Somaliland has relative peace since it break away from Somalia in May 1991, after 30 years of union ended fruitless. All former government institutions were collapsed due to civil war which broke out the country, building government institutions and peace building approaches were started from bottom in early 1990s.
Somaliland police was established 25 years ago for the reasons of getting peace process back on track, although the country’s capacity was limited, and recovering the long lasting war that Somali National Movement (SNM) waged against the former dictator of Said Barre who was finally defeated in 1991.
The police has so far managed the peace and stability in the country well, in the prime facie of establishment most recruited of the police members were among former police officers of Somali republic ruled by Said Barre and were shaped like military due to the military handed over the power of the country who intended police to do the militaries job whenever it required that. Since Somaliland adopted by referendum a democratic constitution in May 2001, newly adopted constitution granted citizens many rights and expressed the mandate of police force which is two main functions: first is to keep the security of the country and second is to enforce laws.
The number of police forces increased day after day, in terms of quantity, after received each year a batch of hundred young graduate police officers from the police training school in Mandera. Police took a number of courses in the school, mainly related to how to use weapons, how to arrest people and how to defend themselves whenever they face any serious or dangerous incidents against themselves, rather than learned them both tactical training and lessons relating constitution, police act, human rights and how well they would behave citizens after been graduated from the school.
Unlike many other institutions of the country, police have not yet received any realistic reform or strategies which could enhance their capacity of this institution and as well as knowledge of members of the police and people are demanding civilian police who would be believed to alter their function and behaviour based on brutality. For example many Somaliland institutions including judiciary have benefited from capacity buildings funded and supported by international organizations and government and many achievement can be seen these institutions today.
Somaliland society usually faces regular challenges and intimidations from the current police forces. Police do not respect laws and deprived citizens from the basic rights in unconstitutional way. For instance, more than 90 percent of accused persons, police have arrested without warrant irrespective of the constitution and other laws. Delay in remand period, bad treatment of suspects inside the police stations, denial access to meet lawyer into his client are also common in the police stations.
I acknowledge the hard work that police has for the state, and we have a fair reward and huge respect to that, but, it is not an excuse and justifiable ground that circumstances surrounded you allows you [police] for all human rights violations.
Number of times, several concerns were raised the deteriorating poor conditions or standard of living exists in the police stations and a small room is arrested a large number of people with small window and there is no toilet and people uses a plastic bags as toilet, access to water, medicine and food are also limited, proxy detention is still presence many parts in Somaliland, although it is illegal or unconstitutional but it has changed into a norm done by police.
According to Saed Mohamoud Gahayr, my former teacher at the secondary school, he met same incident in one of the Hargeisa police stations, where police officer rejected him a little amount of water in order to wash his body after he suffered a poor health situations inside the police station. Police exchange money to allow you access to air somewhere in the police station, meanwhile any person who have no money to give the police remained the cell with limited air condition existed said Mr Saed who is also poet and writer.
Mr Saed is not the only person who revealed the concern situation which exists in the police stations. Abdurrahman Abees who is another famous poet has revealed in event after presented in this week a poet about what he had seen one of the police stations who once detained him. The second day of his revelation was arrested because of being revealed poor standard of living which exist police stations. The poet has appeared once in the court, whoever reveals and express his opinion any issue relating to police station and even police affairs could be intimidated and arrested by the police.
Press conference released by the spokesperson of the police forces who is famous telling in- formations far away from the truth and as well as normally uses his conferences some words borrowed from Italian language, suggested accused poet has initiated and presented anti national propaganda and fake news against the police stations, the spokesperson added that he recognized the accused person as a convicted person which is contrary to the constitution, usually police acted as judiciary, legislative and as well as an law enforcement agency.
Limited number of police stations exists in Hargeisa, where one million and half populated city with increasing rate of criminals recorded each year, any alternative approach have not proposed by the police so far, using chain with accused persons in order secure from escaping is still common in police stations. Every day dozens of young generations chained with hands, with no shoes, and mistreated and beaten by police appears in Somaliland courts.
Police act more than the law by doing what they want and do not respect the court orders and this is because many Somaliland people are suffering from anxiety and for example according police report released last November, more than nineteen thousand of criminal cases were documented, half of that cases resolved outside and police adjudicate people and acted as court which is contrary to the constitution. Meantime many acquitted persons ordered by the courts remained many police stations, while police rejected to obey the court’s decision and it seems and clear that police is more powerful than the judiciary branch.
Once questioned the current president Mr Bihi when he was competing for the position as part of the debate, on his own ideas about justice, he answered if we want to enhance justice, we should have to enhance the justices police stations since we know justice starts from there, then we would manage other sectors like judiciary, but that idea concluded flash in the pan and nothing have changed police stations so far. Last November 2018, when president Bihi delivered a speech at the 25th anniversary of police, the president admitted or highlighted the kind of police that Somaliland need and said ‘’ we need a police scare off and prevents criminals’’ it seems today that police sacred off non guilty or innocent civilian using under the power of state authority.
