriented approach in some crisis situation including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Gaza and Somalia. In line
with these changes ‘humanitarian diplomacy’ was the main theme of the Fifth Annual Ambassadors
Conference held in Ankara on January 2013.
Even if the humanitarian policy was designed before the Arab Spring, Davutoğlu posed a new notion of
humanitarian diplomacy mainly to explain and legitimize Ankara’s involvement in different regions
affected by political instability. Despite the literature on humanitarian diplomacy topic is wide (Minear,
Smith, 2007; Lamb, 2008; Regnier, 2011) and according to a research conducted by the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) there are 89 different definitions about it but
none of these is completely suitable to the Turkish understanding (Akpinar, 2013). Davutoğlu’s holistic
understanding of humanitarian diplomacy is multifaceted and multi-channeled. According to him
Turkey must adopt a proactive attitude with human focus in crisis regions and must promote a
humanitarian perspective in the global context, especially in international organizations as UN
(Davutoğlu, 2013). During the Ambassador’s conference Davutoğlu also stated that Turkish
understanding of humanitarian diplomacy placed human beings at the center of diplomacy, regardless
of their nationality, religion or ethnicity3. He argues that «there have been contributions from several of
Turkey’s public institutions and NGOs, ranging from Turkish Airlines to TIKA, Kızılay, TOKI and Emergency
Disaster Management Presidency (AFAD)» (Davutoğlu, 2013). Turkey’s vision considers both state and nonstate organizations as actors of humanitarian diplomacy with an emphasis on civilian capacitybuilding. In Davutoğlu’s perspective humanitarian diplomacy could help to move beyond the realistidealist categories on one hand and the hard-power versus soft-power dichotomy on the other one.
Turkish Foreign Minister believes that a new international system require an approach based on a
critical equilibrium between conscience and power, and Turkey is determined to be a leader in
establishing such understanding on a global scale (Davutoğlu, 2013b).
Analyzing critically Turkey’s humanitarian diplomacy practical application, it can be demonstrated
that there isn’t the overcoming of idealist-realist dichotomy but their coexistence. Indeed, on one hand
Turkey promotes actions formulated by the idealist view of the ‘duties beyond borders’ (Barnett, 2008)
on the other one Turkey has a realist perspective of humanitarian diplomacy as tools for legitimizing
strategic state interest in regions beyond their sovereign borders (Akpinar, 2013). The humanitarian
approach is used by Turkish government in some contexts to present its intervention to the eyes of the
local people as genuine and detached. Moreover within Turkey a thumping humanitarian rhetoric
helps to mobilize and sensitize public feelings, because ensuring public support is essential for a
dynamic foreign policy. In a global context Turkey’s humanitarian-oriented approach is also used as a
way to live up to expectations of international solidarity and problem solving initiatives that come with
the status of being a “rising power.” The Turkish government welcomes being called an “emerging
donor4” because the status of being emerging, and thus increasingly significant and influential, plays a
decisive role in Turkey’s identity as a self-confident international actor (Binder, Meier et al. 2010).
See the Final Declaration of the Fifth Annual Ambassadors Conference,
According to the 2013 Global Humanitarian Assistance Report, Turkey—with a budget of $1 billion for humanitarian
assistance—ranked as the fourth-largest humanitarian aid donor of the Official development assistance (ODA) in 2012,
after the United States, the EU, and the United Kingdom.
The role of civil society and the total performance principle
As argue above, Turkey’s definition of humanitarian diplomacy emphasizes the role of state and nonstate as humanitarian actors and it highlighting a type of diplomacy action in crisis situation known as
‘multi-track’. Turkey’s interventions underpin both the role of the state and the civil actors, in line
with its vision of international relations as an inclusive post-Westphalia system, where the states are
not the only actors but they interact with non-state actors. For many years foreign policy was
understood in state-centric terms by literature and only recent studies considered non-state actors in
terms of contributions and challenges to government’s decision-making process (Krut, 1997)5. Despite
the state remains the principal actor in the global arena, non-state actors have increased their
influence and their power in international relations. A dynamic of development has been fostered by
globalization and it is destined to become even more pronounced in the coming years. Recently new
researches have emerged focusing the increasing importance of ‘transnationalization’ in foreign policy
and involvement of non-state actors in decision-making process and operative actions (İpek, Biltekin,
2013). In the last decade there was a progressive innovation of Turkish foreign policy instruments with
a general process of 'transnationalization' of its own relations (Kirişçi, 2012; Demirtaş 2013).
