MOGADISHU - Somali lawmakers are demanding an explanation from President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo after allegations surfaced that Somali troops sent to train in Eritrea have been secretly fighting - and dying - in Ethiopia's Tigray conflict. Farmaajo's office has denied the claim, which was put forth by a former national intelligence deputy chief and parents of troops who are allegedly missing.
The parents of Somali troops allegedly missing in Eritrea following military training say they fear their children were secretly sent to fight in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict.
They protested Friday in Mogadishu, calling on President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s government to provide information on their whereabouts.
Maryam Ahmed is the mother of a Somali soldier sent to Eritrea over a year ago. She says mothers like her haven’t heard from their boys since they left for training.
Ahmed says their sons are missing since November 2019 and they have no contact from them since then. We don’t eat, drink or sleep due to their unknown situation, she says. We urgently need their information, says Ahemd, and are calling on the president, the prime minister and all government officials to tell us where our sons are and whether they are dead or alive.
The parents’ concerns were raised after former deputy of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency Abdisalan Yusuf Guled this month claimed more than 370 Somali troops had died fighting in Tigray.
Guled provided no direct evidence for his claims made to Somali media. Ethiopian and Somali officials have denied that Somali troops fought in the Tigray conflict.
Somalia’s Information Minister Osman Dubbe called the claims baseless.
He says they want to clarify about this baseless information, which is based on political interest, on the alleged deployment of Somali troops training in Eritrea (sent) to the frontline in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Dubbe says they have never received any request from Addis Ababa to support their military in Tigray operation.
Nonetheless, a Somali parliamentary committee has demanded an explanation from President Farmaajo on the whereabouts of the Somali troops sent to Eritrea.
The foreign affairs and defense committee called on the head of state to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Asmara for an investigation.
Some Somali lawmakers say there is likely a reasonable explanation for the lack of communication between troops and their families.
Dahir Amin Jesow is a lawmaker and member of the defense committee.
"The training for the new recruits in Eritrea commenced following the pause from coronavirus," he says. "That is the reason why they stayed in that country for a long time without any contact. " Amin says they hope the troops will return to their loved ones more patriotic when they are done defending their nation.
It was not immediately clear if Farmaajo would agree to account for the Somali troops sent to Eritrea or if they would be allowed to contact their families to calm fears about their safety.