What does Erdogan really want in Africa?

Since Turkey has largely lost its export market in Europe, Africa beckons as a profitable market

What does Erdogan really want in Africa?

Erdogan in Algeria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) was welcomed by the Speaker of the Algerian Council of the Nation Abdelkader Bensalah in Algiers, Algeria, Feb. 26, 2018. Erdogan on Monday kicked off an official visit to Algeria as part of his tour in the region that also leads him to Mauritania, Senegal and Mali. (Xinhua)

IN THE MIDST of Turkey’s military onslaught on the Syrian Kurdish town of Afrin, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is intent on visiting key African capitals next week.

Erdogan plans to visit Senegal, Algeria, Mali, and Mauritania to thank their leaders for not supporting President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem at the UN vote. Erdogan will have visited 28 countries on the continent by the time he completes next week’s trip. Since Turkey has largely lost its export market in Europe, Russia, and the Middle East due to political and security reasons, Africa beckons as a profitable market.

Secondly, Erdogan accuses Fethullah Gulen of masterminding the July 2016 attempted coup, and wants to close down or transfer all Hizmet Turkish schools to the state-owned Maarif Foundation.

Erdogan has been fighting the Hizmet movement since the 2013 corruption case, which exposed Erdogan’s inner circle. Erdogan said the case of corruption was a coup against him by Hizmet volunteers. He prevented the Turkish judiciary from finalising court proceedings by jailing prosecutors.

The ruling AKP established the Maarif (Education) Trust which allegedly promotes radical ideas, to take over all the 170 Hizmet-affiliated schools around the world. Senegal, Mali and Mauritania have already handed over Turkish schools to the Maarif Trust.

Prior to his fallout with the Gulen movement, Erdogan allegedly tried to force it to spread his Islamist ideology, but the Hizmet schools rejected Erdogan’s offer and continue to provide secular education. As for the likely response of African governments to Erdogan’s agenda, most do not want to become the voice of Erdogan’s regime.

Tunisia did not turn out to be a good bet for him as Brotherhood-linked groups were compelled to make a compromise in the governance of the country.

Algeria put a stop to Erdogan’s intrusive campaign of clandestine activities, and Morocco went as far as banning a scheduled panel organised by Erdogan’s front NGOs in Rabat while a Turkish minister was in town to attend.

Erdogan visited Sudan, Tunisia, and Chad last December. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir rolled out the red carpet for Erdogan, and gave Ankara the right to rehabilitate the port island of Suakin with a naval dock for military and civilian vessels on the Red Sea.

The Turkish-Sudanese agreement has caused tensions with Sudan’s neighbour Egypt. Recently Turkey established a military base in Somalia months after deploying nearly 5 000 troops in Qatar.

In an attempt to enlist allies in the global forums where Turkey has increasingly found itself isolated due to human rights concerns at a domestic level, Erdogan and his associates are systematically campaigning to woo African states with cash, aid, trade, and investment pledges.

Many of the least developed countries are susceptible to Erdogan’s overtures disguised under political, economic and military co-operation schemes.

Turkey has spent more than $600 million (R6.92 billion) on Somalia’s development and security, and provided $2.159bn to the Least Developed Countries.

Ankara has increased the number of its embassies in Africa from 12 to 39 in just a few years. Turkey has also opened embassies in Swaziland and Lesotho, where there are almost no Turkish residents. This begs the question: what does Erdogan want in Africa? His real motives are not critically examined.

It would be a luxury to expect to see any critical Turkish media houses operate in Africa. Almost all free media is silenced in Turkey. Turkish ambassadors on the continent are highly motivated, featuring on radio shows, addressing Muslim communities, organising Turkish movie nights, penning articles, and organising panels. Besides diplomats, Turkey’s state-based foreign aid agency Tika sponsors many projects.

Turkey’s interest in Africa can be divided into two regions. The first being North Africa, which includes the first historical Ottoman hinterland.

For the first time in modern Turkish history, Erdogan has achieved full control of the Turkish bureaucracy and military, thanks to his power-sharing agreement with the ultra nationalist Perincek Group.

Erdogan largely converted the secular Kemalist regime to an Islamist one. Erdogan’s Islamist AKP now has a strong influence on North Africa.

Besides the Maghreb countries, Sudan, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, Chad, and Mali are other countries that AKP officials sight quite often for “win-win co-operation”.

