Egypt backs Somalia to counter Turkish influence

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Egypt is working to strengthen its influence in Somalia and to support the Somali government in the resolution of its internal conflicts to counterbalance the Turkish and Ethiopian presence in Mogadishu.

In December 2021, the Cairo International Center for Conflict Resolution, Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding affiliated with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized the first capacity building training session for Somalis in the areas of dialogue, negotiation and mediation, with the participation of 17 officials from several ministries and Somali sovereign parties.

Egypt’s Deputy Foreign Minister for African Affairs, Sherif Issa, said at the inauguration of the session on December 11: “The session is part of Egyptian efforts to support the Somali state. Egypt supports Somalia to achieve national reconciliation, fight terrorism and build peace.

Mohammed Abdul Qadir Mahmoud, an adviser to the Somali Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs and one of the participants in the session organized by the Cairo International Center, said in a January 4 interview with the Egyptian newspaper Shorouk News: “ The training session focused on dialogue. , dispute resolution, negotiation mechanism with conflicting parties and rectification of concepts to prevent violence and extremism.

He added, “The session will have a huge impact on the ground, especially as the participants come from various Somali state institutions. This will help build their ability to resolve disputes within the country without the need for foreign support.

Egypt has recently shown a clear interest in supporting Somalia in the political, economic and security sectors.

In November 2021, the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources trained 22 Somalis in water resources conservation and development.

During a visit to Cairo in October 2021, Egypt’s Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel Aty, discussed with Somali Minister of Livestock, Forests and Rangelands, Said Hussein Iid, the means of support from Egypt to Somalia in building dams and developing irrigation systems in light of Somalia’s limited water. Resources.

In September 2018, Egypt opened a two megawatt solar power plant in Somalia.

Egypt is also interested in consolidating its influence in Somalia through Egyptian educational missions in Somali schools. In January 2021, the Egyptian Ministry of Education resumed sending Egyptian teachers to Somalia.

Egyptian interest in Somalia prompted Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Roble to visit Cairo in August 2021 where he agreed with his Egyptian counterpart Mustafa Madbouly to double the number of Egyptian scholarships awarded in Somalia to 400 per year. During the visit, Madbouly also pledged to meet the needs of the Somali side for medical convoys, medicines and other supplies and to increase Egyptian support to Somalia.

In September 2021, Somalia’s Ambassador to Egypt Elias Sheikh Omar commended the “Study in Egypt” initiative launched by the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education to encourage African students to study in Egypt. He said, “The initiative has provided more opportunities for Somali students to study at Egyptian universities in various disciplines, in light of Egypt’s support to science and education fields in Somalia.

On January 12, 2020, Egypt signed a cooperation agreement with Somalia to transfer Egyptian expertise in the fields of oil and gas. ‎

Egypt has also supported Somalia militarily. On February 24, 2016, then-Somali army commander Major General Mohamed Adam Ahmed visited Egypt. He was received by Lieutenant General Mahmoud Hegazy, then Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces. In the same month, Egypt sent military aid to the Somali army, which included armored cars and office equipment.

Through its rapprochement with Somalia, Egypt seeks to limit the Turkish presence in the African country, while Turkey seeks to gain a foothold in Mogadishu by exploiting the differences between Somali clans and tribes and the battles between the Somali government and extremist groups, according to a March 2021 report by the Swedish Nordic Monitor. The report says the Turkish government is using “the political, military and economic capital it has poured into Somalia…to bolster a jihadist network and radical Islamist groups.”

The efforts of rapprochement between Ethiopia and Somalia have borne fruit. In November 2020, Turkey settled part of Somalia’s outstanding debt to the International Monetary Fund. Turkey is also present militarily in Somalia. On September 30, 2017, he opened a military base south of Mogadishu, the largest Turkish military training camp outside of Turkey.

On January 20, 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of oil exploration in Somali waters.

In a July 2020 message, Somali President Mohamed Farmajo stressed to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that “Somalia will continue to work with Ahmed’s government to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries for the benefit of their people and the community. region”.

The Ethiopian-Somali rapprochement prompted Mogadishu in June 2020 to express reservations about the Arab League’s statement in support of Sudan and Egypt in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam crisis.

Attia Issawy, a researcher on African affairs at the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor: “Egypt is trying to build Somalia’s capacity to resolve its internal crises by organizing training courses for its leaders on the mechanisms for negotiation and peaceful settlement of disputes.”

“Somalia was the gateway for the Turkish military presence in Africa because of its military base. Turkey has taken advantage of internal conflicts in Somalia and moved closer to the Somali government, taking advantage of its concerns about rebel movements. Therefore, the government has accepted the Turkish military presence,” Issawy said.

He added: “Turkey has helped Ethiopia in its rapprochement with the Somali government after years of conflict between the two African countries. This is why Egypt is seeking a presence in Somalia to confront the Turkish-Ethiopian alliance.

Issawi explained that Egypt believes that “Somalia can play a role in the GERD crisis because it is an Arab-African country that has influence in the Arab League. This may explain why Ethiopia is seeking closer ties with Somalia in an effort to split the Arab position supporting Egypt in the GERD crisis.

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