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Somali gov’t claims it can’t afford to bring back Eritrean-trained soldiers

Friday September 30, 2022

Mogadishu (HOL) - Somali Minister of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ali Mohamed Omar, retreated that the federal government cannot afford to repatriate the thousands of Somali recruits in Eritrea since they completed their military training.

In an interview with VOA on Thursday, the Minister of State stated that the government still needs finances and has requested financial support from various friendly countries to return the soldiers and equipment.

"Those forces will be returned to the country, as promised by the President," said the Minister, "but their resettlement would require a lot of money, trucks, military camps, and fighting equipment."

Earlier, the local media reported that the Eritrean government has demanded that the leaders of Somalia pay 50 million dollars if the soldiers are returned to their country. Although the government immediately denied the news.

President Mohamud met with the troops on a July visit to Eritrea this week. He said he is determined to return them to the country as soon as possible to participate in the offensive against al Shabab.

Somalia sent thousands of soldiers to train in Eritrea, sparking a series of protests over the last year from parents who could not communicate with them.

The program was denied by top government officials in the previous administration, including security ministers and the chief of the armed forces, until outgoing President Farmajo revealed it during his handover ceremony.

Somali troops during a military parade in Asmara during President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in July 2022. CREDIT: Villa Somalia

In a departure from standard operating procedure, the covert program was overseen by Somalia’s intelligence agency, NISA, instead of the Somali National Army. It’s said that embattled former spy chief Fahad Yasin spearheaded the program.

Mohamud's meeting with the troops in Eritrea was the first time many of them were seen since the training began in 2018.

Somalia's previous government had dismissed concerns from parents who could not reach their children in training and would not provide details.

A U.N. report in June last year said thousands of Somali troops had taken part in the war in Ethiopia's Tigray region, prompting protests by parents who feared their sons were sent to fight.

Somalia's government denies any of the Somali troops that trained in Eritrea were involved in Ethiopia's Tigray conflict. Some media reports and critics dispute that account and allege some have been killed in Ethiopia.


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