Families stage protests in Mogadishu over "missing" soldiers training in Eritrea
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A host of family members whose loved ones have been reportedly training in Eritrea staged demonstrations asking for the whereabouts of young men who the government has failed to account for in the last couple of months.
The demonstrations were started in the streets of Mogadishu, mainly at Daljirka Dahson near Villa Somalia. It's believed that thousands of young men were secretly sneaked to Eritrea to train as soldiers before being recruited into the Somali spy agency NISA.
According to reports, most of the young men have never been allowed to speak to their families, leading to concerns about their whereabouts and their current status. Some reports also indicate that some may have died.
Early this year, the government refuted claims that the soldiers had been taken to the Tigray region to help in reinforcing the Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] and the Eritrean troops. ENDF had waged an onslaught against the Tigray People's Liberation Front [TPLF].
According to the Somalia government, "there is nothing of the sort, it's just a creation by the opposition". But critics argue many soldiers may have died in Tigray thus the decision by the government to keep information without briefing the families.
Some reports indicate that the government was planning to bring the soldiers home in batches before officially incorporating them into the SNA. It's not clear which budget the Somali government will use given that most of the operations are financed by foreigners.
Eritrea has been under persistent pressure from Somalia's opposition which accuses them of "meddling in our internal affairs". President Isaias Afwerki is a close friend of outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, whose tenure expired on Feb 8.
Elsewhere, about 50 Harm’ad soldiers who were deployed in Jowhar during the HirShabelle election staged a strike today, blocking important roads. The troops want to be relocated to Mogadishu, the country's capital according to reports.