Erdogan has focused on extending his authority in African countries with majority Muslim populations. Ankara has angered Nigerian authorities, however, who seized in Lagos an illegal arms shipment originating in Turkey and containing 440 pump action rifles last year.

Last month, Greek authorities also seized a Tanzanian-flagged ship which was loaded in the Turkish ports of Mersin and Iskenderun. The vessel was heading for Libya and it was carrying materials used to make explosives destined for Djibouti and Oman.

At the end of the day, Erdogan presents himself as leader of the Muslim world, and Africa is therefore important for him to realise his ambitions for global power.

One can only hope that Erdogan will not be able to succeed in exporting his radical religious ideas to Africa.

Erdogan’s ultimate goal is to portray himself as the de facto caliph and protector of all Muslims. He already sees himself as the Muslim leader of Africa.

This is a worrying trend. As long as Erdogan remains in power, Turkey’s meddlesome policies into other countries’ affairs through proxies will continue.
Source: The star, in English, February 26, 2018
Source Description: The Star is daily South African newspaper, in English, that provides business, financial and world news, entertainment and sports for a diverse cultural nation.
© 2018 Independent Newspapers (Pty) Ltd

Erdogan on new Africa tour to push Turkey’s influence

Erdogan in Algeria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony at the Algerian Martyrs monument in Algiers, Algeria, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. Erdogan is traveling to Algeria for a two-day visit aimed at boosting the political and economic cooperation between the two countries. (Kayhan Ozer/Pool Photo via AP)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday embarked on a five-day tour of west Africa in a bid to ramp up Turkey’s growing influence throughout the continent.

The visit, which will take him to Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal and Mali, is the latest in a string of ambitious trips to Africa by the Turkish strongman.

Just two months ago, Erdogan made his first trip to Sudan, where he met President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, before continuing on to Tunisia and Chad.

Turkey has scented an opportunity to build influence in Africa through delivering aid, setting up transport links and offering its expertise in construction.

“With each passing day, our cooperation deepens in the areas of tourism, culture, trade, defense and education. God willing, we will take this further in the future,” he told reporters before leaving for Algiers.

Turkey currently has 41 embassies in Africa, up from 12 in 2009, and wants to eventually have top-level representation in all 54 nations on the continent, state media said.

Flag-carrier Turkish Airlines, 49 percent of which is held by a sovereign wealth fund, has also expanded its network to reach 52 destinations in Africa, from Accra to Johannesburg.

An infrequent visitor to Europe as ties with the West strained, Erdogan has made repeated visits to Africa since becoming president in 2014.

In Algeria, all eyes will be on Erdogan’s expected meeting with ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 80, who rarely appears in public.

Bouteflika, who has held office since 1999, suffered a mini-stroke in 2013 that affected his speech and mobility. The APS news agency said they would meet.

His trips to Mali and Mauritania will be the first-ever by a Turkish president, with security is likely to feature high on the agenda in Mali which is battling with a string of attacks and kidnappings by jihadist groups.

Last year, Erdogan visited Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania and has also made trips to Ethiopia, Uganda, and conflict-torn Somalia where Turkey has taken a lead in rebuilding efforts.

Aside from bolstering trade and political ties, a major priority for Erdogan has been to stamp out the influence of a network run by Fethullah Gulen, the exiled U.S.-preacher whom Ankara blames for a failed coup in 2016.

Gulen, who denies ordering the putsch, has built up an educational network in Africa.

But Erdogan says the continent has served as a center for “exploitation” by Gulen.
Source: The Daily Star, in English, February 26, 2018
Source Description: A daily newspaper covering all the latest news and issues in Lebanon and around the world.
© 2018. Web Middle East (Web Me) s.a.l

Turkish press debates ties with allies and Kurdish leader’s extradition

The following is a selection of quotes from editorials and commentaries published in 26 February 2018 editions of Turkish newspapers available to BBC Monitoring:

‘Russia should explain Turkey to Assad and Khamenei…’

Milliyet (pro-government): “Russia should know that Turkey is no longer the old Turkey that had no other function than being a depot for the USA’s atomic bombs under its nose. Russia should not only know this, but it should also explain it to Assad and Khamenei. Armed convoys decorated with [imprisoned in Turkey outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader Abdullah] Ocalan and Assad posters will not harm the Olive Branch [operation in Turkey’s Afrin], but it will hurt the Astana Process. As a result of this loss, Turkey will just accommodate the 3,5m Syrian guests [refugees] for a little longer period, it will, can mean nothing more [for Turkey]. But the new managers of the PKK, will produce the card hidden in their sleeves, as a result of which not only Syria and Iraq, but Iran will also fail to protect its territorial integrity. Because on the map found on this card Iran is also depicted as divided in three parts.” (Commentary by Hakki Ocal)

