Topic: Puntland
UAE and Bancroft Meetings in Bosaso Lead to Confusion And Distrust About Future
PMPF Training Base in Bosaso
© Somalia Report, All Rights Reserved
PMPF Training Base in Bosaso

On the day before Eid, a delegation from the United Arab Emirates and security contractor Bancroft Global completed their third meeting on the future of the land-based anti-piracy force called the Puntland Marine Police Force. Although any visit by the UAE would normally be considered a VIP event in Puntland, attendees describe the meeting as tense. The son of President Mohamad Farole even went as far as to show his position by refusing to meet the delegation at the airport.

The Private War Against Pirates

The main topic of the meeting was cash. Under the approval of Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan the UAE initially funded the program using a zakat or islamic charity fund that hid the actual monetary donations into the fund. The goal of the maritime trading nation was altruistic and simple; to help Puntland develop a security force to defeat piracy and bring stability to its shores.

Despite the deep pockets of the Nahyan family, problems with the flow of money began about half way through the project and peaked five months ago. The "secret" project was once again in the media and was also featured in the latest UN SEMG report as a private army set up to fight pirates and accountable to no one. Although the PMPF did not deploy until spring of 2012, the unnamed authors of the SEMG report editorialized on the goals of the PMPF and Puntland as being negative.

The inference was that instead of the PMPF bringing security it would bring insecurity. The irony of the UN hiring foreign mercenaries to train the foreign African soldiers of AMISOM never really sunk in. The UN also implored Somali governments and international donors called to fight back against pirates. It was this unsubtle railing against the PMPF and Puntland for creating security while the south was a war zone run by a kleptocracy that initially deflected real concerns. The UN suddenly shifted from insisting that the PMPF was just smoke and mirrors to getting serious once they read about it going operational. It was almost amusing to see how the SEMG could at the same time insist that the PMPF was ineffective and at the same time complain about how effective it was. The reality is that the PMPF rolled into pirate centers like Hafun, Bargal and Eyl and dramatically shifted the piracy paradigm in Puntland. It was that success and the realization that the PMPF may overshadow the snail-like pace of AMISOM that made the PMPF the focal point of the SEMG efforts.

Instead of the UN supporting the efforts of the PMPF against pirates the SEMG increased their efforts to shut it down recommending sanctions against the contractor but not pirates because sanctioning pirates meant that ransoms could not be paid to free hostages.

By June 6 2012, the program was shut down and funds stopped without explanation right at the apex of what seemed to be an aggressive and successful campaign to attack pirates. Mobile forces were suddenly left scattered across hostile areas of Puntland without money to buy fuel or even food. There was some sense of discontent among the PMPF when a South African trainer was gunned down by one of the PMPF members to stop them from going into town.

When the UAE money dried up and to avoid wholesale revolt, the Puntland government stepped in to provide basic supplies and wages.

The first post-shutdown meeting was held on September 4, 2012 and then another visit occurred on October 9. That meeting involved a large contingent of foreign advisors from Bancroft Global, intel and military officials from the UAE and the Puntland government.

The Private War Behind The Private War

By then, the predicament of the PMPF had been elevated to almost theatrical proportions in both the media and behind the scenes. The New York Times published an article that placed former Blackwater founder Erik Prince at the center, even insisting that Prince had visited the camps a number of times to supervise training. The article turned out to be false and was heavily corrected. The lead image of the article was lifted directly from the SEMG report and and showed a recruit who was supposed to have been tortured and later who died. The recruit in the photo and two others were very much alive. when Somalia Report investigated the newspaper's claims. It also turned out that Erik Prince has never set foot in Somalia and a Photoshopped photo of Prince on a trip to Afghanistan used without the photographer's permission. The article was later heavily edited, revised and corrected.

