Achieving peace and stability through building bridges between communities and the police

Xamari Adan Daud (right), a senior community policing officer who participated in the SSF funded community policing training talks to one of the community members in Garowe, Puntland, Somalia.

“Under the international laws, a person cannot be held in custody for more than 48 hours, he/she should be brought before a judicial judge” Says Colonel Ahmed Hassan who facilitates training sessions for the police in Puntland. He states that this has not been the case in some places in Somalia, where suspects spend a lengthy period in custody without appearing before a court.

Responsible policing is among the key foundations to improving stability in Somalia. The lack of training for law enforcement personnel and civic education for the communities on the role of police has often created disconnect between the police and the local communities. The prolonged years of lawlessness in Somalia widens the gap even further.

While police reforms and civic education have been recommended across Somalia, implementation of broad-based programs on this front has not been comprehensively executed in the past. This is primarily because the involved actors have either confined their scope within the capital cities or targeted few out of the many stakeholders that are crucial to achieving a holistic result.

To fill this void, SSF partnered with The Office of Puntland Human Rights Defenders (OPHRD), an independent commission that deals with issues of human rights violations, to facilitate training for the police and communities (specifically, women) on their constitutional rights, expand community-police dialogue and improve monitoring of human rights violations in targeted districts in Puntland.

SSF targeted 12 rural and urban locations in   conducting a series of custom-tailored training sessions for police, the community and women. The trainings were facilitated by experienced senior police officers, human rights lawyers and gender specialists—all of whom were recruited locally. “The training covered a wide range of subjects such as the steps taken after a person reports a case to the police,” says Col. Ahmed Mohamed Hassan.  “We trained on the rights of the inmates, the procedure for arrest without warrant,” he continues.

Women-only trainings were also organized, as civic education on women rights could help reduce abuse and give women the courage to speak up against the various forms of exploitation they often endure in silence.

“We encourage them [the women participants] to report cases of rape and overcome the fear of victimization as silence will only worsen the situation,” says Farha Mumin Yussuf, the gender expert trainer who specializes on the rights of women. “We also sensitized them on the role they could play in peace and stability that mainly involves coordination with the police,” she continued.

“The training was important as it covered crucial topics in Somalia such as human rights and community policing. We would like to have more of such trainings,” says Fowzia Abdullahi, one of the female trainees.

SSF commissioned an independent evaluation of the OPHRD program to better understand its impact before expanding the activities into new areas. Although difficult to draw direct correlation over the short time frame of the OPHRD project, the evaluation suggests the trainings and community-government dialogues have contributed to improved relations between the police and the communities and improved the legitimacy of the police forces in the targeted districts. As such,  SSF plans to seize on these positive trends in improved relations and increased legitimacy by rolling out the third phase of the project in expanded targeted districts.

In conjunction, SSF also funded the construction of police stations in Bosaso and Burtinle —ensuring that the OPHRD capacity building was supported by the necessary infrastructure. Building on this success, the Fund plans to make similar investments elsewhere in strategic parts of Somalia.