Receptions have a different place in African countries, because they are a meeting point for Turks. Those who are on duty and work under tough conditions in various parts of the countries gather on the occasion of these receptions; they try to make the most of that day with the programs organized by embassies.
I attended every reception that was held during the seven years I was in Africa. Even though I sometimes witnessed rituals very foreign to us, they generally did not differ much from the celebrations in Turkey. However, I saw that alcoholic beverages were consumed in abundance. As a matter of fact, at a time when our president was saying in Turkey that "our national beverage is ayran," I witnessed collections of rakı brought from various parts of our country and exhibited at a reception, telling guests that "our national beverage is rakı." While I thought that there was only one rakı brand, it turns out that there are dozens, and I learned this at those receptions.
The ambassadors in Africa generally have common sense and are aware of national and sentimental values, hence they pay attention to represent Turkey in the best way possible. They do not act with the influence of classifications such as rightist, leftist, conservative, secular; they think about their homeland and for our nation want to represent Turkey the best way possible in Africa.
Similar to all institutions, there are those rare people in foreign affairs who put their own such ideological approaches above the state's policies. There may also be times that we confuse the operation of the state with what is on our minds. What is important is to never forget the state mind, to never ignore it.
The Republic reception organized in Kampala this year was truly a disaster on behalf of Turkey. It appeared as though the reception was not organized by the Turkish embassy but rather the Greek one. This is the first time we witnessed a masquerade ball at a Republic reception. These masks may, in a sense, be considered an intention to revolt against the Republic, against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But at this point, my personal opinion is that the ambassador should not be pressured too much either. Even though this seems like something against our national and spiritual values, there are those who have already been including such perceptions in their events for years, and they take advantage whenever the opportunity arises.
One should not be hung up on this scene only at the reception; for example, a good Mozart concert that pleased the audience was also given. Our female performance artists showed Africa with their violins, among an air of the Swan Lake Ballet, how modern our country is - and they showed this especially to Uganda, which was a U.K. colony for years.
Our stance is not very clear in Africa. A modern Western state image is being represented more than anything else. Yet, this is something the elite will and intellectuals who are unable to get out of the quagmire of African pro-modernist colonization would want. Despite President Erdoğan reminding at every opportunity that we are not like the West, some groups insist on wanting to present Turks as a white race.
We should not be too unfair toward our Kampala ambassador. He really is an experienced foreign affairs bureaucrat and is a rare figure that knows Africa well. He is not someone who can easily be tossed to a corner. As a matter of fact, he is a good artist, who has shown that he is talented enough to open an exhibition. We should also remember that he is a good golf player. How many of us know to play golf well?
Our Culture Ministry declared this year as "the year of Troy." It is possible to find many statements explain the importance of Troy in our ambassador's speech, when reference is made to this year. Introducing Troy is quite lovely. Because Troy is of great value for Europeans. Tourists come to Turkey from many Western countries to see Troy, and this leads to a significant rise in our income. But the Uganda choice is wrong. Because we cannot expect people in a country where 90 percent of the people are suffering from poverty to know Troy. The only people to come from Africa to Troy would be the white people in South Africa - not anyone from Uganda or other African countries.
This unfortunate incident should actually be a turning point for our foreign affairs. Care should be taken from now on when choosing people for our representations abroad. We have no excuse either. We have a government that has been in power for 16 years and can change the bureaucracy of the state. I believe that the authorities have understood the matter and that the necessary steps will be taken as soon as possible.
The mentality of those who take office at our representations abroad is insignificant. What is important is that they should be people that will fight against organizations like the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), and they will make every sacrifice for their homeland and people. Regardless of their ideology, those positions should not become anybody's backyard. The position should be given to whomever is going to be able to represent the country appropriately.
Unfortunately, I would like to share some of my concerns at this point. Taking office in Africa is more difficult compared to other regions. Rather than choosing those who are assigned to such a position for the first time, those who are going to demonstrate their experience should be preferred, not those who need to gain experience. I remember, once an ambassador told me, "Mr. Ibrahim, I am so tired of this country. There is nothing to do. I am stuck between the residence, embassy and hotel."
What our ambassador said is true in a sense. If you do not know Africa, if you never lived in Africa before, Africa's difficulties will tire and render you idle. Yet, Africa is one of the best regions to work in. It is the place to realize the Africa in President Erdoğan's dreams. In this sense, Africa is fertile; if you take one step toward Africa, Africa will take five, even 10 steps toward you.
The incident that took place in Kampala is a repairable one by our ambassador; let us consider that there was no bad intentions behind it. Because it is time to win, not lose. We have reached a good position with Turkey in the global geography. There will be those who tire on this path and those who make mistakes. What is important is to maintain dynamism and continue on our path by learning from mistakes.