The number of police brutality documented each year is increasing and there is no any person who was held accountable and even have been investigated a case against police members. There is no independent and impartial tribunal administer where people could file a suit against police member and would expect a just decision, mainly high police officers like the commander and deputy commander were police students graduated academic police training centre ruled and managed former dictatorship of Siad Barre, who several times was alleged committed a genocide and atrocities many parts of former Somali republic which including and bigger Somaliland civilian without acceptable justifications, although many and most of Somaliland people identified that regime a dirty cruel administrations but still the police graduated learning centres and once had worked that previous dirty regime are still serving and operating in Somaliland, having respected and honoured with medals and holding high ranking positions. Since Somaliland adopted a system of modern democracy, it is in- compatible to remain offices police who do not respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined by Somaliland constitution and approved the national referendum in 2001.
If the Somaliland people were fought and struggled against the former cruel and dirty system of Somalia, what is the Somalilander’s plan against individuals who once served former dirty system of Barre administrations? Were we fought the system or individuals in that time? How would do you expect to adopt modern democratic country where it is people enjoy fundamental freedoms and liberties?
There is a little bit of hope appeared once in late December 2017, when Somaliland parliament approved a police act for the first since 25 year and the president signed, the act enter into force in the same year. The police act have a number of key pivotal to police and as well as the Somaliland society since the newly adopted act established a civilian police which is one of the long demanding factor from the society and demilitarization of police is required and the act also created an independent oversight body receiving complaints against police from society, although there was no previous sector do these jobs, and third factor which is important that people desires and welcomes is the provision prohibited police using live bullet while in un armed demonstration, during protest period, as common before in Somaliland police several times were used live bullet resulted from death and serious injuries of an armed civilian. Lastly, the newly adopted act referred criminal cases which police are part to the civilian court where it is much compatible according to Somaliland constitution.
All the factors I mentioned above and other provisions empowers and enhances the capacity of Somaliland police appeared the act, parliament member, lawyer and human right defenders have identified these factors or in whole of this act would bring a huge a reform of Somaliland police in terms of access to justices to victims of police brutality, prohibition of using live bullets, creates over sight body and as well as police accountable to the law.
Unfortunately, the hope disappeared almost one year later, when the government proposed amendment against the police act which the government intended to sterilizes or dysfunctional the key important provisions safeguarding the human right and freedoms and creates civil police accountable to law, and their first attempt towards that succeed after when the House of Representatives (HoR) approved mainly the amendment suggested by the government.
There are stronger sounds coming from the community towards that police today need a change and reform is evitable, people would no longer be silent police who directly and optionally infringed laws also violated human rights and do not respect laws. Somaliland is a democratic country where people directly elected officials through vote, the kind of police that we have today is not representative and compatible the kind of democracy enshrined our constitution,
Implementation of comprehensive reforms to the police is required and inevitable at this current time. First, the leading factor of the reform is to remove amendment suggested by the government, Second factor is maintaining civil police where police respects laws and enforce law as well as protects human rights and freedoms of citizens, free from brutality and corruption, accountable to law, and have structural form of police defined in police act and democratic states, the reform should extends even senior police officials and anyone who had a culture of impunity should also removed from the police forces, and that would be part of lasting solutions ends the culture of impunity. These factors may successfully lead to the country with lasting peace and stability and also would improve the good reputation of human rights and democracy earned by Somaliland in the world.
The reform of police should extend police stations and special measures should have to be endorsed in order to make sure the safety and well being of accused persons, the measures may include policies and acts insuring enhancing the living standards of police stations in order to safeguard the dignity of human life and sanitation during the custody.
Special juveniles cells inside the police or outside the police stations should implement as soon as possible since the juvenile act imposed that juveniles and adult persons cannot be arrested with same cell according to Somaliland Juvenile Act.
Therefore, so as to achieve a realistic reform and bring about significant progress, it is important that leadership role of reform must be done by an independent and impartial committee having knowledge with police affairs and experienced the current situation of police, which are from the government, because police cannot reform itself and many of them will affect the reform and people usually dislike reform, because some gained and others lost.
The central message of the article is ‘’that realistic reform to the police forces is necessary and inevitable today. As Somaliland citizens, we deserve to maintain better police than today, better behaved and good character police than today, respects law and all human rights including and major freedom of expression, accountable to lawand police creates better relationship with society than anxiety based one existed before’’.
About the writer
Mustafa Mohamoud Dahir is an independent lawyer based in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Hecan be reached at:Mustafedahir3@gmail.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Somalilandcurrent.com editorial policy.