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6528Somalia: First police cadets offer glimmer of hope to the world's most lawless country

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  • Zafar Khan
    Apr 21, 2006
      First police cadets offer glimmer of hope to the
      world's most lawless country

      Rare glimpse inside east African state run by warlords
      shows rookies who must combat anarchy

      Xan Rice in Armo, Somalia
      Thursday April 20, 2006
      The Guardian


      An everyday scene in Somalia: a bloodied man lies
      dying under a thorn tree. Then the rarest of scenes in
      the world's most lawless land: the arrival of the
      boolis - the police. Screeching to a halt, a white
      Toyota car coughs out half a dozen uniformed officers.
      Three chase and tackle a suspect. The others cordon
      off the area and inspect the body. Holding a bloody
      axe found in a bush nearby, one declares "exhibit

      This was a training exercise, one of the last before
      the 134 men and 19 women of the Armo Police Academy,
      in northern Somalia, graduate tomorrow. They will
      become the first home-trained police in the country
      since it lapsed into anarchy 15 years ago.
      "You are the beginning of hope for the Somali police,"
      said Bashir Jama, 52, the country's deputy police
      commissioner, addressing the cadets last week.

      Hope, of course, is a word best used lightly in
      Somalia, a country not so much fractured as thoroughly

      Since 1991, when the dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was
      toppled, there has been no central government. At
      least 13 attempts at forming one have failed. Outside
      of Somaliland, which claims independence, there are no
      state schools, hospitals or social services. More than
      400,000 people live in shacks as internal refugees.
      What control there is comes from warlords exploiting
      clan divisions for personal gain; what law there is
      comes from the barrel of an AK-47.


      "We have one religion, one ethnicity, so we are one
      family really," said Abdinur Yusuf, 70, who was one of
      the most senior policemen in the Barre regime and is
      now helping out at Armo. "Our problem is that many
      people want to be head of that family."

      Whether the latest attempt at establishing a national
      government will succeed is still anyone's guess. Clan
      elders elected the 275-member transitional federal
      government (TFG) in October 2004. Led by Abdullahi
      Yusuf Ahmed, the president, it is filled with most of
      the warlords who have helped maintain the state of
      chaos for 15 years. Last month the TFG finally set up
      camp in a large warehouse in Baidoa.

      But the optimism that greeted the opening of
      parliament on home soil was tempered by the harsh
      realities. The government does not control a single
      large city; it has got no ministries and no revenue,
      and it relies on handouts. Most crucially, however, it
      has got no security.

      A country that once boasted of having the finest
      police force in sub-Saharan Africa now has just a few
      hundred proper officers, and no army. Apart from
      ministers' own private militia - the president had
      1,500 gunmen follow him towards Baidoa - the
      government has no way of securing its own safety let
      alone that of the population.

      Which is why the establishment of a training academy
      to help rebuild a police force from scratch was seen
      as so urgent. Set in the small highway town of Armo,
      an hour's drive south of the Red Sea port of Bossaso,
      the academy was built last year with support from the
      UN Development Programme. For the moment it consists
      of an administration block, a clinic, four large
      classrooms and a parade ground. Dormitories are still
      being built, so the men sleep in the classrooms; the
      women are in a hotel.

      Recruits were drawn from across the country. There are
      fresh-faced teens, such as 19-year-old Mohamed Abdule,
      as well as former militiamen such as Adbi Buule, 29.
      There are also grey-haired, grizzled veterans of the
      old force, such as Mohamed Farah, who says he is 45
      but may well be 10 years older.

      Bad morals

      Training at the academy, led by three Ugandan police
      seconded to UNDP, has ranged from recording crime in a
      logbook to the intricacies of the law of evidence.
      Given that the cadets were not trained with guns,
      because of an arms embargo since 1992, the
      "alternative to violence procedures" course may prove
      the most useful.

      The trainers worry about the brevity of the course,
      four months. But there is little doubting the cadets'
      keenness. "What happens if I chase a suspect and he
      gets hit by a car, will I be charged?" asked one man
      last week.

      Andrew Kaweesi, 32, an assistant superintendent in the
      Ugandan police, said: "The cadets who've never been in
      the militia are the easiest to teach. Some of the
      militia have bad morals ... like taking money from
      people at roadblocks."

      But the recruitment of militia into the police, and
      eventually the army, is seen as unavoidable,
      especially if the plan to invite foreign peacekeepers
      is shelved, as seems likely. With tens of thousands of
      young men working as private militia, the only way to
      encourage them to lay down their arms will be to offer
      them something else.

