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Issue 499/ 20th - 26th August 2011
Turkish PM Visits Famine-Hit Somalia And Calls On West To Do More
Erdogan, who was accompanied in Mogadishu by his family and five cabinet ministers, has appealed for more food aid for the drought-hit country and lashed out at wealthy western countries for not doing more.
Somalia's president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, welcomed Erdogan at the airport with a warm embrace. Erdogan, dressed in a sharp suit, and his wife, Emine, who wore haute-couture Islamic dress, then drove through the city's rubbish-strewn streets.
At one dusty, windswept refugee settlement, Erdogan crouched inside the tent of Bashir and Fatima, a young couple mourning the loss of two of their four children who died after walking 55 miles to Mogadishu. Emine Erdogan handed out chocolates and sweets.
On Wednesday, Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) countries pledged $350m (£121m) in aid to fight the famine, which has left 3.7 million Somalis at risk of dying of hunger.
Erdogan has said he hopes the OIC's efforts will jolt the consciences of those ignoring the unraveling humanitarian emergency.
A pious Muslim, he has called the disaster a "litmus test" for humanity.
The withdrawal of most Islamists from their Mogadishu bases earlier in the month has in effect handed full control of the capital to the government for the first time since civil war broke out in 1991.
Somali troops and African peacekeepers are still meeting pockets of rebel resistance in the city, highlighting the view of regional observers that the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab insurgents are far from defeated.
Security forces flooded Mogadishu's main streets, where Turkish flags fluttered in the coastal breeze and posters adorned the walls of mortar-blasted buildings.
"Prime minister Erdogan's visit tells us the Turkish people are closer to us than any other Muslim nation on earth," said one resident, Abdirashid Ali Omar. "The Turkish people are here to share with us in our time of need. It is momentous."
Muslim Turkey, a rising political and economic power that straddles east and west, is far behind other emerging powers such as China, Brazil or India in the race for new markets in Africa.
But under Erdogan's ruling AK party, Turkey has expanded commercial ties in Africa, as well as in the Middle East and Asia, and opened several new embassies in Africa.
The UN's World Food Programme said on Friday it was still unable to reach 2.2 million hungry people living in areas of southern Somalia controlled by al-Shabaab, whose bloody campaign to topple the government has cost more than 20,000 lives.
Aid agencies say that while droughts are a natural phenomenon, this famine is largely down to conflict and bad governance.
"Droughts will happen. They always will, but they don't have to be disasters. They can be managed," Oxfam's Philippa Crosland-Taylor said in neighboring Kenya.
Source: The Guardian