Fresh Start

Christine Alalao Deputy Head of AMISOM.
Christine Alalao Deputy Head of AMISOM

In just two weeks Somalia will pick a president. Still being supported by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), cities like Mogadishu, Kismayao and Baidoa are being protected by a Somalia police force that has been trained by AMISOM police. The Lower House has just completed elections and now police are busy protecting polling stations and the citizens from Al-shabbab.  Capital’s Tesfaye Getnet talked with Ugandan, Christine Alalao, deputy head of AMISOM and the Police Commissioner in Mogadishu as Somalia’s police prepares to take over.

Capital: Tell us what the AMISOM police are doing to create a better Somalia?

Christine Alalao: AMISOM Police are training the Somalia Federal Police Force. We are also helping them with all the logistics of developing a police force and bringing law and order to the country. Even though AMISOM still does police work the goal is of the Somalia police force to eventually take over. The organization is led by a police commissioner who oversees 540 police officers. They all come from African countries like Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone and South Africa and are deployed in Mogadishu ,Kismayo, Baidoa and Beltweyene.

Capital: From your observation training Somalia police officers do you think they are ready to do the job on their own.

Christine Alalao: Go to Kismayao and Baidoa and ask the people if they feel secure with the Somalia police force. I do think they need more time but we have seen incidents where they have responded strongly to Al-shabaab’s attacks in Mogadishu. If we continue providing logistics, infrastructure, and training they can handle the work.

Capital: What is the recruitment process like?

Christine Alalao: Proportional clan representation is our greatest  parameter. As you know the Somalis have many clans and we work seriously to ensure that each clan is represented proportionally. We ask the elders to verify that the person who we are recruiting is peaceful and can represent their clan. At least 20 percent of the force must be female. They must be between 18 and 35.

Capital: How did the upper house elections go? 

Christine Alalao: We did have some complaints from delegates mostly about women being denied their right to vote. In addition some candidates were told they had to stand down. When we received complaints we sent them to the appropriate election center to resolve the situation.

Capital: How have women contributed to the fight against terrorism in Somalia?

Christine Alalao: Women are often the victims of terrorism and have a great deal of motivation to stop it. They need a safe environment to raise their children, live with their husband or relatives. We often receive tips from  Somali women that help us to catch terrorists, they will report things like strange people in their compound with guns and ask the police to come catch them.

Capital: What is the most frequent crime in Somalia?

Christine Alalao: Murder is the most common. There are at least two people murdered in Mogadishu every day. People often go missing and it becomes difficult to find them or their body. One major problem is that many people have guns because they fear Al- shabaab or another enemy and they feel the need to protect themselves so they are reluctant to give up their weapons when we ask them to.

Capital: Some police officers were sent to provide security for the election does this affect the security situation?

Christine Alalao: We did shift some police to the election center but we have not left any neighborhoods unprotected by police. If something does happen we have procedures in place for the police covering the election to rapidly respond to a crisis.

Capital: What is being done to prepare for this presidential election?

Christine Alalao: We just had a peaceful Upper House election in Galmudug, Southwest state, Puntland, Hisrhaballe, Bannadir, and Jubaland. Delegates were able to elect representatives without fear or intimidation. People were able to return to their homes safely and now the Somalia police force is working just as hard for the lower house elections. AMISOM police trained officers and the Somali police force on election security and also produced posters, detailing  guidelines about the conduct of police officers such as human right issues. During the entire election process one goal is to ensure we do not take a step back from the gains we have made.

Capital: What is being done to ensure the post election period is peaceful?

Christine Alalao: In any country police prepare for post election unrest. We have prepared the Somali police because we never know what will happen after the result.