6TH TÜRKİYE - AFRICA DEFENCE SECURITY AND AEROSPACE FORUM FINAL DECLARATION

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6th Türkiye - Africa Defence Security and Aerospace Forum whose main theme “Turkish Military Presence in Africa, and New Horizons” was held by TASAM National Defence and Security Institute, together with the 9th Istanbul Security Conference on the date of 24th of November, 2023 in Istanbul Kent University Kağıthane Campus, simultaneously as a co-event....

6th Türkiye - Africa Defence Security and Aerospace Forum whose main theme “Turkish Military Presence in Africa, and New Horizons“ was held by TASAM National Defence and Security Institute, together with the 9th Istanbul Security Conference on the date of 24th of November, 2023 in Istanbul Kent University Kağıthane Campus, simultaneously as a co-event.

Speakers and protocols from various countries and regions, and from different fields and sectors, have participated in the Forum. Diplomatic representatives and delegations from many African countries have also taken part. In the Forum, speeches and presentations were made by local/foreign experts, academics and diplomats. Relevant authorities from Türkiye and Africa were also represented at the Forum, and all sessions were followed institutionally.

The following issues of vital importance in present and future of Türkiye, Africa and the region were discussed at the Forum; “Turkish Military Presence in Somalia and New Horizons“, “Turkish Military Presence in Libya and New Horizons“, “Turkish Military Presence and New Horizons in Sudan“, “Turkish Military Presence and New Horizons in the Central African Republic“, “Turkish Military Presence in Mali and New Horizons“, “Defence Industry ; Land, Sea, Air, Space, Police, Gendarme, Intelligence, Strategic Sectors“, and “3rd Türkiye-Africa Partnership Summit and Security Cooperation“.

