Law and order in Somalia is by western benchmarks non-existent. The resulting protracted periods of fighting have led to contamination from conventional weapons, including unexploded ordnance.
Why MAG is needed in Somalia
Since 1991, Somalia has lacked a coordinated government providing even the most basic services to the population. War and famine killed a quarter of a million people and displaced over three million more.
Two decades later, Somalia once again is being described as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with more than 1.5 million people internally displaced and more than half a million Somalis living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
By 2007, the risk of dying violently from warfare in Somalia was second highest in the world. Law and order is by western benchmarks non-existent, with local clan chiefs and religious factions fighting to fill the security and power vacuum.
This lack of centralised control, combined with widespread insecurity and a thriving illicit arms trade has led to protracted periods of fighting and resulting in contamination from conventional weapons, including unexploded ordnance (UXO).
Specifically, south central Somalia has remained an epicentre of violence since the early 1990s. Many areas of this region continue to experience widespread violence, lasting political instability and recurrent drought resulting in a lasting humanitarian crisis.
As a result, south central Somalia remains the region where most of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and those in acute need are situated. There has been very little tangible mine action work here over the past three years due due to widespread insecurity, and continued fierce fighting has increased the level of UXO contamination in many parts.
In addition to this, it is widely believed that there are stockpiles of varying size and content held within people’s homes and/or in urban areas.
Access to conventional weapons exacerbates violence, fuels crime, and actively undermines security and peace-building efforts. The effects are felt in the wider region, as well as locally and nationally, posing a threat to the political stability of the Horn of Africa.
Somaliland has been generally regarded as a regional success despite the lack of international recognition for the administration which wishes to establish an independent state from the Transitional Federal Government.
However, insecure Police and Coast Guard armouries are a major concern, not only due to leaks – potentially heightening levels of violent crime – but also because the availability of arms at a time of ongoing political insecurity increases the risk of a return to conflict.
In addition to facilitating a culture of violence, conventional weapons are a source of explosives as well as component parts to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
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How MAG is helping in Somalia
MAG first began working in Somaliland in 2007 providing technical assistance and oversight to police Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams.
In 2008, MAG began operations in Puntland, assisting the Puntland Mine Action Centre (PMAC) in the establishment of a police EOD team for the State. Since then, MAG has built strong working relations with the Government of Puntland, coordinating closely with the police and PMAC to enable safe clearance across all regions of the country from Bosasso down to Galcaio.
Since July 2008, the team has destroyed more than 70 tons of Explosive Remnants Of War (ERW). In 2010, MAG was able to establish three Mine Risk Education (MRE) teams who deliver vital training on the recognition and avoidance of ERW.
This represents the first comprehensive state-wide MRE delivery project in Puntland, providing essential safety messages to urban and rural communities as well as residents of IDP camps. These roving teams also feedback reports of loose dangerous items to PMAC, who subsequently task the police EOD team on clearance operations.
Following three years of successful work in the three main population centres of Puntland (Bosasso, Garowe and North Galcaio), not only in terms of clearance but also gaining the trust and acceptance of people on the ground, the next stage in MAG’s organic growth was the establishment and growth of operations in South Galcaio catering specifically to the people of Mudug and Galguduud regions.
In early 2011, MAG was the first international non-governmental organisation to base international staff and operations in South Galcaio and the Galmudug State. In December 2010, the Police Commissioner in Somaliland’s capital Hargeysa invited MAG to view one of their main police armouries: its poor condition was putting police officers and the surrounding population in direct danger of an accidental explosion.
MAG renovated the armoury and launched a nationwide survey of Somaliland Police armouries to establish if similar poor standards were evident and what could be done to better secure and manage firearms and ammunition under the control of the Government.
Survey of more than 40 armouries was completed and MAG has recently received funding for a Physical Security and Stockpile Management project based in Hargeysa, which begins in June 2011.
This will see the upgrade of 10 police armouries and also three Coast Guard Sector HQ armouries, the construction of three explosive store facilities for the Police EOD Teams stationed outside Hargeysa, and the training of 30 police officers and nine Coast Guard officers as armourers. During the course of the project, unsafe items of Small Arms Ammunition and UXO, and firearms, will also be destroyed.
Large Puntland army stockpiles have been cleared in the towns of Garowe, Bosasso and Galkayo, reducing the likelihood of accidental detonation and the risk of munitions being stolen by insurgent groups. Additionally, items of UXO have been cleared from people’s homes, schools and office compounds, and Mine Risk Education has been delivered.
More about MAG's work in Somalia
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