Somalia: The soldiers that came back from the dead

The file of 5000 Somali soldiers who had completed military training in Eritrea was given to the newly elected president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, during the handing over ceremony in Mogadishu on May 23, 2022, ending rumors regarding their whereabouts and destiny. Mr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud made two trips to Eritrea to learn whether the forces were actually present.

When he was in opposition, President Hassan once referred to those soldiers as “children,” meaning that international law and children’s rights had been abused. He also stated that they were sold. He now learned that the soldiers were whole, unharmed, and had never taken part in a fight in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

The first group of those soldiers returned home on December 21, 2021, opening the door for the arrival of further groups over the next few weeks. With their arrival, the Somali people witnessed the biggest falsehood in modern Somali political history revealed.

The opposition circulated the allegation that these soldiers had been sent to fight with Ethiopian and Eritrean forces in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Some even went so far as to make the explicit assertion that only 180 soldiers out of the nearly 3,000 who were assigned to the Tigray region had survived. They intended to undermine the previous administration and further their political objectives.

Mahad Salad, the present Director of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), was one of them. The unfounded accusations Mr. Mahad made at the time were among the factors that led to President Hassan Sheikh appointing him as the Chief Spy.

Speaking to local and regional media outlets, the former Deputy Chief of Spy, Mr. Abdisalam Guled, has also played a significant role in disseminating this fabrication throughout 2021. Certain national and local news sources referred to his comments about these troops without supporting evidence. Reuters was one of the media outlets that spoke with the individual directly.

In a Reuters interview, he stated that he had received confirmation from some reliable sources inside Ethiopia that these soldiers had participated in the Tigray battle and a list of the names of the casualties. Please follow this link to view the complete report.

In a report published in May 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea revealed that some of the Somali recruits had been moved to Tigray to participate in the conflict, which was more unusual. From the report: “In addition to the reports of the involvement of Eritrean troops in the Tigray conflict, the Special Rapporteur also received information and reports that Somali soldiers were moved from military training camps in Eritrea to the front line in Tigray, where they accompanied Eritrean troops as they crossed the Ethiopian border. It is also reported that Somali fighters were present around Aksum….” Please download the report here

What information was provided to the UN Rapporteur, and where did it come from? I always assumed that the UN would provide findings based on facts rather than on urban legends and tales spread by enraged opponents of the Somalian government at the time. The UN propagated false and falsified material to mislead international and local audiences, which had a detrimental effect on Mogadishu’s safety and security.

The parents of the recruits launched a series of violent rallies in the capital Mogadishu, demanding the government reveal the whereabouts of their sons who were sent to Eritrea for military training, despite the government’s vehement denial that its forces engaged in combat in the Tigray province.

Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, the former president of Somalia, was serious about establishing a powerful army in his country. He has long wished to transfer security responsibilities to the national military and terminate the AMISOM deployment in Somalia.

To do this, he discreetly asked Eritrea to help train a force of soldiers that numbered up to 5000 to avoid the attention of the international community, which was in charge of the development of the Somali army. For several reasons, they would not have supported such an initiative:

Eritrea still experiences sanctions from the west, which considers it a hostile nation. The neighboring countries, also a part of AMISOM, want to avoid seeing a powerful force in Somalia. Due to these factors, the administration was compelled to keep the situation under wraps while planning a surprise return of these soldiers to Somalia.

Farmajo’s regime maintained secrecy despite pressure from the opposition and the international community. Instead, the political opposition parties were accused by his government of politicking national defense and security issues. The situation was indeed considered a top-secret national secret.

Now that these soldiers have returned to Somalia, Mr. Hassan is pleased to have them help the nation battle terrorism and reestablish security in Mogadishu. He said that because they are well-trained, he has great expectations for them to produce results quickly. He regretted the prior charges he had repeatedly leveled at these soldiers.

Now that the participation of these forces in the Tigray war is disproven, doubts are being raised about the integrity of other reports that surfaced last year and led to insecurity in the capital city, including the murder of Ikran Tahlil, a former NISA employee.

By: Ahmed Fiqi

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of Caasimada Online or its members.