As a result of the Forum, the following objectives and recommendations were made, and it was decided to bring them to the attention of all relevant authorities and the public:
  1. The security issues of today's world, marked by numerous destructive wars and conflicts throughout history, are becoming increasingly complex and interrelated. Success in efforts to address these security concerns can only be achieved through a collective approach built on trust, dialogue, and cooperation. It is crucial to involve not only intergovernmental organizations and states but also individuals in these efforts. Particularly in societies affected by conflict or at risk of conflict, the involvement of individuals in a "culture of peace" from a young age is essential for transitioning from conflict to communication and peace. Such a culture of peace will pave the way towards a world of peace, tranquility, and stability for all individuals. An approach that solely focuses on addressing human and physical security deficiencies in combating violent radicalization between Türkiye and African countries carries the risk of empowering radical groups in the fight against terrorism.
  2. In the context of hybrid and multi-dimensional cooperation between Türkiye and Africa, the concept of "Peace Education" stands out as one of the most important tools in creating a culture of peace to address new threat perceptions arising from the changing security perspective. In its simplest form, the concept of Peace Education involves initiatives aimed at providing education on human rights, gender equality, disarmament, social and economic benefits, non-violence, sustainable development, international law, and traditional peace practices. The methodology of Peace Education must necessarily incorporate elements of critical thinking, deep reflection, and individual participation, all of which should already be integrated into all stages of formal and informal education programs.
  3. Due to issues such as colonial history, internal political crises, inter-tribal tensions, and terrorism, Africa stands out as the region in the world where Peace Education is most needed. In response to this need, the "AFRICA PEACE EDUCATION PROGRAM" prepared by the TASAM Africa Institute under the main theme of "Africa Peace: Together Possible" serves as an exemplary instrument to develop hybrid approaches and cooperation. As Türkiye emerges as a rising actor in Africa, there is a proposal to develop proactive and preventive cooperation mechanisms for the establishment of development, peace, and stability by promoting a culture of peace. The Africa Peace Education Program and numerous similar instruments are recommended to be included in the planning process to spread peace culture and develop proactive and preventive cooperation mechanisms for Türkiye in Africa.
  4. Africa, endowed with rich energy resources, has China as its largest trading partner. China engages in various forms of economic and trade collaborations with countries in Africa and also provides military equipment and weapons assistance. China's presence in the African continent has not intensified in recent years; it has been continuing its presence in the region since 1955. The focus of foreign countries in the region has relatively shifted towards Russia in recent years. However, Africa should prioritize its own interests, develop national and Africa-centric policies, and follow a roadmap accordingly.
  5. Africa finds itself in a period of striving for new institutionalization and liberation from all forms of exploitation because of independence struggles. The restructuring process of African countries relying on debt and credits gives rise to another form of exploitation known as Neo-colonialism.
  6. It has been noted that referring to the African continent without specifying any particular region – such as east, west, etc. – and basing studies on such generalizations serves the exploitative system and mindset established by Western actors. Ultimately, Africa is a vast continent containing many different countries, languages, cultures, and traditions, and each country is unique in its own right. Therefore, efforts and studies should be conducted on a country-specific basis, clearly specifying where they are focused.
  7. The inadequacy of the ongoing African studies in Türkiye forces the country to rely on translated texts for scientific research, creating a significant problem and lack of understanding due to the construction and development of literature and academic research being associated with the exploitative history of the West. Therefore, training regional experts who are proficient in the language is crucial. Africa should be approached from scratch by learning from local sources rather than relying on Western sources.
  8. The primary groups causing internal conflicts and unrest in Africa are terrorist organizations. These groups instigate inter-tribal conflicts, deceive the impoverished and young population with economic promises, and cause the deaths of many individuals. Particularly, , the number of people killed by terrorists identifying themselves as radical Islamists has significantly increased in coastal countries. Such situations have been cited as the most significant factors hindering Africa's stable growth and development.
  9. Foreign fighters or foreign terrorist fighters are terms used to describe soldiers who participate in an ongoing war in another country. Such movements are a phenomenon observed almost everywhere in the world, from Central Asia to Europe, from the Balkans to Africa. However, in the African continent, war volunteers exhibit differences compared war volunteers exhibit differences compared to other examples. The most significant difference is the deployment of mercenaries belonging to exploitative states against societal or political movements in the African region. Individual mercenary activities have corporatized and taken on an institutional structure, providing support to conflicting parties in internal wars such as Sierra Leone (1991-2000), Liberia (1992-1995), and Ivory Coast (2002- 2007). Another scenario is the consideration of participations occurring in countries bordering the war zone as foreign militancy. Lastly, transnational war participations originally based on voluntarism have occurred in Africa in the form of individuals being coerced into participation without their consent.
  10. In recent years, the accelerating global competition, changing internal dynamics, and shifts in world balances have directed all significant actors involved in the trade scene to make strategic decisions concerning the continent. The competition among new parties developing decisions to sustain or establish new relationships in Africa has led to increased awareness, as observed from "Africa Strategy" documents and speeches made by officials in the international arena. With its globally significant geopolitical position, growing economy, and abundant resources the African continent will become one of the key regions where a growing number of countries with diverse priorities and approaches will compete in the years to come.
  11. Türkiye has successfully embraced a multifaceted approach encompassing economic, cultural, defense, and developmental aspects with the aim of engaging in comprehensive interaction with Africa and establishing new connections. In order to effectively integrate these significant efforts, thorough monitoring of socio-economic developments in each country of the continent, alongside intense diplomatic initiatives, is necessary. Moreover, careful observation of influential actors in the region is essential.
  12. From the concrete implementation of the Africa Opening Action Plan in 1998 to the present day, the African continent continues to gain increasing importance in Türkiye's foreign policy. Following the Africa Opening Action Plan, the declaration of the Year of Africa in 2005 and the First Türkiye-Africa Partnership Summit in 2008 marked the beginning of Türkiye's efforts to systematically formalize its political steps towards the continent. The increase in diplomatic representations in Africa, coupled with the activities of civil society organizations, eventually led to a significant transformation in Türkiye's policies towards the region. Whereas relations were previously primarily developed based on historical, humanitarian, economic, and cultural reasons, later on, new policies emphasizing military and security themes began to take precedence.
