A year ago, we looked at the situation in Gaalkayo, in northern Somalia, in the wake of a UN-supported initiative to sustain peace in the divided city. Today we return to Gaalkayo to see how the innovative project has taken root.
An outbreak of fighting in Gaalkayo, in the north-central part of Somalia, in October 2016, between rival Puntland and Galmudug security forces left scores of civilians dead and caused mass displacement. Responding to the violence, the international community supported the establishment of a Joint Police Patrol consisting of Puntland and Galmudug police units, among other measures to stop the bloodshed.
Since then, the Joint Police Patrol has played an instrumental role in helping mitigate tensions between communities, restore security, and build the foundations for peace in Gaalkayo.
“What is happening in Gaalkayo gives real meaning to the Comprehensive Approach to Security. It is making a tangible positive impact on people’s lives,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating.
Police Patrol Established
Puntland and Galmudug state administrations established the Gaalkayo Joint Police Patrol in August 2017, under the auspices of the Gaalkayo Ceasefire Agreement signed on 1 January 2017 by the Puntland and Galmudug State Presidents, and with strategic and technical support from the UN. The unit’s brief was to jointly patrol north and south Gaalkayo under a common command in order to restore stability, the rule of law, trust and confidence in the community.
Training by the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) Police for the initial group of 100 police officers from both states commenced in July 2017, which was as an early signal of goodwill and reconciliation from each side. Another sign of good faith was the common agreement to convene the training of the police in the most suitable area regardless of whether the site was in north or south Gaalkayo. Puntland and Galmudug state administrations share the responsibility for the forces, with each holding command for 24 hours at a time. It was soon discovered that a larger patrol force would be required. Both sides quickly agreed to train an additional 100 officers in December 2017. In total, the Joint Police Patrol now comprises 200 officers.
At first, the Joint Police Patrol faced some challenges, including limited equipment, inadequate transport and insufficient food rations. As a result, the unit adopted a more static posture instead of a community-based way of policing.
The UN Joint Rule of Law Programme – part of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) – funded activities to raise awareness and encourage more proactive patrolling and the interim provision of stipends to the police. The establishment of a parallel joint Somali National Army force in which Puntland and Galmudug Special Forces units worked closely together to conduct joint operations beyond Gaalkayo strengthened the unit’s patrolling.
“Over the past year, it has been encouraging to witness the positive change in the civilian population’s mindset as the Joint Police Patrol delivered on its mandate to protect and serve the people of Gaalkayo,” said UNSOM Police Commissioner Lucien Vermeir.
“The manner in which the Puntland and Galmudug State Police have cooperated has also been particularly encouraging. This successful, innovative approach to peacebuilding through community policing can hopefully serve as a useful model for the rest of Somalia in preventing future conflicts and safeguarding the human rights of its people,” he added. “Looking ahead there is a need to identify a joint facility to accommodate the patrols as well as a joint Operations Centre.”
UNSOM’s Political Affairs Officer Ilham Gassar said that one year on, “it’s reassuring to see the joint efforts of the community in sustaining peace and promoting community cohesion in Gaalkayo.”
“The formation of the Peace Committee is a great example of the assiduous effort and cooperation of state authorities and community leaders,” Ms. Gassar said. “It is encouraging to see local ownership of the peace process, positive peace activities engaged by youth and women and recognize the mayors’ commitment to stability, local reconciliation and security of Gaalkayo.”
Challenges remain, she added. These include the need for coherent long-term support to build the capacity of local institutions to deliver good governance and strengthen the rule of law.
“UNSOM will continue to work with different levels of authorities and non-state actors to cement and promote peace in Gaalkayo,” the UN official said.
The Joint Police Programme was launched by the Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member States, the UN, United Kingdom, the European Union and Germany in June 2018 and is anticipated to fund future support to the policing initiative in Gaalkayo.
The success of the Joint Police Patrol would not have been possible without the support of AMISOM Police and the generous funding from the State of Qatar through the Trust Fund for Peace and Reconciliation in Somalia and from the Government of Germany through the UN Joint Rule of Programme.
Title picture: Police officers from Puntland and Galmudug State march at a parade mounted during the closing ceremony of a Joint Police Patrol Training conducted by AMISOM and UN officers in Gaalkacyo, Somalia on 19 December 2017. AMISOM Photo