      In the next few weeks about 100 of the Armo graduates
      will be flown to the government's base. There they
      will be joined by 200 other police officers, who are
      being trained in Kenya; this will form the basis for
      what the government hopes will swell to a
      12,000-strong force.

      In Baidoa the officers will witness the challenges
      facing them across the country. At least 3,000
      freelance militiamen roam the town and tensions are
      running high. Last week two guards escorting a World
      Food Programme convoy were killed near the town in a
      militia ambush. Separately, seven men were killed
      after an argument over a mobile phone.

      No-go zone

      But Baidoa might as well be Geneva compared to
      Mogadishu. Arguably the world's most dangerous capital
      for a foreigner, Mogadishu is a no-go zone also for
      the government. Two heavily armed groups are vying for
      its control: a group of warlords-cum-government
      ministers, who re-branded themselves the Anti-Terror
      Coalition in a brazen attempt to get US support, are
      pitted against the Sharia courts, set up by the clan
      elders. But of late the courts have acquired a strong
      political dimension, and there are suspicions that
      they harbour Islamic extremists responsible for more
      than 12 assassinations in the past year.

      What is certain is that both groups are awash with
      guns from Yemen and Ethiopia, and both strongly oppose
      the president's regime - thought likely to threaten
      their lucrative control of ports, airfields and

      "If we sent these policemen there now they would be
      killed," said Garad Nur Adbulle, the deputy head of
      the Armo academy. "No doubt."


      Since 1991, when the military strongman Mohamed Siad
      Barre was overthrown, much of Somalia has been gripped
      by anarchy and civil war. Taking advantage of clan
      differences, warlords carved the country into
      fiefdoms. Protected by private militias, they have
      managed to thwart more than a dozen efforts to restore
      order, including the disastrous US-led UN mission
      portrayed in the film Black Hawk Down. In 2004 peace
      talks in Kenya led to the formation of the 275-member
      transitional federal government (TFG). Equal
      representation was given to each of the country's four
      main clans, and ministers include many of Somalia's
      warlords, including the president, Abdullahi Yusuf.
      The TFG met in Somalia for the first time in March,
      but still remains fragile: it has no army, police,
      revenue or the means to tackle a dire humanitarian
      situation. Few Somalis believe it can bring peace to
      the country soon.

      Somali students celebrate culture
      The Somali Student Association hopes to build a
      community on campus.
      By Elizabeth Giorgi
      April 17, 2006


      1raveling abroad isn’t always necessary to gain
      cultural experience.

      The Somali Student Association is trying to help
      students realize there are many cultures to celebrate
      on campus.

      Northrop Plaza was filled with sunshine and people
      Friday to celebrate Somali Awareness Day.

      The Somali Student Association, which hosted the
      event, provided food, showed cultural art, traditional
      clothing and artifacts, and performed cultural dances.

      The Somali Student Association President Mohamud Ahmed
      said the day is important for University students
      because awareness is important for people to gain
      understanding about their culture.

      There are many misconceptions people believe and by
      having events people can learn something new, he said.

      One of the things people commonly don’t understand is
      why women cover their bodies, Ahmed said.

      “It is a command by Allah for Islamic beauty,” he

      Somali Student Association secretary and global
      studies senior Kadra Ibrahim said it is important for
      the association to show its presence on campus.

      There are many different cultures on this campus and
      it is crucial that the Somali Student Association is
      able to celebrate its culture in the midst of such a
      vast array of cultures, she said.

      “Students don’t have to go far,” she said. “You don’t
      necessarily have to go on a study-abroad trip to find
      another culture.”

      One of the largest Somali population in the nation
      resides in the Twin cities and 15 percent of the
      Minneapolis population is made up of Somalis, said
      sociology junior Shukri Warsame.

      One of the largest Somali communities in Minneapolis
      is on our own campus, she said.

      “The vision is to raise awareness and show that we
      have our place at the ‘U,’ ” she said.

      PSEO sophomore Shamin Ali said she stopped at the
      booths because she was interested in some of the
      displays and the good food.

      Bringing people together allows for discussion about
      important cultural issues, she said.

      “Food always brings people together, and it is great
      to bring people together for something like this,” she

      Somali Student Association vice president and family
      social sciences junior Hibaq Warsame said bringing
      people into the event is one of the hardest but most
      important parts.

      Once people show an interest they ask questions and
      that is an opportunity to break down misconceptions,
      she said.

      “We are trying to build a bridge and make community
      ties in hopes that it will make (students) aware,” she

      More about Islam and Muslims in Somalia at: