Al-Shabaab Cannot Run Over Somalia Again – ATMIS Police Commissioner Kanu Says


The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), Police Commissioner (PC), Hillary Sao Kanu in this interview with RUTH TENE NATSA, speaks on the contribution of ATMIS police in combating the Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, Somalia. Excerpts.

What has it been like, working with officers from different countries?

I think for me, it has not been a challenge because this is not my first mission. The United Nations African Mission in Dafur (UNAMID), being my first mission was a hybrid mission where we had different nationals from Europe, America and Africa. So, here it is just a continuity, mostly working with our African brothers and sisters having similar cultures. So, I see no challenges, but rather an opportunity to learn from other countries we have not met before.

With the Mission shutting down by December 31, 2024, what has been your impact in giving the assurance that the Somalian Police are ready to take over their state security architecture at this point?

We have impacted a lot. My team did not start the mission, there were sets of administration before we came five months ago and before our coming, a lot had been achieved in terms of capacity building, project development, infrastructure and training. And I can say, a lot has been gained by the Somalian Police, which can enhance their ability to take over by December 2024.

Why is the mission winding down when it is said that Al-Shabaab is believed to have intensified their attacks on both the civilians and police. What are you doing differently to ensure the protection of your Command and the civil populace?

The draw-down is ongoing and the military is about to start the second phase of 3000 troops from Somalia. But for us, this draw-down affects military officers who are in the Front Operation Bases (FOBs). We are not in the front line, we are not fighters/military personnel or Infantry. We are only there to enhance peace and take care of the internal security. We are here to support the Somalian Police to ensure that they are well equipped to meet international standards, maintain law and order as well as security in Somali. So, the police is not going to be a part of the draw-down. Ours is to ensure that whatever affects policing, we give the Somalian Police the needed support. But, the draw down has no effect on the ATMIS Police for now.

Are you confident that the Somalian Police are ready to take over their security operations when AMIS winds down its operations?

From our perspective, training and learning in the police is a continuous process. Let’s take for example Sierra Leone, we had 11 years of civil war, we had foreign troops, we had ECOMOG who supported us in degrading the rebels and later the rebels entered the city and were pushed out by ECOMOG. The United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), deployed in Freetown and reform process started. Within five years, we were able to build up proper security by ourselves. But, not withstanding, it is a continuous process and as I am talking to you, trainings are ongoing in different areas, in the areas of investigation, cyber-crimes, traffic and even regular duties. So, we cannot say for Somalia it is an end come 2024, it has to continue. New crimes and other new things come up and they have to be trained in those areas. So, it is just a start and so we have been there to have some sanity in place. Prior to now, they were unable to investigate cases of Sexual Based Violence (SBVs), but, now they can. Before they had no close relationship with the general public, but now community policing has enhanced their abilities to engage civilians and their people, talking to them about Al-Shabaab, information sharing. And so, as we get along, they will get used to it and be able to handle security, law and order by themselves. I believe, having ATMIS leave here by 2024, the Somalian Police will need more support in the security sector.

Where would you say the ATMIS stands as regards the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Human Rights?

For the Somalian Police, one of our basic rules is engaging with the leadership to identify gaps and we have identified them. Which is why we have the training department such as the Reform Restructuring and Development (RRD) Department. They engage the leadership, identify these needs and they tell us the areas they need training or the areas they need SOPs developed, we then have a meeting with the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), plan and implement such activities. For instance, the RRD along with the training Department have developed 3-4 different SOPs in traffic, human rights, gender based, communications and logistics. So, it is left to the Somalian Police to go over it and affirm their readiness to accept, then we will help print them out. The SOPs aids them in executing their various duties.

There are fears that when the soldiers depart, we may have an Afghanistan like situation, such that the Al-Shabaab may overpower the Somalia Security Forces, do you have any contrary view?

