European Union External Action

Voices from the field: Why investing in security in Somalia matters for Europe

Security, defence, Africa, Somalia, EU Missions and Operations, CFSP, CSDP, Mogadishu, Indian Ocean, piracy, pirates, terrorism, EUCAP Somalia, EU NAVFOR Atalanta, EUTM Somalia

Abdulkadir Muktar is the Commander of a special branch of the Somali Police called the Maritime Police Unit, operating in the capital Mogadishu.

Abdulkadir was born in 1991, the year Siad Barre’s dictatorship collapsed, marking the beginning of a quarter of a century of civil war which would forever change the capital Mogadishu from a place once known as “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean” to the most war-ravaged place in the Horn of Africa.

“Growing up with the war drove me to want to become a Law enforcement officer,” says Abdkdir, who sports a short, trimmed beard.

“As a boy I could figure out what normality and peace were like as my father, who was an officer in the Somali Army prior to Barre’s regime, and my mother, used to tell us children about Somalia in former times”, he continued.

Abdulkadir dreams to see the setting up of a proper Coast Guard patrolling the 3,333 km of Somali coastline (the longest in Africa) so that weapons and people smuggling, along with other Maritime crimes – not least illegal fishing - could be defeated, or, at least appropriately countered.

“We are still far away from ensuring the security of our coasts”, says the officer. “We even lack the ability to search vessels conducting illegal activities”, he added.

Security, defence, Africa, Somalia, EU Missions and Operations, CFSP, CSDP, Mogadishu, Indian Ocean, piracy, pirates, terrorism, EUCAP Somalia, EU NAVFOR Atalanta, EUTM Somalia

 

The challenge of security in Somalia

An (indirectly) elected government recognized by the international community and strongly committed to Peace and Security, leads Somalia nowadays. Up to 2011, the streets of Mogadishu were a scene of fighting between the extremist insurgency group Al-Shabaab and peacekeepers deployed by the African Union since 2007 (AMISOM), based on a UN Security Council resolution. Although ousted from the Somali capital, Al-Shabaab retains the ability to commit atrocities in Somalia, as well as in neighbouring countries.

Whilst working to rebuild the security apparatus in Somalia and re-establish the Rule of Law in the Country, police officers like Abdulkadir Muktar, who works daily with EU and international colleagues, are faced with extraordinarily difficult security challenges.

The most recent terrorist attack in Mogadishu (at the time of writing) signed by Al-Shabaab happened on 28 October 2017, targeting a hotel and killing 29 people during a siege that lasted nearly 12 hours. A fine young Maritime Police Officer who participated in many EUCAP Somalia’s activities, Major Mohammed Botan Hussein, a colleague of Abdulkadir, was among the dead. Among the dead were also a mother and her three children.

This atrocity happened 14 days after a truck loaded with explosives took at least 358 Somali lives, injuring hundreds in the Somali capital. This was the worst attack Somalia experienced since the Al-Shabaab insurgency began in 2007.

The global threat of terror and illegal activities coming from the Horn of Africa inevitably will have an effect on Europe unless challenged.

That such violence can still take place, despite the fact the Government is committed to establishing a stable and secure society and state, based on the rule of law, demonstrates clearly that Somalia cannot face these security challenges on its own.

Among the international community, the EU plays a significant role in the rehabilitation of the country’s security architecture and structures as a main donor.

 

The EU: providing direct security support and helping build the capacity of Somali forces

Since 2008, the EU has provided more than €1.2 billion to Somalia. The EU’s aid focuses on three sectors: state building and securing peace, food security and education.

Somali officers as Abdulkadir are familiar with the EU, particularly with European fellow officers working in Somalia for EU Security Sector Reform Missions.

Security, defence, Africa, Somalia, EU Missions and Operations, CFSP, CSDP, Mogadishu, Indian Ocean, piracy, pirates, terrorism, EUCAP Somalia, EU NAVFOR Atalanta, EUTM Somalia

Three EU Missions are currently deployed in Somalia under the auspices of the Common Security and Defence Policy: these are, firstly, EUCAP Somalia, a civilian maritime security capacity building Mission; EU NAVFOR Atalanta, a naval military mission patrolling the Coast to ensure safety of foreign aid and supporting the wider EU capacity building efforts, and EUTM Somalia, mentoring the Somali army.

Abdulkadir Muktar and many of his colleagues have been mentored and trained by EUCAP Somalia and international partners participating in joint activities aimed at making Somalia a safer place, including the AMISOM troops (particularly the maritime unit) and UN Agencies such as UNODC.

“I have been learning hands-on skills on three EU ships: A Dutch, an Italian and a Spanish one” says Abdulkadir, referring to joint activities at sea organised by EUCAP Somalia and practiced in conjunction with EUNAFOR Atalanta and other partners, such as the UN.

It was the first time Abdulkadir could see and - experience being on - a real ship and touch equipment in order to learn how to use it.

 

Coming soon: the Somali Coast Guard

Saving lives at sea is now possible for Somali officers thanks to EUCAP Somalia and partners’ advising and training activities, which cover subjects such as investigation and searching techniques, police-prosecutor cooperation, IT training, helping to draw up police curricula, among many others.

Exercises at sea with simulation of arrests for arms smuggling have also been organised by the EU maritime capacity building mission in cooperation with partners such as AMISOM.

These are initial but essential steps for officers like Abdulkadir to acquire experience and skills to put into practice when the Coast Guard he dreams about will be patrolling the Somali Coasts.

EUCAP Somalia has assisted the Somali Federal Government's National Security Office in developing strategic options for a Federal Coast Guard Model.

“I am grateful to the EU for its commitment in Somalia and I really hope they will help us to build premises for my unit,” (the maritime police).

"This is important not only for us Somalis.” The bad guys here share the same ideology and agendas of some of those targeting other countries, including in the EU.

Abdulkadir refers to the Maritime Police Development Project (3.2 million euros budget) developed by EUCAP Somalia in cooperation with EU Delegation to Somalia in partnership with the Somali Authorities, which will be funded through the EU development instruments. This EU project aims at improving the capabilities of the Mogadishu Maritime Police Unit, including boarding and search operations of vessels approaching the port.

 

The globalisation of security threats

Progress in Somalia will be achieved once the security situation has been stabilised, so that investment can flow and the huge potential of the country, from oil exploration to the development of a flourishing marine economy, to tourism, can be positively exploited.

“This is important not only for us Somalis,” observed Abdulkadir, explaining that the “bad guys” affecting security in Somalia share the same ideology and agendas of some of those targeting other countries, including EU ones.

Al-Shabaab is part of the al-Qaeda franchise and splinter groups have declared allegiance to the so-called “Islamic State”.

The global threat of terror and illegal activities coming from the Horn of Africa inevitably will have an effect on Europe unless challenged.

This is why by deploying Missions and personnel and providing aid to help Somalia the EU invests in its own security.

 

 

*Text and pictures by Francesca Marretta, EUCAP Somalia PPIO