On the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Turkey and Uganda, relations between the two countries are at their best, Turkey's ambassador to Uganda said Tuesday.
"As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations, we have focused on a number of priorities such as enhancing trade, investment, education, humanitarian assistance and military and defense cooperation as well as parliamentary diplomacy," Kerem Alp told Anadolu Agency by phone from the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
''As I speak to you now, the speaker of the parliament of Uganda and the prime minister along with ministers and the chairman of the Turkey-Uganda Parliamentary Friendship Committee are visiting Turkey. So in terms of high-level visits, we are on a good track," Alp said.
He said the two nations have exchanged a number of drafts and texts that will see increased cooperation in many fields, expressing hope that they will be signed soon.
These include cooperation between parliaments, labor and social services, investment and avoidance of double taxation, higher education, law enforcement, military and defense cooperation and the establishment of cultural centers, he said.
Alp said the Maarif Foundation, an educational arm of the Turkish government, has decided to establish an office in Uganda.
''We are now working on the modalities," he said.
After the 2016 defeated coup, Turkey established the Maarif Foundation to take charge of the Gülenist Terror Group's (FETÖ) overseas schools. The foundation also establishes schools and education centers abroad.
FETÖ is behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the Turkish government through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, judiciary and academia.
In July, Turkey had discussions with Ugandan officials over transferring the management of FETÖ-linked schools and hospitals in the country to Turkey.
''The Yunus Emre Cultural Center will also be opened as soon as the related draft agreement is signed between competent authorities. ''Started 10 years ago as a small state-run agency to promote Turkish language and culture, the Yunus Emre Institute is now a globe-spanning entity enlightening thousands on Turkey. With 157 offices on five continents, the institute has helped teach Turkish to 144,000 people. It is also behind hundreds of activities concerning music, art exhibitions, literature, language, gastronomy, cinema and handicrafts to boost Turkey's cultural ties with other countries.
Alp also said Turkish investments have picked up in Uganda, with production facilities opening up this year.
"Turkish construction companies are increasingly interested in helping build Uganda's infrastructure, and one company has won a tender for road construction in Karamoja, (a region in northeastern Uganda). We hope others will follow," he said.
Alp further revealed that around 17 Turkish nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including the Diyanet Foundation, have been very active in Uganda throughout the year, including the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when they distribute food packages and meat.
''We have continued to offer vocational education in Uganda, teaching skills to hundreds of women in various fields. We have also donated 100 sewing machines to our graduates, and through the Turkish NGOs, generous Turkish donors have financed the building of mosques in different parts of Uganda," he said.
Alp also said at least two voluntary medical teams from Turkey came to Uganda this year to perform several operations and examinations valued at thousands of dollars.
Turkey also offers educational scholarships to Ugandan students wishing to further their studies in Turkey.Turkey's state-run aid agency, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), has also been providing vocational training for hundreds of Ugandans to help them start their own businesses to lower unemployment in the landlocked East African nation.
TİKA is currently engaged in a variety of developmental cooperation activities in 150 countries through its 60 program coordination offices, including 20 in Africa. Some of the projects it is tackling are in the fields of education, health, water and sanitation. Others include agricultural development, civil and economic infrastructure, restoration and tourism.
To cement the already-strong ties, Alp has been learning the local Luganda language, which is widely spoken in the country.
Alp recently surprised Ugandan officials and fellow diplomats when he gave part of his address in nearly perfect Luganda.