ASMARA, 28 February 2021 – Somalia’s government sent thosuands of recruits to be trained in a clandestine program in Eritrea, news reports said Saturday.
Mogadishu embarked on the training in order to have troops in sufficient numbers to deploy in replacement of African Union peacekeepers due to be withdrawn and the decision in late 2020 by former American President Donald Trump to call back American troops.
Somalia also wants enough soldiers to continue to tackle the challenge posed by the jihadist militants of al-Shabab.
Previously, Somalia has sent its troops to train in Turkey, Uganda and Djibouti.
The training in Eritrea began in 2019, has been kept secret from the public and was run by Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency (NISA), not by the ocuntry’s ministry of defense, according to security sources cited Monday by the Voice of America (VOA).
Estimates are that between 3,000 to 7,000 Somali troops have been trained in Eritrea so far.
The program first came to light last January when social media posts hinted that Somali troops had been killed in the armed conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
Somalia’s information minister, Osman Abukar Dubbe, admitted last month that some Somali soldiers were training in Eritrea.
He added: that “the rumors and fictitious, politicized reports about Somali troops being trained abroad participating in [the] Tigray war [are] unfounded”.
Last October, Somali President Farmajo visited the Eritrea training camps, according to the sources cited by VOA.