Somalia President meets controversial army recruits sent to Eritrea

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Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud visits the Somali Army Brigade in Eritrea
where they completed training. PHOTO | VILLA SOMALIA

Somalia’s controversial army trainees in Eritrea appeared for the first time in public, three years after a scandal emerged about their recruitment.

The soldiers were photographed at a parade on Saturday with new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is touring Eritrea on a four-day trip laden with political significance.

Mr Mohamud is in Asmara for talks with his counterpart Isias Afawerki. The two were seen at the training ground of thousands of Somali youth recruited under the administration of his predecessor President Mohamed Farmaajo for training in Eritrea.

And when Mr Mohamud returned to the presidency in May, there were questions on how the two countries would relate, following claims the Somalia troops had taken part in the Ethiopian war against Tigray rebels alongside Eritrean soldiers. Both Asmara and Mogadishu have rejected the allegations.

Reports indicate that about 5,000 cadets were taken to Eritrea for military training three years ago. However, their stay in Eritrea had become a bone of contention for Mr Farmaajo’s government when politicians, especially the opposition, said that parents were lamenting that their sons were missing.

The parents staged protests in Mogadishu saying Somalia’s federal government recruited their sons for jobs in Qatar, only for them to surface in Eritrea, where they were sent for military training against their will.