Erdogan is chasing a dream in Sudan that appears ever more like a delusion

There is much that is ironic about President Erdoğan’s recent visit to Sudan and Chad.

Such destinations hardly accord with his carefully cultivated image as a leading statesman. 

Sudan and Chad are, after all, amongst the world’s poorest, most corrupt and least democratic countries. They are also far removed from the centres of power and influence. Any visit to such places offers little in the way of either economic or political gains. As such, they represent unlikely destinations for a figure of the grandiose stature to which Erdoğan aspires.

None of this, of course, has stopped Turkey’s government controlled media from hyping up the trip. Indeed, there seems to be little for Turkey, or more specifically Erdoğan, to gain from such trips other than potential propaganda value. But even the most talented propagandist, not to mention Erdoğan himself, would struggle to find enough positives to conceal the elephant in the room.

The visit to Sudan may indeed have been historic, though not in the way it has been presented in Turkey’s media. Rather, the historic aspect is confined to it representing Erdoğan’s first trip to a country whose ruler the International Criminal Court has charged with genocide.  

Beneath such obvious ironies lies a deeper point. Erdoğan travels to such countries because he has exhausted his options. A virtual pariah in the democratic world, he can now expect a warm welcome only in places that share Turkey’s undemocratic political structure. His options are further limited by Turkey’s confrontational foreign policies.

Thus he is reduced to dusty cities like N’Djamena and Khartoum, scavenging for whatever he can find to feed his ego and burnish his domestic image. But such trips have the unpalatable side effect of bringing into ever starker focus the decade long decline in Turkey’s international standing. And at a personal level, each time Erdoğan ventures abroad he cuts an increasingly dark and tragic figure, his early lustre gone, grasping at straws and pursued by largely self-made demons, chasing a dream that appears ever more like a delusion.