Hurriyet (mainstream): “The United Nations declared a humanitarian ceasefire [across Syria] for a month with the aim of ‘stopping’ the Assad regime’s massacre. I guess, the United Nations wants to say this to Assad: ‘If you want, rest a little bit, brother… Take a pause for a month, one month is nothing… It will quickly pass… Then you will again throw bombs on children. Just one month, dear, just one month…’ ‘” (Commentary by Ahmet Hakan)

Sozcu (opposition secular): “No matter how much the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP government is ‘falling out’ with the Washington administration in the public eye, the USA still continues to use the Incirlik [base in Turkey] and hitting the districts in Syria it ‘considers appropriate’. Again despite this public AKP-Washington scuffle, Turkey, as a NATO country, officially continues to be the USA’s ally. In other words, every part of the territory taken under control by the [Turkish Armed Forces] TSK in Syria together with Syrian elements ([Free Syrian Army] FSA), as a matter of fact, passes under the control of NATO. […] Putting all of these together, it is possible to understand why the Assad regime, which is under Russia’s control, sent the militia supported by the USA’s biggest foe Iran, to Afrin. In other words, do not give much weight to this bullying on the part of the AKP guys towards Washington…” (Commentary by Zeynep Gurcanli)

Aksam (pro-government): “To tell the truth, no one really expected Salih Muslim to be arrested under the current conjuncture. And those who think it is possible that Muslim will be extradited to Turkey are still not numerous. The reason for this is that Europe has embraced the terrorist organisation PKK. Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France… Today almost all of Europe is shutting eyes to the PKK’s activities. In such a situation, Muslim’s arrest brings other possibilities to mind. One of the conspiracy theories that came to the forefront in social media throughout the day was that Muslim was arrested in exchange for the release of German ‘journalist’ Deniz Yucel. I personally do not think this is possible, but it is obvious that Europe will not take any step if there is no interest or profit for it in it. We should, without any hurry, follow the developments and see if the Czech Republic will extradite Salih Muslim to Turkey. Let us not forget that, in any case, Salih Muslim’s extradition, just as Apo’s [Ocalan’s] extradition, will produce an effect and very positively influence Turkey’s fight with terror.” (Commentary by Kurtulus Tayiz)

Yenicag (nationalist): “The tragi-comic thing is that a ‘red bulletin’ with regard to Muslim was just newly released [he was put on the ‘red list’ of most wanted terrorists in Turkey]. On 12 February 2018. And we offered 4m Turkish liras for his head. When he was captured, the first to act was the Ministry of Justice. Files for his extradition started to be prepared, we speeded up our application to Interpol. So, what, do you think, will happen, will he be extradited? Do not hope in vain. The prize that is even less that 1m dollars is not attractive. The most important thing of all is that [European countries] from Germany to France, from Belgium to the Netherlands, will, certainly, protect Salih Muslim. And, you will see, in the meantime, Afrin [Syria’s territory where Turkey is conducting a military operation at the moment] will also be added to the ‘Eastern Ghouta ceasefire’ accepted by the United Nations. And, on top of it, it will be given priority. And they will use the ‘It is Syrian territory there’ pretext.” (Commentary by Burhan Ayeri)

Yeni Safak (pro-government conservative): “After the seizure of Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya, the fact that such a name was for the first time caught, on top of it, within the European borders, is a serious situation. We will see what their next steps will be and, of course, we will not rejoice early. We will look at the steps they will take. We will see what’s behind this capture. We will see if they will cooperate with Turkey. It’s not certain yet, the moment we say ‘Look, Salih Muslim was caught. European countries are also taking a stand against the PKK’s terror’, they will set him free him, or they can, as a matter of fact, even say ‘It was a mistake’. […] The arrest of Salih Muslim was a great surprise during the struggle in the Afrin-Manbij line. We hope that he will be delivered to Turkey, that a tradition will be established… But no matter whether it happens or not, we will continue our journey, of course…” (Commentary by Ibrahim Kalin)
Source: Quotes package from BBC Monitoring in Turkish 1039 gmt, 26 February 2018.
© 2018 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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