Cuba has sent an ambassador to Somalia for the first time in 46 years, renewing ties with the Horn of Africa country.
Mr Juan Manuel Rodriguez Vázquez will be the non-resident Cuban ambassador to Somalia after he presented credentials to Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Tuesday.
Diplomatic relations between Cuba and Somalia were broken in 1977 after Havana sided with Ethiopia’s former Derg regime leader Mengistu Haile Mariam. Ethiopia was then in conflict with Somalia during the Ogaden war.
Cuba and Somalia had established relations in 1972 when the two countries vouched for policies of the ‘eastern bloc’ during the Cold War era, especially with the former Soviet Union which encouraged both to pursue socialist ideals.
Five years later, however, the Ogaden war between Somalia’s former government led by Mohamed Siad Barre and the Ethiopian strongman Haile Mariam saw Somalia shift from Soviet-leaning policies to the US side.
The war ended in early 1978 in favour of Ethiopia supported by over 15,000 Cuban troops and military advisors from the former Soviet Union as well as East Germany.
Vázquez, who is the resident ambassador to Kenya, was on Monday received by Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abshir Omar Jama.
Afterwards, Jama told Somali media that the message conveyed by the ambassador from the Cuban government was that the two countries are resuming diplomatic relations based on cooperation and mutual respect.
When Cuba and Somalia had good relations in the 1970s, Somali civilian students and military cadets were trained in the Caribbean Island while skilled Cubans sent to Somalia provided training for paramilitary units known as ‘Gulfweed’ (revolutionary guards) and offered health services.
President Mohamud also received credentials from the new ambassador of Canada Chistopher Thornley and Djibouti’s Mohamed-Rachid Ibrahim Youssef.
“The flow of diplomats to Mogadishu and their keenness to work with the federal government of Somalia is in line with our policies of creating the country’s peace with the world,” Mohamud remarked.