Eritrea, Somalia Leaders Pledge Cooperation on Defense, Political Efforts

The leaders of Eritrea and Somalia announced the signing of an agreement covering defense, security, diplomatic and political cooperation.

The agreement, finalized by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was reached following a four -day visit to Asmara by Somalia’s new leader.

In a seven-point memorandum of understanding released on Tuesday, the two leaders said they agreed to enhance defense and security cooperation to safeguard peace, stability and security. They also agreed to strengthen diplomatic and political cooperation, protect and advance their national interests, and promote relations between their two peoples, he said.

Afwerki and Mohamud said the memorandum they signed was based on historical and fraternal ties and common interests they shared and on recognizing that the successful fight against terrorism in Somalia is a “basic requirement for peace, stability and security, not only in Somalia but in the Horn. of Africa. ”

Eritrea has been training thousands of Somali forces for nearly three years. Most of the military received regular and special training, including the navy, as well as mechanized units.

VOA Somali reported the number of Somali troops trained in Eritrea at 5,167, a number later confirmed by former Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, who sent troops to Eritrea.

The first wave of Somali soldiers was flown from Mogadishu to Eritrea on August 19, 2019. There were second and third waves in February and June 2020, respectively.

The training of soldiers is a secret operation hidden from the public and media. The program was criticized by Somali parents of soldiers and opposition politicians. It sparked controversy after unverified media reports alleging their participation in the Tigray dispute, a claim strongly denied by the previous Somali government. VOA Somali has found no evidence to support their alleged link to the Tigray war.

During this week’s visit, Mohamud attended a parade of Somali forces and congratulated them on completing their military training.

According to a statement released by the president’s office, Mohamud changed his promise to return troops to Somalia and told them about his plans to stabilize the country and liberate areas still under control of al-Shabaab.

“The Somalis will be excited at your sight, and the enemy will be discouraged [your] strength, ”Mohamud told the soldiers, thanking the Eritrean government.

Earlier this month, the new Somali government reported that “some” Somali soldiers had died during training, and “some” had died of natural causes. No exact number was given, but some of the soldiers who defected last year gave mixed numbers, with one deserter reporting four killed, and a second soldier saying seven soldiers died.

According to a soldier who left and arrived in Somalia in July last year, one died of dehydration due to severe diarrhea, one was electrocuted and a third drowned in the lake while fleeing from Eritrean guards.

Ali Said Faqi, the Somali ambassador to the European Union who was among the few Somali officials to visit the soldiers ’training camp in late 2019, said the troops had received“ difficult training ”and most of them are trained as special forces. He said the original plan was that Eritrea would train them and arm them.

“That’s the plan, and I believe that’s still the decision,” he said.

Faqi said the new president’s call is to define a policy of operation and decide on how specifically to deploy the soldiers.

“They can participate in the fight against terrorism; they can participate in opening the highway between Afgoye and Baidoa; they can participate in the opening of the highway between Mogadishu and Kismayo, ”he said. “These are the young personnel who get the best military training.”

Somali President Mohamud last week introduced a new security strategy to counter al-Shabab, consisting of a military, ideological and economic strategy towards the militant group.

Meanwhile, the leader of al-Shabab, Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, swore in a new audio threat to fight the new government, insisting that the group would “never allow a government not founded on Islam and an administration which does not fully enforce.Sharia [law]. ”