In addition to the hysterical media focus, there were the UAE's unpaid bills for Sterling's contractor services, there are also background squabbles over ownership of ships and helicopters potentially related to payment problems. On October 2, Lebanese based businessmen Jamal Mohammad Balassi notified the Puntland government that they were in possession of stolen property. Specifically a Cessna Super King Air B200c medevac plane with New Guinea registration but now with Puntland tail numbers. Balasi insisted in his demand letter that "we start facing a disaster mass (sic) result of losing the control on the above mentioned aircraft as a result of a fraud and misleading". It's complicated. TranServ's Balassi is a Palestinian who lives in Lebanon on an a Ukrainian pasport operating out of Rwanda, leasing an American aircraft registered in Papua New Guinea through an Armenian company to a South African to use in Puntland. The plane has no current airworthy certficate and is being flow in violation of the UN arms embargo. Balassi has also made claims on three ocean going ships and a large Antonov cargo plain purchased by the UAE and donated to Puntland.

It was that very plane that Bancroft President Mike Stock flew up from Mogadishu to Bosaso for the October 9th meeting. That meeting ended with a clear request from Puntland for the UAE to continue funding the project with Bancroft replacing Sterling (who had replaced Saracen). The UAE has also made confusing promises to pay and threats not to pay while the mess is being sorted out.

Stock had stated in the New York Times article that he was not interested, yet a five days later Stock is on an allegedly stolen plane without an air safety certificate flown by mercenaries heading to Bosaso. It is not surprising that Bancroft is not overly enthusiastic about getting involved. But then again how often is that a someone can inherit a private air, land and sea army at a bargain basement price?

The Private War Against the PMPF

The PMPF began in January 2012 and immediately caught the attention of the group that monitors violations of the arms embargo in Somalia.

Despite being briefed to the UN, US and other entities in Nairobi, London and Washington DC the PMPF has always been targeted by the United Nations Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group as being clearly in violation of the spirit and the legal framework of the ban. Puntland was featured as an aggressor and the South African mentors as mercenaries. In the mind of the UAE this was a State commanded, donor funded, African trained force of Africans. Most other programs flew Somali's out of the country for training, flew them back in and watched them rapidly vanish or join al Shabaab.

Many of the allegations made in the 2011 and 2012 UN SEMG report turned out to be speculative or just plain fabricated. The underlying accusation that the PMPF, Puntland, the contractors and even the Somali recruits were in violation of the arms embargo was always correct but there has never been any proof put forward of the force being used against Somaliland or as a "private army'. In a place like Somalia pretty much every one is in violation of the arms embargo, It is who the UN SEMG chooses to go after that makes it a political mess.

Somalia Report reported at the time that the UN SEMG was willing to step up its efforts to shut down the program with the UAE being pointed out as a major violator. When the UN interviewed the sponsor of the program the UAE denied they were providing funding for the project. Despite the denial of involvement, there have been numerous visits by high level military and intel delegations from the UAE, massive shipments of material and humanitarian supplies from the UAE and all clearly marked “Gift of the UAE”. There was even a close call that involved a crash landing of a UAE delegation aboard a DC3 with hydraulics failure in Bosaso. A plane full of dead Emirati military would have the whole the suspicion moot. The reality is that none of this activity or support was secret and the constant need to invent secrecy and accusations may have led to the head of the SEMG being fired after the release of his 2012 report. It has yet to be fully determined what led one of the richest countries on earth to destroy the program by lack of funds and a continual refusal of the UAE to notify the UN.

When Somalia Report met with a member of the SEMG he expressed his bewilderment at why the UAE wouldn’t send a simple notification letter. There may be more to that. What Somalia Report did uncover were a series of letters showing attempts by President Farole and the then Prime Minister of Somalia to notify the UN security council but a constant refusal by the UN to delay, reroute, return or accept their notification.

In June with the pirates on shore and on the run, the PMPF program abruptly stopped. By July small pockets of police and mentors were left in Eyl, Banderbeyla, Bargal and Iskusuban. The main base in Bosaso became tense as recruits demanded to be paid.

All but a handful of expats were removed, the program then entered the worst case scenario, unpaid armed locals waiting in the blistering monsoon winds. The sudden loss of funds left a number of foreign mentors, hundreds of freshly trained armed Somali’s and millions of dollars in new equipment and weapons scattered across Puntland.

The government of Somalia kept a skeleton crew of around a dozen South African contractors and nominally made payments. Salaries to the recruits from the Puntland government stopped about two months ago. Since then reports from the camps show unrest, desertion, anger and frustration. Expats who were initially asked to stay for only a month back in July have also not been paid.

