Somalia’s embattled army is about to get a boost as Turkey announced its troops will help train soldiers fighting al-Shabaab militants.
Turkey will join the fight to defeat Somalia’s al-Qaeda faction by building its largest ever military base abroad in the East African country.
The $50 million base in Mogadishu will open in April and will help the Somali government train 500 new troops a year to fight al-Shabaab rebels.
An on-going war with the Islamist group, al-Shabaab, coupled with a nearly three-year drought has almost crippled the country’s economy – leading to the present day’s famine.
The facility is reported to be around 400 hectares in size and will house three military camps close to Mogadishu’s airport and the Port of Mogadishu.
Turkey has reportedly invested massively in Somalia through reconstruction and infrastructure development – including roads and hospitals – and has helped provide military aid since 2011.
Turkey had planned to train and rebuild the Somali army at the Mogadishu base for years, as troops have reportedly not been professionally trained or routinely received salaries – leading to major security problems in the country.
Turkey faces regional competition in the region from the UAE, which also wants to build up its military presence in the region.
“The military deal with UAE is a clear sovereign matter to reach international agreements with countries and will help our long running bid for recognition as an independent country,” said chairman of the political party UCID, Faysal Ali Warabe Warabe.
Celebrities and social media users, united under the hashtag #TurkishAirlinesHelpSomalia, raised money in support of famine victims in the country.
“As the only airline that connects Somalia to the world, we’ll be more than happy to deliver your love and assistance to Somalia on your behalf,” one Turkish Airlines pilot said in a video message posted on Twitter on Friday.
A lingering drought has caused widespread food shortages across the south of Somalia, leading to an impending famine status.
UNICEF warned last month that a potential 270,000 children were at risk of severe acute malnutrition due to the drought.
The Somali prime minister tweeted on 2 March that his “priority and first emphasis” was to “assist the people affected by the severe drought and build resilience”.