Somali families protest against secret recruitment of their family members as fighters in Eritrea

Somalia

The recent reports of various Somali men being sent to Eritrea to serve military forces against their will, recruited in name of Qatari jobs, has sparked outrage among Somali citizens. Several families lost their sons without getting any word of explanation how their sons landed in Eritrea. Some of Somali government officials have been denying the claims, while others preferred to stay silent over the matter. The country witnessed huge protests last week in the capital Mogadishu and in the towns of Guriel and Galkayo over the missing recruits.

Ali Jamac Dhoodi told Reuters that he had no idea that his son was one of the fighters recruited by Somalian government. He said, all he knew was that he was working as a security guard in Qatar, the country preparing for hosting soccer World Cup in 2022. He added that Somali officials from National Intelligence Agency arriving at his door with $10,000 in cash in April last year, left him in shock.

“They showed me a picture from their WhatsApp and asked me, ‘do you know this picture and his full name?’ I said, ‘yes he is my son,’” Dhoodi, 48, told the news agency. “They said to me ‘your son died’. I cried.”The officials gave him the money and did not answer any of his questions. Apparently Dhoodi’s son was among the youngest Somali fighters recruiter, trained and sent to Eritrea for fighting Ethiopian forces.

Another victim’s family, narrated similar fate which their son faced. Hussein Warsame said he thought his son Sadam, 21, got recruited for a security job in Qatar in October, 2019. The family did not hear from him for a little over a year. They received a call from Eritrea last November. Warsame told Reuters that the call was from his son who said, “We were all shocked to land in Eritrea. We thought we were being flown to Qatar. Dad, there is no life here, I have not seen food save a lump or slice of bread since I left Somalia in 2019, and when recruits demonstrate or reject orders, a bullet is the reply.”

Read more | Somalia: Why there is a lot of suspicion on the weapons that the government says it has seized?

Over the information, doing rounds that Eritrea recruited Somalis, trained them and sent them to Ethiopia, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Meskel told Reuters: “This is ludicrous … There is massive disinformation floating around.” When similar questions were raised towards Somali officials, the news agency did not receive any comment. The only statement it got was Somali government spokesman Mohamed Ibrahim saying that no Somalis had been sent to Ethiopia.

Eritrea, Somali and Ethiopia have a history of conflict but the three rival nations finally resorted to peace in 2018. Somali families, whose sons have disappeared since last year said that they feel that they were sent to fight for Eritrean forces against Ethiopia, in a war which broke out between the two in November 2020.

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