The UAE has been continuing as they did in the latest meeting to insist they will fund the program but their promises have not matched actual receipt of funds. The other political problem is the desire of the sponsor to integrate the PMPF, or its new iteration into a national police force. After the covertly trained and equipped members of the CIA-funded Puntland Intelligence Service, the PMPF are the best-trained and equipped security force in Puntland. It is doubtful that Puntland would receive any AMISOM-type benefit for providing men and equipment to a greater Somalia.

Puntland like Somaliland has been distrustful of the various foreign-installed Mogadishu based governments. Decades of bickering, theft, incompetence, self interest from a parade of officials have taught the Puntlanders to strike out on their own, while still waiting patiently for a functioning government.

Currently Puntland sees no reason to simply hand over its troops and equipment to be integrated into the Somalia National Army or to shore up a Mogadishu-based coastal police force.

Bancroft In or Out?

The only other player in the PMPF’s future seems to be Mike Stock and his US-registered charity Bancroft Global. Bancroft began as a demining concern and has grown to become the “go to” supplier of foreign advisors to Ugandan and now Kenyan troops. Their funds essentially come from the United States after being rerouted through Uganda and AMISOM. Bancroft was also given high marks by the UN for complying with arms embargo requirements and quietly stepped into some of Saracen's abandoned programs in Mogadishu. Among them a clinic paid for by the UAE and a training program for the Presidents personal security detail.

Bancroft met with the UAE to discuss programs and paid a visit to the Bosaso base to take inventory. When Mr Stock was reached for comment he was puzzled by the vast size of the base and the location of the purported helicopters, ships and other major assets. He was also not supportive of the model used to create and deploy the PMPF. The massive 1000 meter long PMPF compound just past the airport may join the rotting SOMCAN anti piracy ships in Bosaso harbor, as reminders of previous failed anti-piracy attempts in Bosaso.

Bancroft’s idea was to shut down the Bosaso base and then distribute the men and materiel to smaller coast guards that would stretch from Kismayo up to Puntland. But as Stock is careful to point out, only if it fits within the current legal structure of the AU and UN. Currently there is no agreed upon conforming structure for the PMPF and AMISOM is quite busy down south. As was shown with the AMISOM metamorphosis of the Kenyan invasion it doesn't take much to magically transform misguided military efforts into profitable peacekeeping ones.

Puntland In or Out?

The Farole administration is also not supportive of the looting of what is essentially their land based anti-piracy and maritime security arm but they know they do not have the funds to train, deploy maintain ships, vehicle fleets, aircraft and manpower. Currently Bancroft is Puntland’s only option if the UAE steps up and funds a training and mentoring program. It may just be a game of seeing who blinks first. If Puntland, and by Puntland, we mean President Farole, agrees to see his Puntland police force be deployed elsewhere, it may bring in other units from the south into Puntland. Somali politicians have good reason to be suspicious of not only each other but the intentions of the U.S, EU and other nations. Kenya is busy sawing off a large chunk of Southern Somalia to create Jubaland, Ethiopia has safety corridors into Baido, Somaliland still sits on large chunks of what should be Puntland and the Puntland Intelligence Agency has its own CIA trained and supplied army that operates independently of the government.

It is not known how AMISOM will integrate into any program or if the UAE intends to notify the security council or even if Puntland will give up control of their UAE donated equipment. A notification is a simple letter informing members of the security council that a member nation intends to support a program that technically violates the two decade old arms embargo. The archaic blanket embargo on weapons, training and support was created to shut down the flow of weapons to militias in the 90s but today criminalizes the United States, their CIA and even the UN as violators of the Arms Embargo. The UAE has consistently maintained very robust but very private program to shore up its security.

Recently as a bulwark against the arrival of Arab Spring the UAE created an 800 man army of mostly Colombian contractors at a cost of half a billion dollars. The effort in Puntland was similar in size but with local soldiers, with an additional 1000 man planed to support and guard former President Sheikh Sharif. The UAE also supported Sharif's bid for re-election but lost. The UAE's support for Puntland has been on both the humanitarian and security side but the violation of the arms embargo led to conflict between the UAE sponsors from internal security and the defense ministries which did not support the Puntland project.

