Egypt Backs Somalia to Counter Turkey’s Growing Influence
Somalia– To offset the Turkish and Ethiopian presence in Mogadishu, Egypt is attempting to expand its influence in Somalia and assist the Somali government in resolving internal conflicts.
With the participation of 17 officials from various Somali ministries and sovereign parties, the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping, and Peacebuilding, which is affiliated with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held the first capacity-building training session for Somalis in the fields of dialogue, negotiation, and mediation in December 2021.
“The session comes as part of Egyptian efforts to help the Somali state,” Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister for African Affairs Sherif Issa stated during the session’s launch on Dec. 11. Egypt is supporting Somalia in its efforts to achieve national reconciliation, combat terrorism, and promote peace.”
“The training session focused on dialogue, dispute resolution, negotiation mechanism with conflicting parties, and rectification of concepts to prevent violence and extremism,” Mohammed Abdul Qadir Mahmoud, adviser to the Somali Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs and one of the participants in the Cairo International Center session, said in a Jan. 4 interview with Egyptian newspaper Shorouk News.
“The session will have a big influence on the ground,” he noted, “particularly because the participants come from various Somali government entities.” This will help them improve their abilities to handle domestic problems without the need for outside assistance.” Egypt has recently shown a strong desire to assist Somalia in the areas of politics, economics, and security. The Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources taught 22 Somalis on water resource conservation and development in November 2021.
In light of Somalia’s limited water resources, Egyptian Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel Aty discussed Egypt’s means of support for Somalia in building dams and developing irrigation systems with Somali Minister of Livestock, Forestry and Range Said Hussein Iid during a visit to Cairo in October 2021. Egypt established a two-megawatt solar power project in Somalia in September 2018.
Egypt also wants to strengthen its influence in Somalia by establishing Egyptian educational missions in Somali schools. The Egyptian Ministry of Education restarted sending Egyptian instructors to Somalia in January 2021. Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Roble visited Cairo in August 2021, when he agreed with his Egyptian colleague Mustafa Madbouly to boost the amount of Egyptian scholarships awarded in Somalia to 400 per year. Madbouly also promised to address the Somali side’s requests for medical convoys, medication, and other supplies, as well as to enhance Egyptian assistance for Somalia, during his visit.
In September 2021, Somali Ambassador to Egypt Elias Sheikh Omar welcomed the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education’s “Study in Egypt” project, which encourages African students to study in Egypt. “In light of Egypt’s assistance for scientific and educational sectors in Somalia, the initiative has provided additional options for students from Somalia to study in Egyptian institutions in numerous subjects,” he added.
Egypt and Somalia inked a cooperation agreement on January 12, 2020, to transmit Egyptian experience in the domains of energy and gas. Egypt also provided military assistance to Somalia. Maj. Gen. Mohamed Adam Ahmed, the then-commander of the Somali army, visited Egypt on February 24, 2016. Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Hegazy, the Egyptian Armed Forces’ then-Chief of Staff, greeted him. Egypt supplied military help to the Somali army in the same month, including armored cars and office equipment.
According to a March 2021 report by the Swedish Nordic Monitor, Egypt seeks to limit Turkish presence in Somalia by rapprochement with the African country, while Turkey seeks a foothold in Mogadishu by exploiting differences between Somali clans and tribes and battles between the Somali government and extremist groups. The Turkish government is allegedly employing “political, military, and economic wealth it has poured into Somalia… to boost a terrorist network and extreme Islamist organisations,” according to the study.
Ethiopian-Somali rapprochement attempts have had positive results. Turkey paid a portion of Somalia’s past-due debt to the International Monetary Fund in November 2020. Turkey has a military presence in Somalia. It built a military installation south of Mogadishu on Sept. 30, 2017, which is the largest Turkish military training center outside of Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the start of oil drilling in Somalia’s seas on January 20, 2020. “Somalia will continue to cooperate with Ahmed’s government to develop bilateral relations between the two countries for the sake of their people and the region,” Somali President Mohamed Farmajo said in a July 2020 greeting to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The Ethiopian-Somali reconciliation caused Mogadishu to raise misgivings about the Arab League’s backing for Sudan and Egypt in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam conflict in June 2020. “Egypt is trying to strengthen Somalia’s capabilities to solve its internal crises by organizing training courses for its officials on mechanisms for negotiation and peaceful settlement of disputes,” Attia Issawy, an African affairs researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor.
“Because of its military station, Somalia was the entryway to Turkish military activity in Africa.” Turkey took advantage of Somalia’s internal strife and grew closer to the Somali government, taking advantage of the Somali administration’s fears about rebel movements. As a result, the administration agreed to the presence of Turkish troops,” Issawy stated. “After years of war between the two African nations, Turkey assisted Ethiopia in its reconciliation with the Somali administration,” he continued. This is why Egypt is attempting to establish a presence in Somalia in order to counter the Turkish-Ethiopian alliance.”
Egypt believes “Somalia may play a role in the GERD dispute” since it is an Arab African country with clout in the Arab League, according to Issawi. This might explain why Ethiopia is attempting to reconcile with Somalia in order to split the Arab support for Egypt in the GERD conflict.”