This process was accelerated after the Arab Spring when Turkey gradually increased the
implementation of another principle of Davutoğlu’s setting: the ‘total performance’ principle. It means
a process of involving all the political and socio-economic groups of Turkey, from universities to trade
associations and humanitarian NGOs in the foreign policy-making process (Aras, 2012). The total
performance principle doesn’t consider non-state actors as alternative or threats to state’s actions but
its aim is to incorporate them in an unified and coordinated strategy with emphasis on a presence on
the ground (Cebeci, 2011). This principle means inclusiveness in the foreign policy agenda of non-state
actors like NGOs, business circles, think-tanks, public intellectual figures and thus mobilizing their
support (Davutoğlu, 2001). All these institutions could provide inputs into the foreign policymaking
process in contrast to a past when there was no room for these actors (Aras, 2009). Thanks to total
performance Turkey has shaped a new mechanism of mutual interaction between civil groups and state
where both of them are working to reach a common international objectives. In this new environment
Turkey is currently redefining its international identity from being a passive regional state to a
constructive global actor.
In this new frame peacebuilding and mediation have become tolls of Turkey soft-power oriented
foreign policy. As Davutoğlu asserted Turkey leverage derived from its credibility, economic power and
ability to deliver aid, ranging from development aid to direct credit (2012). Only through these
developments Turkey has allowed to capitalize the strength of its soft power and has encouraged the
gradual involvement of the dynamic forces of its society. Therefore Turkey must be able to use all its
tools and all its talents to increase its own relevance in the international arena and to expand its
spheres of influence. These social groups operate in different regions and in a variety of fields in a
strictly complementary governmental action. Thanks to this policy a lot of civil society organizations
have enhanced their ties with the neighbour countries and people through the exploitation of three
See also: (Charnovitz, 1997; Finnemore, Sikkink, 1998; Snyder, Bruck and Sapin, 2002).
main channels of intervention: economic, educational and humanitarian (Aras, Fidan 2009). The
involvement of civil groups in foreign policy-making process reflects Robert Putnam’s assessment that
foreign policy makers «strive to reconcile domestic and international imperatives simultaneously» (Putnam,
1998). Foreign policy in Turkey is no longer the monopoly of politicians and diplomats, but it has been
increasingly driven from below by key economic and civil society actors (Kirişçi, 2009).
As Pinar Akpinar argues it is possible to adapt the Diamond and McDonald (1996) system approach to
peacebuilding known as ‘multi-track diplomacy’ to the current Turkish foreign policy in crisis
situations, - as Somali one -. In the last decade Turkish foreign policy changed from a ‘single-track
diplomacy’ in which the state (official bureaucracy and military) is the single primary actor, to a multitrack diplomacy in which numerous actors are influential (Akpinar, 2013). This shift reflects the
Davutoğlu’s ‘Kantian’ view about the role of civil society as a valuable tool to bring global peace and
stability. More in general it is possible to find a constant idealist feature of Davutoğlu’s political vision,
that is the idea of ‘meeting of civilizations’ in contrast with the Huntington’s clash paradigm. During
the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries held in Istanbul in 2011, Davutoğlu
stressed the importance of civil society organizations in projects of aid and development. He also
underlined that 1) they are an integral part of international relations and that 2) Turkey believes strong
civil society can only grow through heavy state support: «This is why we strongly support civil society
organizations participating in international affairs»6.
At the base of civil society’s involvement in foreign policy there are several domestic developments
during the last two decades: the governments led by Islamic political party (AKP) need to carry forward
the desecularization’s process of administrative and bureaucratic cadres and to support the rising of an
alternative elite (Keyman et al. 2003). The reforms’s season started by the governments of Turgut Özal
following the 1980’s coupe d’état had created the right conditions for two complementary dynamics:
the rise of Anatolian SMEs (the so-called Anatolian Tigers) and the gradual rehabilitation of religion in
public space. That joint favored the emerging of new Muslim bourgeoisie and the asserting of proIslamic7 civil society. As Ziya Öniş argued the ‘transnationalization’ of small- and medium-sized
business in Turkey was a driver of emerging civil society organizations (2011). The new Muslim middle
class has used its private capital in charity through the promotion of religious movements, charitable
foundations (vakiflar) and a large number of Islamic or faith-based NGOs (Solberg, 2007). Furthermore
civil organizations has proliferated in size and activism since the end of 1990s thanks to the relaxation
of lots of laws and social restrictions inside the Turkish progress on Copenhagen criteria (Yavuz, 2003;
Dönmez, Enneli, 2011). Since its victory election in 2002 AKP government has shaped a new relationship
between State and society with the assignment of the status of “public-service associations” to civil
society organizations (Atalay, 2013). Turkey has changed the relationship between state and civil
society from a mutual hostility attitude to a constructive cooperation by promoting joint domestic and
abroad actions with shared goals. Civil society, mainly pro-Islamic, has become a relevant component
of Turkey’s political agenda through a continuous dialogue with policymakers on a lot of issues. Civil
“Davutoğlu says civil society key in development of LDCs”, in Sunday Zaman, May 08, 2011.