Pirates In or Out?

The PMPF as a Puntland based anti-piracy force may also have lost its momentum due to the post monsoonal downturn in piracy. Although every one and their salty dog are taking credit for ending piracy the only functional and tactical assault on actual pirate gangs from inside Somalia were by the PMPF. Their units also set up posts in key coastal areas to support local villages. Most piracy actually emanates from Galmadug but is supported and financed out of major towns like Qardo, Bosaso, Haradhere and Galkayo. It remains to be seen how confident the pirates will be this season.

When the unit was operational it quickly flowed into former pirate bases and cut off lines of supply and communication. Pirate Isse Yulux was hunted down and forced to flew to remote Candala on the northern coast of Puntland. After the PMPF was shut down, Yulux offered to pay some salaries of the PMPF in a deadpan show of bravado.

With piracy on the wane (there are still over 200 men and women held hostage in Somalia) and jihadist elements moving north the urgency may vanish leaving the worst case scenario of yet another self fulfilling prophecy of the long fired head of the UN SEMG predicting that the PMPF will truly be a source of instability in Somalia. News reports claim that the PMPF was used to pressure the former Prime Minister of the TFG from campaigning in Bari region.

The need for security off the shores of Puntland have not changed, recently Puntland forces interdicted, arrested and sentenced a man smuggling weapons and explosives from Yemen to death

The UAE has left five advisors and one Bancroft employee behind to do another assessment. The UAE once again promised that funds will be released. This time they insist the long awaited money will arrive during the first week of November.

By JD 08/01/2012
Puntland Students Celebrating Anniversary
©Somalia Report
Puntland Students Celebrating Anniversary

Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland today celebrated its 14th anniversary as a state, which was established in Garowe, the administrative capital, on August 1, 1998.

Although almost every city in Puntland celebrated, Garowe was the hub of anniversary celebrations which were presided over by Puntland President Abduhaman Farole. Hundreds of people from different parts of the state as well as officials, students, and Puntland forces marched through the streets, carrying the Puntland flag.

The city was on high alert due to threats from the al-Shabaab militant group and security forces could be seen throughout Garowe, closing streets and preventing cars from passing, particularly in Barxada Square where most of the festivities took place.

There were hundreds troops from different units of the Puntland military including Darawiish forces and commandos who marched in front of the president.

Each group, including women's groups and various non-governmental organizations, also marched in the parade, some wearing the flags of both Puntland and Somalia. Many children's groups sang as they marched through Garowe with crowds cheering as they passed.

Excerpts From Puntland President's Speech

Puntland’s President Farole addressed the crowds, expressing his joy at the historical day and hope for the future.

I am asking to Allah to grant us the next year with peace, development and unity. I hope Somalia gets success as a country and gets back its name and dignity.

Puntland Troops on Parade for Anniversary
©Somalia Report
Puntland Troops on Parade for Anniversary

Today is a big day. 1 August was Puntland’s day but starting today it will be known as the National Day for Somalia when the representatives passed the new constitution.

I am saying to you, 'congratulations, congratulation, congratulations' and hoping that Allah will grant us year after year with peace, prosperity and development.

I am thanking the population of Puntland and those who managed to take part in this historical festival.

I am thanking especially Puntland’s armed forces who are ready to die for defending our population and the state. They are working hard to secure their country and their people and doing their duty as best they can.

I hope, insha'allah, that Allah will grant us next with victory, congratulations, peace, development and unity.

Puntland Background

After Somalia collapsed, traditional leaders from the Harti-clan “Darood" met in Garowe and after a series of conferences finally announced their own semi-autonomous state of Puntland on August 1, 1998.

Former President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed

The state, which is dominated by Majeerteen clan, combines many sub-clans of Harti such as Warsangeli, Dhishiishe and Dhulbahante. The region became powerful after establishing security, development and a stable business environment in stark contrast to Somalia.

Although the current administration includes multiple parties, but the election system was clan based. Only 66 lawmakers selected by elders of clans could select the presidnet. The most famous and well-liked president was Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed who died at 77 year on March 23 this year in Dubai. Mr. Yusuf (photo at left) was named the 'Father of Puntland' and the man who was behind its creation.

Although it operates as a semi-autonomous region, President Farole and local officials have vowed they will always be part of Somalia, unlike the breakaway region of Somaliland that seeks independence.

The 14 year old state has been regarded as one of the most peaceful areas of Somalia, but has faced a number of challenges in the last two years including piracy and the Galgala militia.

Puntland Arrests Yemeni in Boat Carrying Weapons

Since February of this year when Sheikh Mohamed Atom's Galgala militia in northern Somalia officially joined Somalia's al-Shabaab insurgency in the southern and central regions of the country, little information has been available about their leadership structure and operations, based in the remote mountains of Sanaag and Bari regions of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. That was until Somalia Report received exclusive information that new leaders for the region have officially been named.

Sources told Somalia Report that al-Shabaab's leader Ahmed Abdi Godane (Mukhtar Abu- Zubair) officially appointed Yasin Osman Khalid (Kilwe) as al-Shabaab’s new leader in the Golis mountains and Salmaan (only one name given), of the Ogaadeen clan (sub clan of Darood) was named as Yasin’s deputy. Abdiqadir Mumin remains in his position as religious leader. The men were notified by phone.

Yasin Osman Kilwe hails from the Dubays clan (subclan of Warsangali). Abdiqadir Mumin, 60 years old, hails from Ali Saleban (sub clan of Majeerten); both are subclans of Darood.

Godane appointed Kilwa to be the group’s real representative to Puntland territories because he believes the younger man will abide by Godane's orders and is more easily manipulated than the hardline former Galgala militia leader Atom. In addition, Kilwe is said to be more extreme in his Islamist ideology than Atom making him an ideal choice to lead al-Shabaab in Puntland.

"It is true that Godane appointed Yasin Osman Kilwe as the leader of al-Shabaab fighters in northeast Somalia as well as Salmaan as his deputy. Salmaan is from Somalia's Lower Jubba Region. Abdiqadir Mumin remains in his position as al-Shabaab's religious consultant," Abdiqadir Sharmake, a resident in Galgala, told Somalia Report.

Kilwe was born in Dahar District of Haylaan region in 1981 and hails from Warsangali tribe. He studied at East Africa University in Bosaso. In November 2003 he travelled to Hargiasa, in the breakaway region of Somaliland, but was arrested and jailed after Somaliland police accused him of stealing money from Ethiopia. The charges claimed he stole money from Tog Wajale, a border town between Somaliland and Ethiopia, but he was found not guilty. Somaliland police accused him of being engaged in terrorist activities in 2006.

According to sources who requested anonymity, Kilwe has a previous and close relationship with Godane, and particularly bonded after Somaliland accused both men of stealing money.

Ahmed Salah, a relative of Yasin Kilwe, told Somalia Report that, "Yasin was taken to a US Navy base in Djibouti for questioning, but they returned him to Somaliland after they didn’t find him guilty of anything."

Af-Uur Village in Puntland
©Somalia Report
Af-Uur Village in Puntland

Fighting between the Galgala militia and Puntland forces has escalated over the last year with both sides gaining and losing ground. Although many fighters have surrendered to Puntland, the group still enjoys a power base in the hard-to-reach mountains. And, according to the local sources, al-Shabaab's fighters in Galgala are rapidly gaining power and popularity in the area.

"Al-Shabaab in Galgala area are using opposition in Puntland to their advantage. They are gaining power militarily and financially and more youngsters are joining them including former pirates who fled their bases after the Puntland Marine Police Force (PMPF) chased them from several coastal towns. If Puntland forces don’t take immediate and important steps against them now, they will extend their power throughout Puntland," Ahmed Mohamud, a resident in Dahar district, told Somalia Report.

While some towns have been pressured into supporting the militia, other towns are putting up a fight. Locals in Af-Uur, 20km from Galgala, told Somalia Report they are armed and ready to fight if al-Shabaab should the group try and seize their town.

Puntland Arrests Foreigner with Boat, Weapons

Meanwhile, Puntland security troops in Caluula (Alula), a town in eastern Bari region, today seized a small boat loaded with weapons and bomb making equipment and arrested Salah Afiif, a Yemeni national on board. A second man on the boat, a Somali, escaped.

As the vessel sailed near the jetty in Calula local fishermen notified the local police that the boat was suspicious. The police, working with locals, were able to stop the vessel where they found weapons which they turned over to the Bosaso police for processing and investigation.

Salah Afiif was handed over to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in Bosaso and police said they are continuing to hunt for the Somali suspect.

“The boat, weapons and the man were held on the jetty of Alula by the police. The equipment seized consists of a small speed boat with two machines guns, five new small and sophisticated pistols which have never been seen in Somalia, 50kg of TNT powder, and two packs of wires and fuses of detonations which are also 50kg each. Puntland troops are conducting operations against insecurity, terror and pirates and this is one of those operations,” Bosaso Port Police Commissioner Mohamed Ali Hashi told Somalia Report.

"The pistols are small and heavy and a weapons expert said they are Satte, Jinguwe and, Backro - types of pistols. They can take more bullets than the normal pistols. They also have the muzzle device (silencer). These are unique and most certainly these are the weapons of a terrorist. I want to tell the people of Puntland and the world that the bombs that kill thousands of Somalis are from Yemen," he added.

"We are convinced the weapons belong to the al-Qaeda group of Puntland and were intended to kill innocent and key people of the community,” said the police commissioner.

Hijackers of NAHAM3 and hijackers of MV Samho Dream fight over ransom debt
By JD 07/13/2012
Somalia Report
At least four people died after two groups of pirates from different clans clashed in Hobyo this afternoon. The casualties are pirates from both sides, pirate sources and local residents confirmed to Somalia Report this evening.

The leaders of the two pirate groups in question are Xayle Hurde and Aadan Low. Sources on the ground added that the pirates fought because of issues arising from the ransoming of the South Korean vessel MV Samho Dream, which pirates released in November last year after a $9.5 million ransom was paid. In 2010, the MV Samho Dream was used as a mother ship by pirates to mount the successful hijacking of the MV Polar.

“First we heard the pirates' noise. They were talking with high sound, someone saying give me my money right now, after more noise again, we heard the gun-shots (for several) minutes. We heard that at least four died from both sides, but I don’t who were the pirates, “ Ali Mukhtaar, a Hobyo resident, told Somalia Report.

“The city is now cool. There are no more people in the street; (the) residents fearing that gangs can fight again, although elders are trying to stop the fighting before it changes to clan fighting but still we are under fear tonight, ” he added.

Injured pirates
File Photo
Injured pirates
To get more details, Somalia Report contacted pirates in the region and asked the groups who was involved in the fight and why. Sources from the pirate gangs confirmed the incident and the claim that at least four died from both sides.

“Yes, it’s true. At least four pirates died from both sides after Xayle Hurde’s group and Aadan Low’s group fight in the city this afternoon,” a pirate in Hobyo who asked not to be named told Somalia Report.

“It’s related to the ransom of MV Samho Dream, the south Korean one. Xayle Hurde was (one of) the hijackers of that vessel and and Aadan Low gives to Xayle that time a small car and fuel to use as investment and Xayle promised that he will pay back to Aadan Low. But after Xayle Hurde and his group took the ransom he didn’t pay anything (back). Aadan Low was waiting his for money (for) months. Mr Aadan Low looking for Mr Xayle and this afternoon they met in the city and Aadan Low began the gunfire,” the pirate added.

The pirates told Somalia Report that the amount of ransom which Mr Aadan Low loaned to Xayle is $22,000.

Xayle Hurde is a well known pirate from the Sacad-clan, a sub-clan of Hawiye, while Aadan Low is also another pirate from Saleeban-clan, sub-clan of Hawiye. Both men have powerful clan ties in the region which could change a simple disagreement between pirates into something much larger scale.

Fighting between pirate gangs is, of course, nothing new. In fact, the ransomed Samho Dream was the cause of another gunfight in Hobyo on June 17th this year, when pirates belonging to the Fatxi group fought each other. In that incident, one pirate was killed and two other people, one of them a civilian, wounded.

Aadan Low is currently involved with the Taiwanese vessel NAHAM3 which pirate gang leader Ali Duulaaye’s group is holding. Low is one of the investors of this vessel and has 5% stake in the vessel.

