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Circumstances, Today In Somaliland!
Last week, I was asked by a friend to accompany him to Koodbuur police station to file a complaint against a man who had threatened him with a gun. The man was with 3 other men and a woman. My friend was approached by these people one night around 10pm while he was with 2 of his associates. The woman could be heard saying ‘That’s him, that’s the guy‘, then one of the men approached my friend, wearing a large Kashmiri shale or cloak the man pointed to his right side and unveiled his cloak and touched a Kalashnikov dangling from his shoulder and said to my friend ‘If you want to go back alive to London stay well clear of Mr. ********** ‘s plot of land in Goljano area’ and then walked away to where the woman and 3 men were waiting and left my friend and his associates a little perturbed.
The following night at around 1:00 am in the morning, my friend was brushing his teeth outside in the courtyard of his house veranda when he noticed a vehicle heading towards his house, the vehicle had its headlights off but side lights on, and stopped 20 meters outside his house gate. My friend quickly, ran into the house and switched the veranda and courtyard lights off and watched the vehicle from a concealed dark veranda balcony and could hear the vehicle door open and could barely see a dark figure alight from the vehicle’s passenger backseat. This dark figure of a man went to the back of my friend’s house and came back to the waiting vehicle and then they drove off. My friend could see, lit by the vehicles sidelights that this dark figure was carrying a gun.
My friend quickly called his local police station (Koodbuur), and reported that his household and his life was at risk because a vehicle with 4 people inside, carrying a gun came outside his house and left soon as they realised that they were spotted by him. A police car came to my friend’s house 20 minutes after he had called them and inspected the ground with a torch for car tyre track marks and shoe imprints to verify my friend’s story. The police said that they will make note of this incident and the other incident the night before when my friend was threatened.
1 hour after the police had left my friend. The house of my friend’s old and frail father was riddled with bullets fired from a semi-automatic Kalashnikov. The perpetrators of this heinous act quickly fled the scene. The following morning, my friend received news that his father’s house came under attack last night while he and 4 others were asleep inside, and that no one was hurt. That morning, my friend went to Koodbuur police station and reported this incident. The police commander of the station reassured my friend that he will send over to his father’s house 2 police detectives and will investigate this incident, and once they finish their investigation will file a report and arrest the perpetrators of this serious crime.
3 days later, my friend while at my house for lunch told me about his father’s house coming under attack in the middle of the night and the 2 other mentioned incidents. I asked him whether he knew who was behind all this and what steps have the police taken in relation to these serious incidents. My friend said that he knew who was behind all this and gave their details to the police. My friend said that although the police have all the relevant information they need to arrest these people, they (the police), nevertheless so far have not taken any action. I asked my friend whether the police have been to see his father and inspected the bullet holes sprayed across his father’s house, my friend said no one has been sent from Koodbuur police station up to present.
I found this hard to believe, a serious incident of this nature which occurred over 3 days ago which could have led to the death of many people. Why on earth is Koodbuur police not gone to the trouble of getting to the bottom of this incident? I then said to my friend that we will pay a visit to Koodbuur police and establish why they are reluctant in carrying out their duty. That evening after 9pm, we went to see the commanding officer of Koodbuur police station. Unfortunately, the commanding officer was on leave that night, but instead we were taken to his assistant commanding officer or 2nd in command of the station.
My friend, having met this officer on a number of occasions in relation to this case and to me this police officer seemed genuinely concerned and sympathetic; we were told by this officer that the police are doing their best to arrest the suspects. I abruptly, interrupted the officer and said ‘You haven’t, even sent anyone yet to see my friend’s father or the house which was riddled with bullets and it’s been over 3 days since this incident occurred’. The commanding officer asked my friend who I was, to which I replied I am so and so. The officer sat up right and a little startled said that he will at once get his men to go with us to my friend’s father’s house tonight and inspect the bullet holes and interview the old man and neighbours.
