19.07.2022: Mogadishu, Somalia
The spokesman of the Somali Presidency, Abdikarim Ali Kaar refuted statements regarding rumours that Somali National Army soldiers training in Eritrea participated in the Tigray War in neighbouring Ethiopia as well as claims that some of the 5,000 Somali soldiers had died.
Spokesman Kaar was briefing the media when he ventured into answering a question about the rumours surrounding Somali soldiers in Eritrea.
“Has the government ever said that (Somali troops in Eritrea fighting in Ethiopia)? No. The bad people who spread news have spread canard”, said Abdikarim Kaar.
It was the 9th of July when the Office of the Presidency announced that a delegation led by Hassan Sheikh would travel to Asmara on an official 4-day visit in which he would not only meet his Eritrean counterpart, Isaias Afwerki but also visit troops that were training in that country for the past three years.
Images and videos circulated all over social media and Somali news outlets that showed thousands of Somali soldiers greeting the President and engaging in military parades. We saw both naval and ground forces.
For over a year, many Somali politicians that were opposed to the former government led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo including current incumbent President argued that Somali units stationed in Eritrea took part in the conflict in neighbouring Tigray region of Ethiopia and accused his government of concealing a secret war.
From major Presidential candidates to political analysts and journalists to so-called independent think-tanks, all agreed that there must have been Somali soldiers that fought in the Tigray War citing unverified sources with no evidence.
In hindsight, what we can see is a sophisticated and coordinated disinformation campaign by a hand full of interconnected individuals from various professions that had a vested interest in Somalia.
Previous statements by President Hassan Sheikh
As many of you are probably aware, as a Presidential candidate the incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud echoed other Presidential Candidates and political analysts claims that Somali troops training in Eritrea were deployed to Ethiopia, alleging dozens had died.
Conversely, the President’s spokesman Abdikarim Ali Kaar outright denied that Somali troops ever partook in the Tigray conflict or had died, instead calling such claims nonsense.
In other words, the President has made a U-turn on previous statements he has made, meaning they were fabricated and untrue.
This poses serious questions:
- Where did President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and other Presidential candidates obtain the information that Somali soldiers fought and died in Tigray?
- How did the incumbent President validate these claims before going public and condemning the Somali Govt and Armed Forces?
- If this was just a political campaign, I wholeheartedly condemn such campaign as it erodes trust in the government and its institutions. It dismantles the fragile government Somalia has and placed the government in unnecessary international spotlight and condemnation.
We must have an answer to this unexplained dilemma.
Attack on the Somali Armed Forces
One thing is for certain, all Somalis that have been observing the political arena can agree and identify which so-called think-tanks, political analysts and journalists that peddled and pushed this fake news narrative to not only undermine the Somali Armed Forces but to also create and wedge division between the Somali people and erode trust in their government.
In actuality, militaries across the world deploy soldiers for training or combat missions in secrecy. Take the US for example, US soldiers cannot inform even their family members about locations and missions yet many analysts and journalists convey the picture in Somalia that the government must be evil if it is not conveying with the public sensitive state information that could be detrimental to national security.
Like all countries in the world, Somalia has enemies both within its borders and outside.
We must protect our army, government and society against the evils and toxicity of disinformation.