Somalia Report will follow this story and update with any new developments.

Puntland Forces and Residents Working Together to End Rising Insecurity
After receiving numerous reports on the intensifying insecurity crisis in Garowe, the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, Somalia Report spoke to locals about how this was affecting their livelihood and what they were doing to help.

Puntland Civil Security Forces
©Somalia Report
Puntland Civil Security Forces

The Effects of Insecurity on Locals

Puntland is one of the few regions of Somalia fighting insecurity on five fronts: al-Shabaab insurgents, pirates, the Galgala militia, criminals and smugglers, making cooperation with the local communities key to their ability to secure the region. The town of Garowe, in Puntland's Nugaal province, is no exception.

As growing security concerns mount across Somalia, Garowe has become a hotbed of insecurity, forcing Puntland officials to step up operations to counter the growing chaos. Some of the perpetrators, residents told Somalia Report, were criminals wearing stolen police uniforms, creating confusion among locals.

In addition, the increasing violence, looting and murders also caused the town into lock-down mode, particularly at night, and affecting the town in the following ways:

1. Movement - The movement of the people during the night was restricted forcing people indoors, interrupting business and social interaction.

2. Commerce - Businesses of Garowe town were forced to close immediately after sunset to avoid being looted by the bandits, limiting business development and commerce.

3. Religion - Spiritual development of residents was been disturbed since the people could not go to the mosque during the night due to fear of being attacked by bandits.

Puntland and Residents Work Together

To help calm the situation, the local community began a grass roots program to augment the security forces and vowed to support the local government. The locals felt they had no choice but to help police their city after their lives were dramatically affected by the insecurity.

After local businesses and residents complained to the Puntland government about the rising insecurity, the two groups began regular meetings and forums to plan the way forward. Businesses claimed their operations were on the verge of collapse due to the rising insecurity and urged the government to intervene.

While the motivation for cooperation varied - the government needed a boost to its image of fighting crime while the residents wanted to be able to live in a secure environment - the end game remained the same: security in Garowe.

The government blamed the al-Shabaab militias for the growing attacks while the residents believed it was the act of criminals. Regardless, the government promised that the security would be beefed up and security intelligence services would continue conducting thorough investigations. The government also initiated an order that only the legal police have the mandate to carry arms inside the towns.

The government further promised that they would beef up operations if they had the support from the businessmen and residents. Specifically, the security forces requested locals to inform them about any group or individual who is a threat to the stability of the region. The businessmen collectively agreed to take on the responsibility and ensure that the government achieves its goals to secure Garowe.

Local Comments

“We have been living under fear for almost one month and we could not go outside our homes after the sun sets due to insecurity. We expect the government to beef up the security and protect us from the people who are creating insecurity and causing mistrust between us and the government," said Muqtar Jabir, a Garowe resident who spoke to Somalia Report.

"As residents we promise to work with the police and the security intelligence services and inform them of any group or individual whom we suspect is hindering the peace and stability of Garowe town," Jabir added.

Garowe elders urged the government to take action.

“As elders we are disappointed about the increasing insecurity in the entire region and we call upon the government to take immediate action and restore peace and stability. We urge the government to impose a night curfew in Garowe town which is the most affected town in Puntland and hunt down those who are hiding themselves and causing the havoc," said Hajji Mohamud Ali Garowee, an elder who spoke to Somalia Report.

“We had many discussions with the government officials and we agreed to work together and eradicate the endless insecurity,” he added.

The police blamed al-Shabaab for the rising insecurity.

“We are aware of what is going on in Garowe town and we believe that al-Shabaab are the ones who are creating the insecurity because they always vow to make the entire Puntland region unstable, which we cannot accept. Our intelligence services and police forces are vigilant and will deal with any group trying to create insecurity here," said Ahmed Taqale, a Puntland police officer.

"Our people will enjoy peace soon. Now we are fully prepared to face and deal with any group who are trying to damage our reputation which we cannot tolerate," he added.

Taqale told Somalia Report that the al-Shabaab militia group moved into Puntland and allied with Galgala militia group in order to create destruction and displacement as they did in southern Somalia. He vowed any suspect will be deported to southern Somalia and Puntland will remain peaceful.