After completing his contacts in Algeria today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be traveling to Gambia. He will then move on to Senegal as he continues his practice of visiting at least three countries during his Africa visits, which has almost become a rule.
In his last Africa trip in March two years ago, Algeria and Senegal were on his itinerary, and he also visited Mali and Mauritania as the third and fourth countries. This time, instead of Mauritania and Mali, he will be visiting Gambia for the first time – which is, in fact, Turkey’s first presidential visit to the country.
We had mentioned it before: by organizing a business forum in every country he visits, the president puts forth a vision and motivation that will augment bilateral economic relations.
This initiative does not oversee unilateral benefits to Turkey. On the contrary, in order for relations to progress and continue, gains too need to be bilateral. This is the most important message conveyed by the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) business forums. This is exactly what separates Turkey from other countries, both in the past and present, in terms of its interest in Africa: Turkey’s ties with any country will certainly serve “mutual benefits.”
The Algeria leg of the trip is of extreme significance, especially in terms of the political changes the country is going through, as well as the country’s weight in the region and its trade volume with Turkey.
As is known, the protests that broke out and lasted for months against former Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been ruling the country since 1999, declaring that he will be running for president for a fifth term, had led to the postponement of elections and, eventually, Bouteflika withdrawing his candidacy. The postponed elections were held a while back and, garnering 58 percent of the votes in the first round, Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected president.
Though protests are partly ongoing as he is considered a representative of the old regime, an election was held and there is now a president in Algeria who was elected with a significant number of votes. While he maintains good relations with the former administration, this is an important opportunity for reconciliation in this community. If there now exists a free political atmosphere in which social factions’ demands are not completely ignored, without anybody being excluded from the political domain, this is a great gain especially for today’s Arab-Muslim countries.
Unfortunately, many Muslim countries are deprived of even such a small reconciliation, freedom of expression and political participation. Algeria, in this aspect, is a country that is continuing its political process with maturity. It would not be wrong to say that this maturity is very much correlated with lessons learned from painful experiences of the past.
What truly matters is that political problems do not burst into a conflict or a coup that completely puts an end to the political atmosphere. Of course, Algeria’s sensibility on this matter could be considered a weakness and thus an opportunity to impose authoritarianism.
Regardless of what anybody says, Algeria has made significant progress towards democratization and nationalization. Of course, there is no such rule that the word of one man has to be unanimously accepted. What is important is that the parties are not disregarded and there is certain reconciliation. Reports that President Tebboune is preparing for a general amnesty and political regulations which aim to strengthen this reconciliation and political participation are promising.
President Erdoğan closely followed developments in Algeria and highly respected and appreciated the Algerian people’s will; he was the first state leader to call and congratulate his Algerian counterpart once his victory was announced. Algeria, with its geopolitics and resources is a North African country with major potential. Following Libya and Nigeria, it is the third richest African country in terms of its oil reserves, and possesses the biggest natural gas reserves after Nigeria. Despite being three times bigger than Turkey, its population, at 42 million, is about half of ours.
Obviously, this is not what makes it wealthy. It boasts a very young population and, when managed well, it is a major human resource for Algeria. Seeing such a young population simply as a cheap source of income is easy. Yet, this population is, at the same time, a lucrative opportunity for a good institutionalization of education. This must certainly be utilized for critical cooperation on education between Turkey and Algeria.
The people of Algeria have demonstrated a most exceptional model of preserving their identity, their personality with a noble resistance against colonialism.
There is no challenge that cannot be overcome for a state that has such a nation on its side or, rather, a state that stands by such a nation.
Of course, Libya must be on the agenda of the visit to Algeria. Let us say this much: Algeria being long occupied with its own internal problems has a great role in the current state of the Libya issue. Otherwise Algeria would not tolerate such invasion and the remote proxy administration of a country with which it shares a lengthy border.
From now on, those taking advantage of the political void and resorting to invasion have to take into account that Algeria is back in business.