Solberg uses ‘pro-Islamic’ as an umbrella term for a variety of organizations and movements that are grounded in
Islam and therefore can be distinguished from the dominant secularist ideology in Turkey. Some of them can be termed
Islamist in the narrow sense of the word, but a majority of Islamic organizations and movements accepts the secular
state and is rather seeking to exert influence at the social and cultural level (2007:432).
society organizations in their abroad actions enjoy support from the government but with complete
financial independence and without any forms of political control or subordination. The role of the
state is low and in the form of indirect support, for example, it provides the necessary legal
authorizations, logistic support and tax benefits. The visits of government officials on the field give a
symbolic endorsement to the civil society’s organizations.
Turkey as a hybrid actor in Africa
In the era of globalization emerging powers have revived their ties with African countries. Their
activism mainly in the economic field has affected African relations with traditional partners. The
different engagement of non-traditional state actors like China and India, has led to rethink the Africa
development paradigm (Six, 2009; Kragelund, 2012) by introducing a new approach known as ‘paradigm
revolution’ (Fan, 2007; Bräutigam, 2011). In the last decade Turkey has earned a special place among
those non-traditional partners. More recently in front of the Syrian stalemate Turkey has decided to
focus its commitment in regions among which the sub-Saharan Africa, where it could enjoy greater
autonomy. In that region Ankara government experiences its soft power-oriented approach
characterized by complementarity of action between state and non-state actors through the
implementation of mediation, peacebuilding and development assistance policies. Initially, Turkey has
operated in Africa like the other non-traditional actors in the field of economic development and
humanitarian aid without concern for political issues which remain conventional scope of traditional
actors such as the EU and US. For the Turkish government, humanitarian assistance was and still is a
mean to strengthen bilateral relations with governments of affected states. Until 2011 Turkey’s
engagement in Africa was included into the NEPAD 8 international strategies whose aim has been
bringing development and stability through peacekeeping interventions under the auspices of UN.
Today Turkey is still committed in multilateral humanitarian assistance programs (WHO,WFP) but
simultaneously it has operated unilaterally. Since August 2011 Ankara government has assumed more
political responsibilities in the region without being merely an economic power or donor country9.
Turkey’s role in Somalia points to a shift in its focus toward the political aspects of the region’s
problems; a change that has made Turkey a hybrid non-traditional actor (Özkan, 2013) this is because
Turkey combines a traditional political-stability perspective (US, UE) with economic-trade perspective
of emerging powers (China, India, Brazil).
Literature on the issue agrees that there are some elements at the base of Turkish interest for Africa:
difficulties in the EU accession process; the search for new markets for Turkish products and greater
operating autonomy from traditional Western allies (Akgun, Özkan, 2010). Since 2004 Turkey has
significantly increased its relations with the countries of the Horn of Africa through economic and
trade agreements and bilateral projects of development and humanitarian aid. In a few years, Turkey
has multiplied diplomatic offices 10 and the number of honorary consuls who are working in the
continent as intermediaries (Akgün, Özkan, 2010). Diplomatic efforts and cooperation initiatives
New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
Chatham House. (2012, June 28). “Turkey and the Horn of Africa: Emerging Interests and Relations”, Africa Meeting
Summary. URL:
The number of Turkish embassies in Africa has risen from 12 of to 34 in 2013.
promoted by Turkey led to the appointment of an ‘observer status’ in 2005 and ‘strategic partner’ of the
African Union in 2008 (Özkan, 2010). The same year Turkey has organized the First Turkey-Africa
Cooperation Summit. It was a high level officials meeting between Turkey and the African countries
(more than fifty African Union members) also with the presence of Turkish civil society representatives
with the aim to assess the opportunities and needs of the African continent 11. Turkey’s interest towards
Africa was immediately distinguished by a continuous involvement of Turkish social forces and their
cooperation with their African counterparts.
