Stunt or Stand for Democracy? Villa Somalia’s Response to the Failed Coup in Turkey

After the attempted coup in Turkey was put down over the weekend, the Somali government ordered the dismissal of Turkish citizens working in schools, health care facilities, and development organizations linked to U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen — who Ankara alleged was a “mastermind” behind the plot.

VOA has more:

“The decision came in an extraordinary session of the Somali cabinet on Saturday. The government ordered Turkish citizens working for Gulen-linked organizations to leave the country within seven days. The government said the services the organizations provided…will continue under new administration. The cabinet said the decision was in response to a request from the Turkish government.”

For some time, the Turkish government sent millions of dollars in cash directly to Somalia’s largely unaccountable central bank and more broadly has provided substantial military, humanitarian, and economic assistance to the country. As a result, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had a few choice words for anti-regime Turkish military elements seeking to undermine democracy (via Villa Somalia):

“It is unacceptable to reverse the democratic path that the people of Turkey enjoyed in the recent times of their history. This was unfortunate and we are very glad to hear that the evil forces who tried to turn Turkey into a violence ground have been defeated.”

The idea of usurping democracy may soon hit closer to home for Hassan Sheikh because the mandate of the Somali government expires in less than two months and leaders are far from completing preparations to implement its alternative electoral model.

Perhaps it is a bad omen that the Somali president most recently was in Kigali, Rwanda, where the election of the next African Union commission chairperson had to be postponed until January 2017 after none of the candidates emerged as a winner after seven rounds of voting. (Could Hassan Sheikh be back in 2017 to vote again — either by a miraculous re-election or less miraculous mandate extension?)

So the question is: How will Somalia look if it tries to controversially extend the mandate of its own government just weeks after condemning anti-democratic moves in Turkey? To be frank, President Hassan Sheikh probably prioritizes appeasing an important donor like Turkey rather than worrying about the country’s own democratic shortfalls.

Nevertheless, this administration’s consistent attempts to garner shares of headlines during global crises is not necessarily a bad move if it yields the right results.

After Saudi Arabia’s embassy came under attack in Tehran this past January, Villa Somalia issued a press statement indicating it had cut ties with Iran, which just so happen to coincide with a same-day Saudi pledge of $50 million to Somalia’s government. Assuming that this $50 million would be used responsibly, there could be a net benefit for the Iran stunt because it ostensibly would bring development programs arising out of the Saudi pledge.

But in the case of demanding Gulen-linked individuals to vacate Somalia, many Somalis will be adversely impacted if the government fails to back-fill those services as promised: (via CCTV):

“[Gulen] has [a] few programs in Somalia among them an academy for hundreds of Somali students both local and diaspora. Nile Academy and Deva hospital, two of the major organisations targeted by the government are based in Mogadishu and have been providing education and medical services to thousands in the country.”

Selective Outrage

While the government was quick to respond to events far outside its borders, Villa Somalia has yet to express outrage regarding the recent killing of fourteen civilians by Ethiopian troops in Bay region, which occurred during a surprise clash with al-Shabaab just outside Baidoa in Wardiinle.

Those killed were buried today without the same kind of public acknowledgement Hassan Sheikh’s administration gave to those in Turkey.


Perhaps the Somali government views the incident as another tragedy in the fog of war, but it has not taken away from the perception that the government is more attuned to responding to tragedies that are grabbing major headlines outside the country rather than those within its borders, such as a swift response to floods, drought, and other humanitarian disasters.

Screenshot 2016-07-18 at 7.26.46 PM



Categories: Somali Government

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