By:Zakariye Ahmed, Horn diplomat correspondent
The leaders of the Horn of Africa countries of Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, and Kenya who gathered in Mogadishu on Wednesday for a day-long security summit agreed on a joint final push for joint operations to defeat and eliminate the Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group of Al-Shabab.
“The leaders agree to make the final push for joint operations in the areas that remain under Al-Shabab to completely liberate the whole of Somalia from Al-Shabab,” leaders said in a joint communiqué.
President Ismail Omer Guelleh of Djibouti, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and President William Ruto of Kenya under the chairmanship of Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud attended the meeting which Somalia named “frontline country’s heads of state summit”.
Earlier on Tuesday, the defense minister and commanders of the four countries met in Mogadishu.
In addition to their commitment to defeating Al-Shabab, the leaders also expressed their support for lifting the 30-year-old arms embargo on Somalia.
The embargo was extended by the UN Security Council until November of next year due to the ongoing threat posed by Al-Shabab militants.
“Commends the advancement made on developing capabilities in managing weapons and ammunition regime and endorses Somalia’s quest to completely lift the arms embargo by the end of 2023,” leaders said in a joint communiqué.
Somalia’s all-out war against Al-Shabab
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared all-out war against Al-Shabab militants in August last year, after he was elected again as Somalia’s top leader in May 2022.
Since then, government-led forces, with the support of foreign partners, have captured many areas in central Somalia and killed more Al-Shabab fighters, including senior officials.
Key Al-Shabab strongholds, including the port city of Harardheere and the nearby town of Galcad, were captured by government forces last month after the group fled.
Somalia’s national security advisor, Hussein Sheikh Ali, stated in an interview with VOA Somali Service that the government’s primary goal is to eliminate Al-Shabab before June or July 2024.
To that end, Somalia has sent 3,000 soldiers to Eritrea and Uganda for training in the past few weeks, with an additional 6,000 recruits to be sent to Ethiopia and Egypt.
“We want to complete making 15,000 soldiers ready within 2023,” Ali told VOA.