Somalia and Cuba end 46-year diplomatic hiatus

MOGADISHU, Somalia (Caasimada Online) – Somalia and Cuba have taken a significant step towards mending fences by agreeing to resume diplomatic relations after a 46-year hiatus.

Somalia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abshir Omar Jama, announced the news via Twitter, stating, “Having established diplomatic relations between 1972-1977, we welcome the resumption of diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba governed by cooperation and mutual respect.”

On Tuesday, Juan Manuel Rodriguez, Cuba’s ambassador to Somalia, was among three ambassadors who presented their credentials to Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

Prior to this, Jama met with Rodriguez on Monday, expressing his honor at receiving the “credentials of the newly appointed Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to the Federal Republic of Somalia.”

Rodriguez also serves as Cuba’s ambassador to Kenya.

Healing old wounds 

The two nations severed their diplomatic relations in 1977 during the war between Somalia and Ethiopia, when the Cuban government under Fidel Castro sent thousands of Cuban troops to support the Soviet-backed Ethiopian government.

Former Somali Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad reflected on this history, emphasizing that while Somalia and Cuba do not share cultural and geographical connections, the country cannot afford to “self-imprison” itself to the past.

Awad pointed out that resuming relations with Cuba is a gain for Somalia, and it is not in their interest to “relive past hostility.”

He further noted that Somalia enjoys good diplomatic relations with Ethiopia and Russia.

The plight of Cuban hostages 

One immediate concern for Cuba is securing the release of two Cuban doctors who were abducted by the al-Shabab militant group in northern Kenya in April 2019.

Awad revealed that during his tenure as foreign minister, he was contacted by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla regarding the two hostages.

Awad assured the Cuban authorities that the doctors were alive, working as medical professionals for their captors.

He also pledged that Somalia would, “to the best of our ability,” play a role in securing the doctors’ freedom.

According to Awad, al-Shabab has not made any official demands for the release of the doctors. The group has previously released foreign hostages after alleged ransom payments.

The renewed diplomatic relations between Somalia and Cuba may provide a crucial opportunity to address this issue and work collaboratively toward the safe return of captive doctors.