Turkey rising role in Africa had profound psychological effects on Turkish people. Initially it was
necessary a change in the Turkish geographical perception towards Africa no longer considered as a
poor and backward place but as a ground full of economic, human and cultural opportunities. The
growing interest of the Turkish people for the African continent was manifested by media coverage and
in the academic world with the proliferation of university courses, research centers12, scientific
journals, think tank branch13 and international conference focused on Africa.
In order to change the mutual negative perceptions and to foster new relationships useful meetings
have been organized by the Turkish public and private institutions on specific issues including health,
trade and media. In particular in in the field of economic and trade development where private
organizations are cooperating with state agencies as the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey
(DEİK) and the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TIM). Among privates the Islamic-oriented businesses
associations as MÜSİAD and TUSKON are active through promotions of forums between Turkish
entrepreneurs and their African counterparts. In addition, close cooperation between Ankara and other
African countries has been fostered by the growing number of African migrants who see Turkey not as
a temporary transit country towards other regions (EU, the Gulf), but as a place where to improve their
living conditions (Fait, 2013). The Turkish activism and solidarity have increased the admiration of the
African people for Turkey. Turkish citizens and companies which are operating in Africa enjoy a
privileged treatment by governments (visa free) and local people. This has restored dignity and
prestige to the Turks after years of frustrated expectations by European Union (Bacik, Afacan 2013).
Turkey in its relations with African countries has two advantages compared with the Western
traditional actors: the absence of a colonial past that makes possible a “clean slate” approach14 and the
existence of cultural, historical and religious ties (Orakçı 2008; Aynte, 2012). If the historical past is an
obstacle for Western powers, Turkey emphasizes its imperial past and uses it to retrieve old historical
and identity link. Compared to other emerging actors, Turkey gives a religious mean to its assistance;
most of the works carried out by NGOs are promoted as Islamic solidarity (Özkan, 2013). A common
feature between Turkish NGOs and charitable foundations that operate in Africa is a shared Islamic
background and a direct link with pro-Islamic civil society15. The religious bond is an important part of
The event ended with the signing of “The Istanbul Declaration on Turkey-Africa Partnership: Solidarity and
Partnership for a Common Future’’ and its annex ‘‘Framework of Cooperation for Turkey-Africa Partnership’’.
The firs was the Kadir Has University Middle East and Africa Studies Research Center.
Is the case of Turkey's most important think tank TASAM (the Turkish-Asian Center for Strategic Studies) who
opened a specific branch for Sub-Saharan Africa.
The term has been quoting by former President Abdullah Gül during a visit in Africa. By “clean slate,” Gül was
presumably alluding to the crucial fact that Turkey has never been a colonizing power in the region (Ali, 2011).
Turkish humanitarian NGOs are faith-based organization, are formal organization whose identity and mission are
self-counsciously derived from the teachings of one or more religious or spiritual traditions (Berger, 2003).
Turkey’s rapprochement with Africa but it should not be overestimated as considered by Wheeler
(2011). The gradual rehabilitation of religious dimension in Turkish foreign policy must be included in
the multidimensional nature of new pro-active approach as a toll of its soft power. That is a dynamic
initiated with the Turkey’s diplomatic rediscovery of the Muslim world (Larrabee, 2007) and
demonstrated by the role assumed in foreign policy by the Directorate for Religious Affairs (Dyanet). In
Africa Dyanet acts through its non-profit foundation (Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı)16 and promotes the spread
and development of Sunni-Hanafi education through the opening of Imam Hatip17, materials distribution
(copies of Quran and Islamic journals) and the organization of meeting between African religious
leaders and Turkish ones (Özkan, 2013). A limit of the religious dimension as soft power tool in African
environment is that Turkish mediation efforts could seem sectarian oriented and lose its neutrality
creed. Furthermore the absence of control over NGOs and foundations increases the risk of radical
forces infiltrations and relationships with fundamentalist groups.
Another distinctive feature of Turkey engagement in Africa is the active role of the Turkish pro-Islamic
civil society. The inclusion of civil society organizations has allowed the access to local channels and
agents that the State can’t or don’t want to reach. The NGOs’s autonomy and their ability to build a
mutual trust on the field leads to the inclusive approach of all conflict parties during talks and
negotiations. The various activities of Turkish civil society’s organizations are shaping engagement and
dialogue with all local factions, which is a central aspect Turkey’s conflict sensitive method. Besides
actions of civil organizations are more flexible and dynamic than state’s agencies ones, a skill that
makes them to adapt easier to multifaceted crisis as the Somali case. Turkey’s official diplomacy during
mediation process uses links and credibility gained by its own non-state actors which help to pursuing
the commitments made at the negotiating table. In Turkish mediation paradigm non-state actors help
foster the inclusiveness of all parties and increase the mutual trust. For the reasons listed below, the
total performance principle and its emphasis on the ground activities is a pillar of Turkish
peacebuilding efforts and of the so-called humanitarian diplomacy.
