This was originally a project research note from February 2015
Can Turkey as a majority Muslim country help or hinder in the disarmament and social reintegration of armed groups in (Central and West African) countries afflicted by inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflict? Is there a potential for a virtuous circle of practice between Turkey’s domestic and external attempts at mediation?
Turkey has a tendency to focus its aid on majority Muslim countries and on Muslim communities in countries with Muslim minorities. Turkey has its own problems with militantism. Could we envisage a virtuous circular dialogue and practice from Turkey’s experiences at home and abroad? Can Turkey learn from locations where it gives aid in terms of diffusing conflict?
One example is Cote d’Ivoire – strongly divided between Muslim North and Christian South – this geographic division has been the basis for internal conflicts over the last 15 years – last serious conflict ended in 2011. Mali to the North has experienced problems with Islamist insurgents taking over parts of its North. Another example could be Kenya that has very recently experienced armed militias attacking other communities.
In the Ivory Coast, where armed gangs or disbanded (or still active) militias are still a problem, the country is faced with how to disband armed groups in a sustainable manner? Iraq’s Shia militias pose a similar problem. Can a foreign actor, such as Turkey, help in this process?
Can practices used in Turkey be exported? Can lessons be imported?
Turkey’s engagements have accused of being problematic for favouring certain communities, Muslim ones in particular, and inadvertently creating suspicion and resentment.
This ties back to Turkey’s own domestic question. There are lessons to be learnt from not favouring certain communities or at least not to be seen as doing so. If/ when the Turkish government comes to engaging in disarmament in the country’s south east, it will have to be careful who it engages with and how.
Part of helping disarm and consolidate is to do with investment – but the right kind. This is especially true in Turkey-Africa, where business has been booming over the last decade.