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Somalia: Sooner or later, Mohamud will have to answer Eritrea's questions


EDITORIAL | Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was wiping tears this week as he spoke to families of some of the members of the Somali National Army sent to Eritrea in a hazy training program.

It was nice to see a President finally meet and address the concerns of kin who have not seen their sons in three years. But there are questions the President will have to answer, sooner or later.

The President offered families to be speaking with their sons in the future. But that may be insufficient. Many people are concerned that a military program can last long, especially for recruits. What exactly are they training, and when will they start utilizing their new knowledge in defense of Somalia. Granted, the very reasons advanced by the previous regime was that they needed to equip the soldiers with the required know-how to tackle the daily menace of al-Shabaab.

This week, Mohamud met with Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea. Rather than announcing a get-home program for the troops, the two leaders ostensibly said they were aware of the importance of “peace and development for regional economic integration and prosperity.”

This may seem like a continuation of an earlier policy with Mohamed Farmaajo’s regime.

Somalia and Eritrea are different. While Eritrea does not have elections or elected representatives, Somalia has set a precedent of choosing its representative freely and handing over power in peace. The President may be aware that questions will be demanded on how this program will be legally sustainable in Somalia. Will he be willing to defend a clouded program? While serving as opposition leader, Mohamud routinely joined the opposition caucus to demand adequate information on this program.

There have been allegations that the troops were being used for duties other than training, including participation in Tigray. These were claims that were denied by both sides. But the program hasn’t received any better perception because neither Eritrea nor Somalia has published photos of the troops in session nor even clearly stated their number.

When Mohamud toured Asmara, he was reportedly taken to their camp, where we see photos of some troops. Aware that there were anxious families back home, Villa Somalia could at least have recorded video testimonies of the soldiers and brought the messages home.

But perhaps this trip was entirely choreographed by Asmara, a country opposed to accountability and keen to bring Mohamud to its fold just as it did to Farmaajo. The loser, of course, is the ordinary Somali. We must demand clarity from the start. Somalia is so fragile that any security support, monetary or technical, should be explained. Otherwise, we might create a profitable venture for a foreign rogue administration.

This is not to say Eritrea can offer nothing. On the contrary, Eritrea’s experience in the Horn may be more beneficial to Somalia than faraway entities. But a training program for the military that lasts as long as a university degree and is yet clouded in secrecy is not what Somalia wants.

We hope President Mohamud will read the sign on the wall and have these hazy details clarified.


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