We drove to my friend’s father’s house and the detectives inspected the front of the house and found 3 bullet holes, one above the main door porch and 2 other bullet holes a meter apart under the window seal. They determined that the bullet holes were fresh and pointed to an area where the bullets may have been fired from. After the old man was interviewed we then went to see the neighbours. All in all the detectives interviewed 5 of the neighbours, all said that they heard the gun shots and took their names and details. Also, the detectives collected 6 empty bullet shells from a neighbour who said he personally collect them from where they were fired from.
2 days latter, my friend informed me that the culprits were arrested by Koodbuur police and had spent one night in jail, but unfortunately, were released on bond the following day by the commanding officer of the station. I made inquiries to Koodbuur police station wanting to know ‘why these guys were released on bail?’, and was told by the commanding officer of the station that the evidence he had against them was weak and that he had to release them on bail while he gathered enough evidence to formally charge them.
After more than a week gone by, the culprits have not been charged by Koodbuur police and the culprits or suspects are free to do more mischief, if not murder. The clan of my friend want to avenge for what has been done to my friend and his father, while at same time my friend has been telling his clan and family relations to take it easy and let the police handle the situation believing that the suspects will eventually be arrested for their actions by the police. God knows, what will happen next when my friend’s clan and family relations see that the police have done nothing to arrest these suspects. Another, mini Dumbuluq is in the making.
Looking at this story, one can understand how conflict arises between one individual against another and between groups of people against the other simply, because of local police incompetence. And you may ask why the local police are incompetent in doing their job? One good reason is that if you survey those in command of the many local police stations in Hargeysa, many do not have the experience and training needed to command a police force or station. You will also find that those who do have the experience and training needed to command a police force or station are serving under those before 1991 who use to be under their command. The same apply’s to the S/land military forces. You will see a guy who was before 1991 of the rank of captain and in the present day is in command of a guy who had the rank of a colonel before 1991.
All you need to do is look at the Somaliland police force, the 20 top ranking police posts are filled by those before 1991 ranked as non-commissioned police officers, which means that they don’t have the experience and training needed in policing command operations. Again the same apply’s to the S/land military. Top ranking officers are those who have not been trained to command.
In other words, police officers are trained on same lines as those in the armed forces. The old Somali police force like the defence forces had two basic rank structures within it’s forces for its officers, officers which were trained to issue command and execute that command without the operational assistance from the main body of the police force and those which were not trained to issue command operations but only execute command orders handed down from a commanding officer, although this commanding officer may be of same rank as the one he or she is issuing the command to.
A commissioned police or military officer has been trained to follow a certain rules or drill guidelines for whenever an operational task demands its execution be fulfilled. Generally we can say as in a simple example, police guidelines demand the commanding officer to follow an operation routine whereby the safety of the officer’s men/women or the general public as a rule is not undermined and put in danger when commanding an operation.
Not so long ago, the commanding officer of New Hargeysa police station received a tip off from the public concerning suspicious looking religious clerics coming into town. The tip off came from a wheelbarrow porter who was hired by these clerics to unload their luggage from the passenger vehicle they traveled in. The porter had noticed that their luggage consisted of number of heavy large sacks, and in these sacks were semi automatic rifles, assortment of ammunition and other equipment. He has been quoted as saying ‘I immediately realised that these men were concealing weapons in the sacks because these sacks were extra-ordinarily heavy, and I use to be an SNM fighter and we often use to conceal our weapons in similar fashion in sacks, I then ran my hand over some of the items in the sacks and clearly felt the shape of semi automatic rifles’.
The porter, soon as he delivered the luggage to the address where the clerics were staying, went to New Hargeysa police station and reported what he saw. The commanding officer of New Hargeysa police station decided to send some of his men to pay a visit to the house where the clerics were staying. This commanding police officer has never had formal police training, had he been trained he would not have sent his men into a mine field. Although, he has under his command a number of properly trained police officers who were trained before 1991, he nevertheless thinks that their advice is not worthy of any action.
This commanding officer of New Hargeysa police station did not even instruct his men on how to approach the house containing the clerics, but simply give the order to checkout the house and its occupants. The officer should have immediately gone for a search warrant from the regional attorney, which would have taken under less than an hour. And once with a search warrant should have directed his men to cautiously and quietly evacuate all residents neighbouring the targeted house and closing off the entire area, pre-empted all exit roots to and from the house and made sure all his men take up safe positions on top of adjoining houses and ground space surrounding the house and coordinated the operation with police headquarters and commanding officers and if need be prepared backup from the defence forces.