  13. Since the announcement of the Africa Action Plan in 1998, Türkiye has entered into security and defense agreements with 30 countries on the continent. With military attachés in 19 African countries, Türkiye established the Turkish Task Force Command (Camp TURKSOM) in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 2017, creating the largest Turkish military training center abroad. Türkiye not only provides military training but also supplies necessary equipment for the security apparatuses of these countries and contributes to various UN peacekeeping operations in Africa. In recent years, the Turkish defense industry has made significant strides, shedding light on Africa's security issues. This win-win situation particularly manifests itself in the defense industry sector.
  14. Türkiye's occasional inconsistency in its foreign policy, leading to shifts in position within relatively short period, can be explained by significant developments occurring abroad over the past decade. It has been suggested that "the radical developments in the past decade have increased Türkiye's geopolitical blind spots." Under these circumstances, Türkiye's leadership, however controversial it may be, has constantly sought recognition as a key regional player. Due to the lack of a comprehensive strategic roadmap, Türkiye struggles with indecisive foreign policy moves both regionally and internationally.
  15. Africa, hosting the world's largest human population, rich underground resources, and being the cradle of many ancient cultures throughout history, is the origin of humanity and civilization. However, today, Africa faces a new hegemonic pressure. In addition to inter-power competition, various collaborations are also being made to maintain the continent's current position. In light of these developments, a finding is made as follows: While the Middle East has long been known as the center of war and chaos, this reputation is gradually shifting to Africa. In the most general sense, Africa is a prominent actor in the hegemonic power struggle in the current century.
  16. An awakening that needs to be properly managed is also notable from the perspective of Africa. One of the most concrete examples of this awakening is demonstrated by Niger and its people. The people of Niger are rising up and opposing the exploitation system through actions and protests against France. Similarly, the recent coup events in Gabon also indicate a definite reluctance towards French governance and understanding in the country.
  17. Türkiye's Africa policy carries the characteristic of a state that has never had a colonial past throughout its history, setting it apart from the policies of Western actors. However, Türkiye's policies towards Africa are relatively new. In this context, initiatives such as TÜRKSOY, schools established by the Maarif Organization, and scholarship opportunities offered to African students studying in Türkiye can be considered significant developments. Additionally, it is of great importance to develop economic relations with Africa, which possesses a significant portion of critical raw materials such as uranium for defense and aerospace industries. Creating future-oriented projects and making investments in this direction will strengthen Türkiye's relations with Africa and provide mutual benefits.
  18. Although Türkiye does not have direct borders with the African continent, the security of Africa holds vital importance for Türkiye's international security policies. For example, bilateral relations established with North African countries such as Libya and Egypt play a critical role in geopolitical tensions related to energy sharing in the Eastern Mediterranean. In this context, the "Africa Opening" and action plans implemented since the early 2000s further strengthen historical and socio-cultural ties, while also reinforcing commercial, economic, military, and diplomatic relations. These efforts aim to deepen Türkiye's connections with Africa, enhancing its interaction with regional and global security. Through strategic partnerships established with North African countries, Türkiye can potentially influence developments in the region and contribute effectively to security policies.
  19. Despite gaining independence in the mid-20th century, many African countries have been governed by failed regimes supported by global actors for many years. This situation aligns with the assumption that the old exploitation order caused by political and economic dependency relationships continues with post-colonial practices.
  20. In today's world, the African continent has become a battleground between former colonial powers such as Britain and France, as well as international players like Russia, the United States, and China over time. For instance, following the Russia-Ukraine war, while people in Africa struggle to cope with energy and food crises, Russia seeks to increase its geopolitical influence in the region, while France endeavors to diminish Russian influence on the continent by losing power in the area. These global events have perpetuated chronic issues in Africa, such as coups, ethnic tensions, instability, political-economic internal conflicts, poverty, corruption, and smuggling.
  21. The Turkish defense industry has various impacts on both military and civilian aspects of security in East Africa. Particularly, countries in East Africa such as Somalia and Ethiopia have the opportunity to enhance their defense capacities through the defense industry products and technologies offered by Türkiye. Consequently, they can potentially achieve success in combating national security challenges.
  22. Mali holds significant geostrategic importance for the African continent and should ideally maintain a stable political environment. Despite the post-colonialist approaches exhibited by major powers towards the region and the country as a whole, the Republic of Türkiye demonstrates a strategic approach, recognizing that Mali's security is linked to ensuring and preserving stability across the African continent.
  23. The relations between Türkiye and Mali have been developing with increasing momentum, especially in recent years. In this context, high-level contacts and signed agreements progress in coordination with the Republic of Türkiye's African Initiative. Mali is aware of Türkiye's strength and experience in the defense field. There is significant awareness, particularly in areas such as air defense systems, combat and communication command control and support systems, signal intelligence, armored systems, etc. Additionally, the experience and success of the Turkish Armed Forces in combating terrorism are regarded with respect by Mali. Establishing a military base in Mali is considered to be a step that could yield rapid and positive results for the Republic of Türkiye's African geostrategy, aiming for rational configuration of experience transfer and technical support at tactical and operative levels. While the arms race continues on the African continent, the question of how to achieve peace remains. Many countries, including Türkiye are adequately focused on the defense industry. However, in such an environment, it is hoped that more hopeful and constructive answers will be provided regarding how peace can be established.
  24. The cooperation between Türkiye and Africa has reached a different stage with developments such as the establishment of military bases in Somalia and Libya, comprehensive consultancy in military operations, and the sale of high-tech weaponry systems. As Türkiye becomes involved in the geopolitical competition among major powers with its increasing military activities on the continent, it is exposed to both the opportunities and risks of this competition.
  25. The primary issues highlighted in the context of Africa regarding the use of military support, which contradicts international agreements and norms, include the risk of illegal transfer of exported weapons to illegitimate groups and the possibility of violating UN embargoes. In this context, two main concerns emerge. Firstly, arms diversion; secondly, the actions of state security forces towards human rights violations in African countries. In such situations, it should be expected that the exported weapons would lead to disruptive outcomes rather than ensuring peace and security. Both of the aforementioned issues are factors that Türkiye should be sensitive to in its Africa policy in terms of international law, respect for human rights, and long-term interests. These factors also delineate the boundaries of Türkiye's security outreach in Africa. It is recommended that Türkiye's military cooperation scope in Africa be selective.

24 November 2023, Istanbul

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