During Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud’s state visit to Eritrea from July 8 to 12, the government of Eritrea officially confirmed how a training program of several thousand young Somali soldiers is underway, holding a ceremony attended by the visiting delegation from Somalia (https://sudantribune.com/article261436/).

The three-year training program had been the subject of a contentious dispute between the two countries, which emerged recently following persistent demands from family members of the soldiers about their fate and the prospects of their return to Somalia. Former Somali President Farmajo has been accused by several Somali journalists and politicians of secretly agreeing with Eritrea on the training program, effectively keeping quiet about the use of some of these military units in the Tigray conflict as well.

President Mohamud’s visit to Eritrea had as one of its main objectives to decrease the tension between the two countries, trying to facilitate a solution to the issue of military units being trained there in a diplomatic and discreet manner. To this end, the footage that Eritrean television broadcasted on the occasion of the visit to the training camp intentionally showed the satisfaction of the Somali units, and their commander thanked Eritrea for the training received.

Upon returning from the mission in Eritrea, President Mohamud reassured the families of the young soldiers on the issue of their return to Somalia, although without giving any specifics as to when and how. The announcement was made at a meeting between the president and the families of the soldiers, held on July 13 at the Villa Somalia residence in Mogadishu (https://www.africarivista.it/somalia-il-presidente-assicura-il-rientro-delle-truppe-somale-dalleritrea/204650/).

It seems clear that the issue of the Somali soldiers in Eritrea still represents a controversial and difficult issue to be managed, on which both governments, however, appear intent on finding a mediation formula capable of preventing the case from taking on wider dimensions and effects. The Somali government has officially denied reports in recent weeks that the government of Eritrea has demanded payment, although the news continues to circulate in the Somali media, as well as that regarding possible use in the context of the conflict in Tigray. The intention of the government in Mogadishu and Asmara visibly appears to be oriented at settling the issue as discreetly as possible, strengthening bilateral political and economic ties through a solution that prevents the problem of the military from taking on a broader scope (https://www.africanews.com/2022/07/15/somalia-president-promises-return-of-soldiers-sent-for-training-in-eritrea/).

During the visit to Eritrea, President Mohamud and his counterpart Isaias Afwerki also signed a Memorandum of Understanding on political and military cooperation, with an emphasis on promoting economic relations, increasing bilateral trade and developing joint projects in agriculture, fisheries, water management, health and education (https://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-eritrea-sign-mou-on-security-and-defense-cooperation).


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