Turkey’s opening to Somalia
Since the collapse of Siad Barre regime in 1991 Somalia has been dragged into civil war and become the
most famous ‘failed state’ in the world18. Turkey’s engagement with Somalia began in 2011 during a
moment of a deep stalemate for the African country, the general power vacuum led Somalia to anarchy
with power clashes between the center and periphery over resources and means of control. The result
was two decades of clans conflicts, warlords, slaughter along sectarian and ethnic lines, famine crises,
piracy, extreme poverty and religious fundamentalism.
The Somali civil war erupted at a time of profound change in the international order and Somalia was
to become a laboratory for a new form of international engagement through humanitarian and military
intervention on an unprecedented scale (Bradbury, Healy, 2011).
About Dyanet Foundation and its aims see (Turan, 2008).
Turkish religious school.
According to the annual ranking by Foreign Policy and The Global Fund for Peace. URL:
Initially international community intervened through a humanitarian operation (UNOSOM) 19 led by US
and approved by a UN Security Council Resolution n. 794 (Hutchinson, 1993)20. Following the battle of
Mogadishu in 1993 there was the gradual withdrawal of the multinational forces and a long period of
international isolation for Somalia began. Currently there is peacekeeping mission (AMISOM 21)
operated by the African Union with UN approval in support of the Somali Federal Government22.
Despite Somalia is recognized as a single unitary state by the international community reality presents
a fractured state, an agglomerate of 13 self-governing federal states23 and three separate state entities
with their own population and national idea (Gullo, 2012).
Mogadishu and southern Somalia are formally placed under control of the Somali Federal
Government (Dowladda Federaalka Kumeelgaarka) which is internationally recognized as
Somalia's official central authority. However, it remains a widespread anarchy and lawlessness
with the threat of the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic group Harakat al Shabaab (‘the youth
movement’) that still controls the southern districts24.
Puntland is a form of ‘ethno-state’ founded on the unity of the Harti clan. It includes the
northern region of the country where an informal quasi-autonomous state, legally and
politically similar to Iraqi Kurdistan was established in August 1998. Puntland recently has
become internationally known as the home of Somali pirates. As non-secessionist state,
Puntland embodies a ‘building block’ for a future federal Somali state.
Somaliland declared independence in 1991 as a Republic state and it includes semi-desert
territory in North-West area on the coast of the Gulf of Aden. Though not internationally
recognised, Somaliland thanks to diaspora’s money has a working political system,
government institutions and its own currency. After 23 years of independence Somaliland has
all the attributes of a sovereign state but it has still struggled to gain diplomatic recognition as
an independent state.
Turkey’s rapprochement with Somalia formally began with the Istanbul Conference on Somalia during
May 21-23, 2010 as part of Djibouti Agreement 25 and long political transition process started in 2004.
The real turning point of Turkish commitment towards Somalia was the Erdogan’s visit during the holy
month of Ramadan in the summer of 2011. The visit coincided with the opening of an humanitarian aid
privileged channel towards Somali people hard hit by civil war and long famine crisis. Erdoğan was the
first non-African leader to visit Somalia in nearly two decades. Turkish Prime Minister brought his wife,
United Nations Operation in Somalia.
For a critical analysis of international humanitarian intervention in Somalia see: (Clarcke, Herbst, 1997).
African Union Mission to Somalia. The mission isn’t configure as a peace-keeping because it is force placed in
defense of the Federal Government.
Currently there are lots self-governing regions in Somalia, such as: Ximan, Xeeb, Galmudug and Ahlu Sunna
Al-Shabaab has also shifted part of its resource base northward into the mountainous areas in the Puntland-EthiopiaSomaliland border region, which is important for maintaining connections to supplies and finances flowing along longestablished smuggling routes from Yemen (Healy, Hill, 2010).
