Street FIGHT:Conflict
Residents Help Police Secure Garowe
Puntland Forces and Residents Working Together to End Rising Insecurity
07/13/2012
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.