EDITORIAL: Somalia must explain whereabouts of soldiers for credibility reasons
EDITORIAL | Claims have surfaced this week that dozens of Somali soldiers serving in the national army may have been slaughtered in the fighting in the Tigray conflict.
Former Somali deputy spy chief Abdisalam Yusuf Guled said on Monday that more than 370 Somali soldiers could have been killed while fighting alongside Eritrean soldiers against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. [TPLF].
Guled, without substantiating this claim, said the estimated 3,000 soldiers were transported by buses to Ethiopia from Eritrea, which was cracking down on the former ruling party in the northern Tigray region.
During a television interview, Guled said he obtained the information from Ethiopian intelligence sources. But his claims were easy to fight. Somalia’s Information Minister Osman Abukar Dubbe on Tuesday denied allegations of deaths and deployment of Somali soldiers.
Calling it “fake news,” Dubbe ventured into political rhetoric, accusing the opposition of seeking political capital by slandering the government’s treatment of its military.
Battling an allegation as serious as Guled’s may be the easiest part. What Dubbed didn’t know, however, is the unanswered question of responsibility. The Somali army was once a respected professional group since the country’s independence in 1960.
However, as the country plunged into chaos after the overthrow of the former central government led by Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, the professionalism and commitment of the military to upholding the country’s honors was abandoned and replaced. by warlords and their militias.
Without a single code of conduct or even a desire to commit to it, the Somali army has become a walking but dead animal. This type of evil was to be gradually resolved through training and equipping the country’s combatants.
But this cannot be achieved if the government is silent or ignores requests for explanations of the military’s work or location. Dubbe rejected claims that Somali soldiers were fighting in Tigray.
But since the claims emerged, a number of families in Mogadishu and Galmudug have come forward to say they have no idea where their parents are in the Somali National Army.
We understand that Somali soldiers receive constant training from different countries, including Eritrea, which trains young Somalis recruited by NISA secretly from various parts of the country and taken to Asmara without the knowledge of their parents.
Relations between Eritrea and Somalia thawed in 2018 after leaders of the two countries visited. The movement was initiated by Ahmed, who took office in April of the same year.
The leaders of the three countries Farmajo, Afwerki and Abiy Ahmed signed an opaque security cooperation agreement in Asmara, which also aims to strengthen economic, political, social and cultural aspects. The agreement appears to have entered into force without parliamentary approval.
Can the government account for all the soldiers? Can the authorities at least notify the next of kin in the event of the death or incapacity of one of the soldiers? The government can do better if it can also facilitate the channels of communication between soldiers and their families.
Our soldiers are first of all human beings, and then combatants. As most armies or civilized societies want it, transparency is crucial. Government risks digging a wedge and creating a misperception of the Somali National Army [SNA] if the information cannot be revealed and if it operates as if it were a secret society.
That’s not to say that the claims made on Monday may not just be pure propaganda. There are those who have argued that such allegations often influence the UN Security Council’s decision on the arms embargo, which was extended until the end of this year.
Until this embargo is lifted, the Somali National Army will not be able to acquire modern weapons.
Somalia is a country that has been in chaos and conflict for 30 years and seeking support for rebuilding its army from Eritrea under a dictatorship with a UN arms embargo is signaling that leadership of Villa Somalia is thinking about consolidating power.
A lack of truth, however, could be more damaging. The Somali national army is slowly rebuilding itself. This means that it needs a better public perception to be able to recruit, to benefit from societal intelligence and for communities to see it as their main protector.
What’s more, Somali President Farmajo and government officials in general risk being branded as leaders who have used the military as their personal mercenaries to achieve political ends, rather than being a formidable force capable of defending. their country.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dina Mufti denied reports of Somali soldiers involved in the Tigray War as “false and unfounded”.
Somalia currently has too many problems of its own. To be embroiled in a distant conflict in Tigray would be a strategic error that would unnecessarily divert its meager security forces from the abject problem in question: al-Shabaab fighters.
It is what the government is doing to explain, not deny, that will help the country.