Somali military trainees officially appear for the first time in Eritrea
By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
July 12, 2022 (NAIROBI) – The Eritrean government has for the first time officially announced providing military training to thousands of Somali national army members.
The announcement comes as the newly elected Somalian President Hassan Sheik Mohamud pays a visit to Asmara in his first leg tour to Africa since its inauguration.
The Eritrean government on Sunday officially inaugurated thousands of Somalis who had been undergoing military training for three years.
The Eritrean state-run Television (ERITV) displayed the inauguration of the Somali soldiers in the presence of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
At the event, the Commander of the trainees explained that they have been provided with adequate military training and gained experience from the people of Eritrea on building one united country and that they are ready to discharge their duties.
Congratulating the trainees for successfully completing the military training, President Mohamud expressed hope that the graduated Somali military live up to the expectations of the people and the Government of Somalia
The secretive military training program has sparked controversy and bitter disputes in Somalia between politicians and their families as they feared that their sons would be expedited to fight alongside the Ethiopian troops in Tigray.
Tigray militants, which are at war with the federal government, have also accused Somali forces of infiltrating Tigray and fighting alongside the Eritrean army.
Last year, Tigrayan forces alleged to find Somali troops killed in battles in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
Tigray military officials then said that those Somali soldiers were allied with Eritrean and Ethiopian federal forces in the fighting in the northern Ethiopia’sconflict which broke out in November 2020.
The Somali government has previously denied that its forces fought in the Tigray region but confirmed the presence of Somali forces in Eritrea.
Former President Farmajo had been accused by rival politicians of secretly recruiting and sending these young Somalis to an undisclosed location.
The unannounced training program in Eritrea came to light last year after a UN human rights report revealed that Somali trainees have crossed the Eritrean border along with the Eritrean forces to fight in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region.
The UN report triggered mass protest as parents and relatives of recruits camped in the streets of the capital Mogadishu, demanding the government disclose the whereabouts of their sons.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also said in a statement that it had received information that Somali soldiers were being taken to Tigray and that they were in Axum.
In January 2021, the former deputy head of the Somali National Security and Intelligence Agency, Abdisalam Guled, said that hundreds of Somali soldiers who took military training in Eritrea had taken part in the Tigray war.
He said some 370 Somali troops were killed while fighting in Tigray.
“There is no way these Ethiopian commanders tell me lies, Somali soldiers fighting alongside Eritrean troops and commanded by Eritrean military officials were killed in the war in Tigray,” said Guled.
“I think the reason why these soldiers were killed in large is contributed by a number of factors including, inexperience, lack of knowledge about the battlefield and the Eritrean commanders who never mind the casualties among Somali soldiers” he added.
The former spy deputy was reacting to remarks by Information Minister Hassan Dube who denied claims Somalis were involved in the Tigray war.
Former Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo Reports said that 5,167 cadets were taken to Eritrea for military training three years ago.
At the end of the four-day visit on July 12, President Mohamud and the Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki signed a military and security cooperation agreement