Community-Oriented Policing in Somalia

Somalia is a very young nation, with its federal government having been formed in 2012. The country struggles with instability, ineffective government, extreme weather events, and domestic terrorism.  Terrorism is a threat for the general public and tourists alike, and even Somalia’s neighboring countries suffer from constant risk.  Unlike other nations in the ICT4COP project, Somalia is fairly homogenous in terms of religion and ethnicity; conflict instead often arises between the nation’s five main clans over the distribution of its natural resources.  It is important to highlight Somalia’s strong oral tradition: communication beyond face-to-face oral communication is rare.  This should be acknowledged and taken into account for any COP strategy developed for this country.

There has been at least one community policing initiative introduced in several areas of Somalia, including in the capital Mogadishu.  This initiative was implemented through a partnership between the American Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali Police Force.  Its aim has been to enable community members to communicate more easily and directly with the policy through meetings.  The program encourages connections between community leaders and police, aiming to build mutually reinforced trust – an essential component for COP strategies. Somalia’s illiteracy rates are very high, and thus required a non-technology based method to insure the COP would be inclusive.  These community meetings accommodate Somalia’s oral tradition, and are therefore the chief method used for the Somali COP project.

Perceptions of Security and Insecurity
Undoubtedly, terrorism constitutes Somalia’s main security concern.  Al-Shabaab, the region’s most prominent terrorist group, is heavily integrated into the country’s youth population.  Additionally, 73% of the population falls under the poverty line and up to 54% of the population is unemployed; these high levels of poverty and a lack of job opportunities drive young people to join such groups.  Gender inequality is another major issue in Somalia, which has the fourth largest gender gap in the world.  As a result, women and girls are particularly vulnerable. Other main security concerns include: violent crime, physical assault, robbery, kidnapping, rape, and domestic violence.  Concerns specific to rural areas include livestock theft, land disputes, and conflict over natural resources such as water.  Frequent police corruption also presents a security issue, as Somalis feel unable to rely on authorities for protection and crime reporting.

Security Providers
Given Somalia’s political instability and heavy dependence upon foreign aid, the country’s security is provided by a mix of state and non-state actors.  These include government authorities such as the Somalia Police Force (SPF), non-governmental organizations such as AMISON, religious organizations, private militias, and terrorist groups.  Although the presence of non-governmental organizations has been important for the overall improvement of security in Somalia, its citizens rely heavily upon clan-based groups for security in everyday life, especially in rural areas.  It is worth noting that, unlike other countries (where the difference between formal and informal security providers is stark), the overall security scheme in Somalia is intertwined, with different security actors frequently interacting and having overlapping duties.

Current Status of Community-Oriented Policing
Community-oriented policing in Somalia is still challenged by instability, terrorism, and high illiteracy levels.  Despite these challenges, there have been some positive results, such as the improvement of communication between people and police resulting from the installation of community meetings.  It should be noted that focus has been placed on the stabilization of certain areas and resistance of terrorist groups, as opposed to the formation of a permanent COP model focusing upon neighborhood security.  Terrorism remains a top priority for both national and international actors, yet as the country gains stability and terrorism diminishes, more neighborhood-focused COP models could be seen in Somalia.

 

Source: ICT4COP Research, NMBU
Photo: On foot patrol in Mogadishu with an AMISOM Formed Police Unit 03 Photo credit: AU-UN IST PHOTO / STUART PRICE (CC CC0 1.0) 

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