Somalia’s controversial army trainees in Eritrea made their first public appearance three years after a scandal surrounding their recruitment broke.
The soldiers were photographed at a parade with new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Saturday. traveling through Eritrea on a four-day trip full of political significance.
Mr Mohamud is in Asmara for talks with his counterpart Isias Afawerki. The two were spotted at the training ground by thousands of Somali youth who had been recruited for training in Eritrea under the administration of his predecessor, President Mohamed Farmaajo.
And when Mr Mohamud returned to the presidency in May, there were Questions about how the two countries would react after allegations that Somali troops had joined Eritrean soldiers in the Ethiopian war against Tigray rebels. Both Asmara and Mogadishu have denied the allegations.
Around 5,000 cadets were reportedly brought to Eritrea for military training three years ago. However, their stay in Eritrea had become a bone of contention for Mr Farmaajo’s government when politicians, particularly the opposition, said parents lamented that their sons were missing.
Parents protested in Mogadishu against the Somalia’s federal government recruited their sons for jobs in Qatar just so they would show up in Eritrea, where they were sent against their will for military training.
Matters worsened when the UN Human Rights Council declared that Somali soldiers Fought alongside Eritrean forces who crossed the border into Ethiopia to fight the rebel Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF).
Read:Ethiopia and Somalia refuses to fight Somali soldiers in Tigray region
President Farmaajo’s government denied the allegations. In June 2021, former Information Minister Osman Abukar Dubbe denied the reports, saying no Somali soldiers fought or died in the Tigray War. “There are no Somali troops in the troubled region (of Ethiopia),” he said.
Mr Farmaajo handed over the presidency to Mr Mohamud on May 23 at Villa Somalia, the presidential palace. During the ceremony, he announced that the 5,000 soldiers had completed their training in Eritrea in mid-2021. He said they could be used to liberate parts of Somalia still controlled by the Al Shabaab terrorist group.
“My brother, 5,000 soldiers were trained in Eritrea. I assure you that they will help your government to overcome security problems…they are ready and you can bring them home at any time,” he said.
He added that due to the political Tensions could not be reduced at the time.
During his visit to Eritrea, President Mohamud is expected to finalize bilateral talks with his host. Somalia – which Eritrea once accused of supporting Islamist rebels – is now on friendly terms. The two countries and Ethiopia have drawn closer ties since 2018, when Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in Addis Ababa and held out an olive branch.
Since taking office in late June, President Mohamudhas has visited the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and now Eritrea as part of its efforts to expand the Horn of Africa country’s international relations.