Djibouti Agreement was signed by representatives of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance for
the Re-liberation of Somalia at the end of the peace conference held in Djibouti between May 31 and June 9, 2008 with
the mediation of the United Nations Special Envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.
daughter and an entourage consisting of cabinet members and their families, and visited refugee camps
and hospitals to witness the devastation caused by the severe drought (Özkan, 2013). Erdoğan’s visit
had a highly political significance because it enlightened Somali situation into the international agenda
and paved the way intergovernmental organizations rapprochement. A few months after Erdogan’s trip
there was an official visit of UN’s Secretary Ban Ki Moon 26. Erdoğan’s visit also had an important
symbolic meaning because it showed to Turkish people that it wasn’t dangerous to go to Somalia, and
to Somali one that they weren’t alone. The feeling of being completely isolated from the international
community was widespread among Somali people. For that reason the reopening of Turkish Embassy in
Mogadishu (November 2011) was very important and the Turkish Airlines’s opening of the flight
Istanbul-Khartum-Mogadishu (March 2012). The presence of diplomatic office and infrastructure
connections symbolized the reopening of the country to the world and a great step in the
normalization process.
At the political and intra-state level, Turkey supports national reconciliation and the preservation of
territorial integrity of all Somalia. For that reason Turkey has promoted the strengthening of Somali
Federal Government’s (SFG) institutions, concurrently seeking the involvement of others political
entities through dialogue and bilateral meetings27. Turkey emerged as an active actor and brought the
issue to the UN General Assembly meeting and called on the international community to undertake a
continued approach to find a long-lasting solution. As part of diplomatic efforts Turkey hosted the
second Istanbul Conference on Somalia between May 31 and June 1, 2012. Even though the event has
not served to change radically the destiny of the situation in Somalia, it was a huge success image for
Turkey. Regardless of the long-term results Turkish involvement in Somalia has already elevated
Turkey to a ‘new humanitarian aid power’ in Africa (Ali, 2011). The conference was attended by a large
number of international and regional actors and all Somali parties. The Ankara government has shown
its autonomy without external pressures acting in a position of impartiality towards all involved
factions. Besides the controversial inclusion of 300 civil society groups to the conference the Turkish
state’s commitment illustrates to foster national unity through engagement and dialogue (Abukar,
2012). It also demonstrates how Turkish mediation effort takes into account the “voice” of Somali
common people in spite of the reluctance of the international community 28. Turkey forecasts that
strengthening the public and private sectors will ultimately contribute to national cohesion. Even
though Turkey’s position is to support the central government and the territorial integrity of the
country Ankara government has got very good relations with all the entities including Somaliland and
Puntland. In fractured Somali contexts the main risk is that aids are never appear as neutral resources
but part of a hidden agenda. For that reason in Somalia Turkey has worked to gain confidence of all
actors through the use of humanitarianism’s creed of neutrality as a core principle (Murphy, Woods,
Peculiarities of the Turkish action in Somalia
Somalis called Erdogan’s visit an icebreaker.
Turkey encouraging mediation talks between the parties and promote a set of indirect talks between the Transitional
Federal Government and Islamic movements al Shabaab and direct talks between central government and the
representatives institutions of Somaliland.
“Assessing Turkey’s Role in Somalia, in Policy Briefing - Africa Briefing, No. 92, 10/2012.
In Somalia as well as in other crisis situation Turkish mediation strategy puts as a first goal the study of
conflict, to understand its causes and also the reasons of previous mediations failure (Davutoğlu, 2013).
Between 1991 and 2009 Somalia witnessed the failure of over 12 mediation attempts (Menkhaus et al.,
2009), failures due to several reasons but a common element was the general lack of confidence of the
Somali parties involved in the conflict29. Turkey has understood the need to overcome this obstacle to
work actively on the ground and it has structured its intervention in a frame of soft power and building
confidence strategies. The role of civil organizations is central for their ability to create links on the
field through direct and visible assistances which facilitate trust winning.
As Davutoğlu argued mediator cannot achieve success without mutual trust because it cannot be
understood the psychological dynamics of a dispute with no empathy (2013)30. In 2011 the fractured
system in Somalia convinced Turkish policymakers that mediation and dialogue were the primary
means through which Turkish NGOs and ministries should have conducted their aid programs. This
requires the perception of impartial engagement with all actors. In order to break the mistrust of
Somali people, Turkey has adopted a dual strategy: using the humanitarian diplomacy and
implementing total performance principle through the involvement of non-state actors. Humanitarian
discourse and its strong rhetoric have been used at the international level to legitimize Turkey’s
engagement in a long ignored area. At the same time, providing comprehensive humanitarian aid
creates an umbrella on the ground under which Turkish assistance appears transparent, inclusive and
neutral. The involvement of non-state actors (NGOs, charities and businesses) in cooperation with the
official diplomacy (ministries and state institutions) fosters interpersonal dialogue and engagement
with local actors through the delivery of direct aid. In Somali multifaceted scenario, Turkey has
adopted an approach to gain trust and overcome the lack of confidence known as ‘People-to-People’
(P2P). P2P notion comes from conflict and peacebuilding studies 31 and it is explained by the exclusion
of prejudice and demonizing that reinforce the perceived differences among groups. In those studies
P2P relations are a comprehensive package for functional ties in education, culture, technology, trade
and investment, as well as in other areas where cooperation has no manifest and direct political or
diplomatic implications (Kumar Singh, 2014). The aim is to create mutual knowledge and dialogue
useful to break the conflict or mistrust elements. Turkey only after obtaining credibility and trust, has
been able to operate in Somalia in more constructively and autonomously manner than other actors.
