Feuding factions and their militias continue to engage in gun battles in the capital, Mogadishu, and the surrounding areas while pirates patrol the Indian Ocean shoreline.
When the Somali interim parliament and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) met for the first time in late February, restoring security and stability was made a priority.
On April 21, the autonomous territory of Puntland in the northeast of the country graduated 154 police cadets attending the new Armo Police Academy under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Somali officials.
The Armo Police Academy, and its emphasis on a non-violent, unarmed civilian police force, is the first of its kind in Somalia in more than a decade.
The academy began training its new cadets in December 2005, and is modelled on the UNDP trainings conducted since 2003 at the Mandera Police Academy in Somaliland (which has maintained its independence from greater Somalia since 1991).
To minimise fighting in the northeast, Puntland declared itself autonomous in 1998, led then by president Abdullahi Yusuf, now the president of TFG.
Sandra Macharia, UNDP's information officer, talks to Aljazeera.net about their latest security initiatives inside Somalia.
Aljazeera.net: Will the police force be effective against the militias?
Macharia: The first step is for the 154 cadets who have just graduated to be deployed to different areas. One such location is Baidoa (where the Transitional Federal Parliament is currently sitting), and Garowe and Bossaso, the latter two being in Puntland.
They aren't working alone. They may not have the weapons, but a lot of the rule of law is intended to be dialogue, communication, and peaceful negotiations. This procedure of peaceful negotiations encourages working as an entire society.
The disarmament of militia is a separate issue that needs to happen in a structured and sustainable way for the process to have an amicable outcome. The militia groups need to have alternative means of earning a living.
You say the new police force will not be armed. How has the 1992 UN arms embargo affected the training of the Armo police force?
There is no training with weapons. The goal is to establish a civilian police force, predominantly focused on human-rights protection.
Gender sensitivity and children and minority rights are at the core of the training programme. Logistical support is provided in the form of communications equipment, transport, uniforms, and computers. The riot police and presidential guard have been trained in crowd control without weapons.
What role will the new civilian police force of Puntland play in uniting Somalia as a federal republic?
The trained police force is pushing for respect of the rule of law and human rights. We do need thousands more police officers; and although 154 is not much, it is a start.
UNDP and Somali officials can encourage more cadet training programmes, preparing new civilian officers to work among their peers, elders, and religious leaders, towards reconciliation of local communities and greater Somalia.
The cadets are deployed where they are needed, to rehabilitated police stations across the country. At this stage, they are employees of the Somalis. UNDP can only come in where, and when, we are requested.
Macharia: A lot of the rule of law
is intended to be a dialogue
What the police provide is a place to get recourse, and implement a feeling that Somalia has a system that cares about them. Otherwise, the variable is violence. I think the cadets have a huge role and responsibility, and this is reflected in them having joined the academy.
The cadets are from all across the board of Somalia. Basically the Puntland authorities and police commissioners were speaking to the communities, elders, and people formerly in the police force. The Somalis are the persons in charge of the selection process.
There were 154 graduates. During the course, some were released for various reasons such as indiscipline. The majority of the cadets came into the programme on a volunteer basis, which is a very promising step.
What level of support does UNDP have from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), in order to manage security concerns in the centre and southern regions?
The UNDP works very closely with the TFG in order to understand the local issues present.
The TFG has appointed a National Security Committee, and has been mandated to develop a National Security and Stabilisation Plan, internally. UNDP is currently in consultations with the Committee to discuss removal of the militias from inside Baidoa, to camps on the outskirts.
The UNDP governance programme is also working on initial groundwork for the drafting of a constitution and developing an interface of law that the local communities can abide by.
What aspects of international human rights have been incorporated into the Police training? Can you explain the Rule of Law and Security Programme (ROLS) in this regard?
Law enforcement is the cornerstone of rule of law and justice. The Rule of Law and Security Programme (ROLS) seeks to establish a professional civilian police force able to effectively contribute to the restoration of peace while gaining the trust of the community. This covers all facets of law enforcement.
For instance, the cadets that graduate from Mandera and Armo police academies are provided with uniforms during their training. They are then deployed to rehabilitated police stations that comply with international human-rights standards.
Graduating cadets are provided
with uniforms during training
The female cadets also manage the newly created women's and children's desks in the rehabilitated police stations which were set up to ensure that women and children have access to the police system.
The cadets are also trained in human rights, HIV/Aids awareness, custodial procedures, investigation procedures and the penal code etc. This is essential in ensuring that the police officers are aware of the rights and responsibilities within the law, which is why ROLS has a judiciary component.
The judiciary component intends to strengthen the establishment and functional capacities of the judiciary system with the effective development of sustainable training at all levels by engaging in a multi-variant approach to capacity building and institutional strengthening; as well as supporting law revision and promoting knowledge of human rights and access to justice.
Mine Action works towards building the capacity of national Mine Action institutions while ensuring co-ordinated and quality management of Mine Action. Five Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams have been created and are part of the police force. UNDP is now working to build a regional mine clearance capacity.
Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) supports the authorities in their force reduction efforts by demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants, militia and retiring members of the force, also providing ex-combatants with psycho-social assistance.
Where will you implement the law-enforcement development plan, considering the security concerns within the region?
Speaking for UNDP, we work only in areas where there is some sort of peace, stability, and support for UNDP initiatives, or through NGOs in places we cannot get to.
The Somalis take the lead in identifying projects that we can support and facilitate the safety of the staff. In Jowhar, there is a police station and court; and in Baidoa, the UNDP is looking to rehabilitate the court, police station, and prison.
Female cadets also manage
women's and children's desks
Also, in Mogadishu we have supported some women's groups and a local NGO in the demobilisation of militia. UNDP staff only works where we have access and co-operation. This is paramount to all of our activities.
The police officers that UNDP trains utilise a holistic approach to training, serving in the police stations that have been rehabilitated, creating models for the local community at large, and promoting access to justice for sections of the society that may not have had it for over a decade.
For example if a woman has an issue, a female officer serving on the women and children's desk can handle the concern, ensuring that their complaint will go through a process which incorporates this holistic approach to policing, appropriately.