This commanding officer knew or had received intelligence in-advance that these men were all well armed and equipped. Yet, he sent a small contingent of his men numbering 5 to 7 policemen to check out these suspicious men possing as clerics and their residence, which they did.
The police men went straight to the house where the clerics were staying and in a causal manner knocked at the front door. When no one answered they yelled to the occupants of the house that they were the police and to immediately open the door or else they will break it down. As soon as they uttered these words a barrage of bullets and machine gun fire came hailing from inside the house ripping through the front door hitting at least 3 of the police men, the rest quickly took cover nearby the house and exchanged heavy gun battle with those inside the house, this prevented some of those inside from escaping.
5 of the men possing as clerics managed to escape and flee and 3 others were seriously wounded inside the house. These policemen could not match the fire power of the men possing as clerics and it became known also that some of the police during the heavy fire exchange had run out of ammunition. This explains why so many of the clerics managed to escape.
Eventually, after a day or two later, all men possing as clerics were caught and put in police custody. Among these men possing as clerics was the most wanted terrorist in Somaliland, the notorious Mr. Indho Ade. All are at present been sentenced to death by Hargeysa court and are waiting for their death sentence in Hargeysa jail.
Again, not so long ago another operational blunder was committed by the commanding officer in charge of the country’s entire defence forces, Mr. Nuuh Tani. This blunder was the Hargeysa hospital incident which led to one death and scores of injured people and destruction to parts of Hargeysa hospital when four military armoured vehicle personnel carriers tried to collect for burial a corpse lying in the hospital morgue without the dead man’s consenting family's approval.
But instead the military armoured vehicles met stiff opposition from the family and clan relations of the dead man, who subsequently, had barricaded themselves in the hospital morgue. Soon, there was a major disturbance inside Hargeysa hospital grounds the like, which was unprecedented in the history of S/land.
The person who ordered for the armoured vehicles to enter hospital grounds and collect the corpse by force was S/land military chief, Mr Nuuh Tani. He was trained in the former Said Barre military and reached the rank of colonel. But he was not trained as an officer commissioned to command but was trained to only execute command order operations handed down from flagstaff commanding officers.
Had he been trained in command operations he would not have succumbed to ordering the use of armoured vehicles to enter hospital grounds. Those at military command headquarters were also not consulted in this operation nor was the ministry of defence aware of the generals intentions but instead the general of the S/land armed forces drove to Birjeeh military barracks and personally ordered the operators of the armoured vehicles to take the vehicles and wait outside the hospital till further notice. We all know what followed next.
The same goes for the Dumbuluq incident, the police officer in charge of Iften police station escorted a group of armed men who were chased from building on government land and property and tried to confront the angry Dumbuluq residents opposing the construction. In this incident, more than 7 people died, over 36 people were seriously injured and number of properties completely destroyed as a result of this commanding police officer's actions. Had this police officer been qualified to command a law and order police operation, this unfortunate incident might have been diverted.
The question, we may ask ourselves is how can we get ourselves out of this quirk mire? In other words, unqualified officers who were low ranking in the Said Barre police or military forces and were not qualified to command are today in command of the military, security and civil forces of the country. Every now or then we see a blunder made by such men all because they are at the helm of the country’s military and police forces and have not the clue or wits to command a simple operation.
What makes all this possible is, today in Somaliland there is no formal rank and merit hierarchy structured among the country’s police, military and civil forces. Somaliland, has not enlisted a structured rank order, nor has it encompassed the old rank structure existing among the defence and civil forces of before 1991.
It's only, a matter of time when a blunder of such magnitude will rock the living daylights out of us and our young republic, unless that is Somaliland initiates a viable order of rank and merit among its defence and civil forces. Otherwise, we shall find ourselves (God forbid), in worser and much dire circumstances than those mentioned already.
Ismail. D. Ali, Hargeysa. Somaliland