Turkey’s choice to operate from Mogadishu, in the heart of the country, while most of the foreign NGOs
operate from their offices in Nairobi32, has improved knowledge of local actors as Somali NGOs and civil
society. Furthermore the Turkish presence on the field through the direct aid mechanism has increased
its popularity among the Somali officials and people. The method of direct aid delivery has empowered
From Somali perspective there are number of views as to why these attempts failure. Somali people often blame
different external actors for: having their own agendas and interests (Ethiopia), lacking enough will for peacebuilding
(US), arriving to late (UN) and lack of sufficient insight by mediators into the realities. The external interventions and
their unwillingness to dialogue with all conflict parties has increased Somali dissent and distrust towards the
international community.
From Davutoğlu’s perspective a successful mediation effort has four dimensions: psychological, intellectual, ethical
and methodological.
On the issue of People to People approach there are several conflict studies as (Fisher, 1997; Herzog-Hai,
Other international donors base themselves in Nairobi or in the heavily guarded Anisom base in Mogadishu and rely
on local but impersonal channels to send aid.
and engendered confidence in the local population by signaling that they can be trusted as equal
partners (Davutoğlu, 2013). The direct delivery of assistance is a differentiating characteristic of
Turkish development approach compared to other external actors. Turkey bypasses intermediaries and
delivers aid to final beneficiaries is a mechanism to promote mutual trust and increases Turkey’s
leverage. Unlike Western NGOs approaches and other external aid the Turkish initiative has the merit
of involving local people in its activities33.
The Somali case of study highlights how ‘multi-track’ model is in practice a ‘dual track34’ through effort
combining “track one” and “track two”. Track one refers to official diplomacy, including involvement
of state and government official initiatives. Track two refers to non-state actors, including civil society
and businesses (Akpinar, 2013). As well as diplomatic work in international forums and organizations,
Turkey has started several works and supplied services on the field through aid funded by donations
from the Turkish people. The involvement and support received from the public has been a determined
drive to the government’s action. In summer 2011 a widespread campaign in Turkey, led by NGOs such
as Kimse Yok Mu (KYM), Human Relief Foundation (IHH), Deniz Feneri Derneği and Cansuyu Charity
made a considerable contribution in finding substantial resources for relief efforts with a flow of over
$365 million in humanitarian aid35. People participation and feelings have made the intervention in
Somalia somewhat of a ‘domestic’ issue for Turkish government and society (Özkan, 2013).
A key factor in ensuring effectiveness of Turkish engagement is the coordination of activities on the
ground. The coordination of Turkish state and non-state actors in Somalia as well as in other countries
is provided by an institutional framework in top of which there are both the Prime Minister's Office
(The Disaster and Management Presidency, AFAD) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The main role is
played by the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (Türk İşbirliği ve Koordinasyon Ajansı
Başkanlığı, TIKA). TIKA is the official state body institutionalization of the Official Development
Assistance (ODA) tied up to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). TIKA
represents an operative branch of Ankara’s government with the aim of paving the way for subsequent
public and private initiatives three main areas: humanitarian aid, helping in the development of the
country and making financial investments to consolidate business. In addition to various ministries36, a
great commitment is provided by the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay)37, the largest humanitarian and
charity NGOs in Turkey which provides assistance and humanitarian aid.
In Somalia, Turkey has chosen to invest in the youth education through the reconstruction of schools
and the provision of scholarships but also establishing private schools founded by Turkish NGOs or
religious movement (Uchehara, 2010). Turkish intervention in the education sector in Somalia shows a
double track mechanism with joint action of state (Ministry of Education and The Directorate for
Religious Affairs-Dyanet, TIKA) and non-state or private sector (KYM, IHH and the Gülen movement).
