I write to respond to Baffour Ankomah's most informative report entitled: "Turkey and Africa pledge co-operation" (NA, December 2016). He serves up a lush undergrowth of President Erdogan's use of African proverbs to underline his case. A typical example is the following:
"We consider the continent as our priority. There is a nice African proverb that says that one day's rain cannot get deep into the soil. We would like to remain friends forever."
A historical flashback into Ottoman Turkey's record of prolonged colonial domination and exploitation of Egypt/Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco shows no legacy of friendship with those parts of Africa. In Egypt, this linkage ran from 1517 till Napoleon's colonial invasion in 1789.
Professor Bethwell Ogot edited volume V of UNESCO's series on Africa's history, which contains Turkey's record in these countries. The following extract is the least condemnatory but still instructive:
"In the 16th century the Maghrib experienced a serious crisis, the fundamental cause of which was its failure to adapt to the age of firearms, centralising monarchies and the treasures of America. The Ottomans provided the countries of the central and eastern Maghrib with a solution by setting up modern military and administrative systems there, capable of ensuring external defence and the minimum of order necessary for common survival. But, at the same time, they imposed an iron rule along with harsh exploitation of resources, which contributed to the stagnation of the indigenous societies."
After 1583, Ottoman colonial rule reached Upper Egypt on its roll down into what became Sudan. Sir Samuel Baker, writings on the advance of Turkey's troops and mercenaries into northern Uganda and the source of the River Nile, notes the massacres of populations that rose in self-defence. In the Gezira Plains...