Some of the Turkish funds falls on the territory (purchases, rents) and boosting the local economy.
There is no reference to U.S. ‘dual track’ approach announced by Deputy Secretary Johnnie Carson in 2010
(Guglielmo, 2013)..
International Crisis Group, (2012, October 8). Assessing Turkey’s Role in Somalia. ICG Africa Briefing No. 92.
Retrieved from
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Scientific, the Ministry of National Education and Technological
Research Council of Turkey (TUBİTAK).
The organization is closely linked to the Turkish government and shadow its policies (Binder).
Turkey invests heavily in local capacity through training programs and it creates local jobs with many
Somali’s acting as translators, labourers and representatives for Turkish organizations. Turkey’s
humanitarian assistance efforts can be considered long-term relationship building tools, aiming to
develop Turkey’s soft power in those societies.
Religion in Somalia is not a priority of Turkey’s intervention but an important element of its efforts.
The Somalis are primarily Sunni Muslims and have links with ancient Sufi orders. In the Somali
environment religion is beneficial but also a limit because there are deep ethnicity, clan and interconfessional (Sunni-Salafis) divisions. The aim of Turkish religious use is to prevent that religion
becomes a conflict category by offering a model of interconfessional dialogue and reconciliation. The
threat of these efforts comes from Al-Shabaab Islamic militant group. Despite Turkish talk attempts, AlShabaab considers Turkey a traitor of Islam message and a Christianity servant because of its NATO
Preliminary remarks
In this article, I tried to show that current Turkey’s policy in Somalia represents an example of
coordinated action between state and non-state actors, following the Davutoğlu’s principle of total
performance. It has been argued that the involvement of civil groups in Turkish foreign policy was
crucial to gain Somali’s people confidence on the ground and overcoming some of the obstacles
encountered by other external powers. Total performance has been expressed by Turkey in Somalia
through a balanced use of humanitarian and development aid and wide mediation efforts. Turkey is the
only country that is able to provide security and stability in Somali through investments and bettering
living conditions.
Africa is a key area for all actors who aspire to become global power and to raise international
relevance. Mediation efforts have given international visibility to Turkey and have improved its image
in the whole continent. Turkey needs the political African states support within intergovernmental
organisms in order to obtain - for example - a nonpermanent UN Security Council seat for the 20152016 term. For Turkey, Somalia is also a gateway towards the Horn of Africa, an area where Ankara has
cultivated many strategic and resource interests. Turkey promotes stability in Somalia in order to
create peace and development’ conditions for the whole region and to limit the Ethiopia rising as a
leading power. Turkey’s partial success in Somalia has increased the Somali hopes and has
demonstrated how Turkey try to become regionally and globally influential via soft-power. However
lots doubts and dilemmas still remain. If total performance principle has served to breach the Somali
lack of confidence, the coordination among State organisms (TIKA, ministers), Turkish NGOs and the
Somali governments remains a great limit of Turkey’s activities. That issue is further problematized by
the fragmented condition of Somali official institutions and its endemic corruption. The weak
performance in the state-building process of the Somali Federal Government, generated frustration in
Turkey and opened a period of warm relationships (Jama, 2014). Moreover, Turkey has demonstrated
its ability to manage local tensions but Somali politics both internally and regionally are more
complicated; Turkey in order to ensure stability and national reconciliation will address the interests
and needs of both internal and external actors.
Another question is the idealized concept of humanitarian diplomacy that clashes with practical
difficulties. These challenges require a negotiation between Turkey’s humanitarian purposes and its
concrete interests. For this reason, Turkey needs to understand how long humanitarian approach and
its self-interest can coexist in a no trade-off situation. It is important to calculate the long-term
consequences of intervention including the real sustainability of its aid. The Turkish method of direct
delivery aid has advantages but also risks. Turkey’s officials and NGOs’s members have sometimes
bypassed state channels, a practice that undermines the state-building process that they are hoping to
support. Another dilemma remains about the real autonomy of Turkish civil society and even if its
abroad activities often coincide with those of the state, it is still questionable whether civil society
would support Turkey’s foreign policy priorities and interests. Al-Shabaab attacks on Turkish office and
humanitarian aid convoy nourish doubt on Turkey’s people which support to the mission could
decrease. The process of clarifying and institutionalizing Turkey’s total performance paradigm is
ongoing but the integrate involvement of non-state actors distinguishes it as an original approach
useful to Turkey’s desire to become more autonomous and engaging as a global actor.
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