You see things from the outside while we are on the inside. I believe the Somalian government have pushed greatly to degrade Al-Shabaab. There are places that were manned by Al-Shabaab and the government have done a lot to oust them and they are still on it. They are preparing for another phase of operation where they can do more to degrade Al-Shabaab in Somali territory. For me, I believe they are ready to take over security. Both the police and military. I do not see and will not say that after the Mission has left, Al-Shabaab will take over. No, because I believe in the Somalia military and police. They are doing a lot, and lots of arrests have been made both within and out of Mogadishu and they are having huge support from the regional governments, Kismayo and Badua, who are all in the forefront of fighting Al-Shabaab. We have challenges of arms and ammunition resulting from the arms embargo, but the little they have, they are really making use to degrade Al-Shabaab with the support of ATMIS Military and Police. So, from my own perspective, I believe the government of Somalia and SME are on top of the situation.

What is your advice to young people in Africa as regards conflicts, insecurity, terrorism etc?

Also Sierra Leone because we are just from an election and we are witnessing little conflicts between the two parties. My advice is for the youths because they are the active members of the country, to make sure they engage in fruitful activities, not to listen to politicians because most politicians fight selfishly to be or stay in power and often the youths are used to fight their causes. So, I encourage the youths to engage in fruitful activities and not something that can destroy their country. The system of bringing everybody on board is something that Africans must take up. We must be inclusive oriented, carrying along women, youths and PWDs because they are all part of the system. No one should be left behind because, these are the issues that cause problems where we consider some people while some are left behind. For instance, in Sierra Leone, the present cabinet has a number of women and youth between the ages of 29-32. So, the civil population are happy about the setup of the cabinet with more than 30% women representation in parliament and the cabinet and by so doing equity prevails. That is what I am trying to say to our sister countries that there is the need to bring such initiatives to benefit all.

Could you give us a breakdown of the ATMIS police?

Well the population of ATMIS according to the Communique of 1068 meeting of the United Nations Security Council, we are supposed to be 1040, and that includes the five contingents of Front Police Units (FPU) and the IPOs from six countries that include Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Kenya and…

We are supposed to have Five FPUs but currently we have four with the exception of Djibouti. Our population is about 856 rather than the 1040. But, again it is not about the population but about what we can do for the people of Somalia particularly for the SPF. Against the background of the resources we have on ground, I believe we are all working selflessly to meet the mandate of the police and we are all cooperating regardless of the fact that we are coming from different countries. We have one goal which is to ensure that the Somalia Police provide equitable policing and security for their people.

What lessons have the ATMIS police learnt that can be reciprocated in their home countries?

Like I said, this is not my first mission and policing for me is the same all over the world. Our main focus is the protection of lives and properties to ensure that human rights are respected and protected as well as ensure respect for the rule of law. The only difference for me is in regards to culture and religion as we have to cover our heads. Tolerance and respect for other people’s culture all help us expand in attitudes and behaviours.

Could you share any feedback you may have received from the Somalian Police and how you have been able to manage conflict between the ATMIS and local police?

Since I arrived the mission six months ago, I do not think I have received any report from the Somalian Police concerning any of our officers. So, I believe they have lived within the mandate and code of conduct of ATMIS. When I speak with the Somalia Police, they speak highly of our officers and so, I am 100 per cent sure that our officers have conducted themselves properly, especially with regards to the training given to the Somalian Police. We recently concluded the station management course. We have lined up about 11 Training of Trainers (TOTs) courses in different areas and one of the most interesting ones which they have invited the management to conduct for the senior cadre, because it was an inclusive participation, allowing the Somalian team to take the lead, only chipping in when needed. At this point in time, we want to see the Somalian Police take the lead in training their own officers. We support them with both training, provisions, medicines and any other way we can, even from our individual pockets and through lobbying as was done during the Ramadan.

Did you loss any of your members during the mission?

None at all. We have lost some members but only through natural causes and not in combat.

Any message to the government?

I want to take this opportunity to send greetings to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Inspector General of Police for supporting us and providing such wonderful resources for us. Training police officers is not an easy task. So, for a government to release a contingent to support another country is a big deal. I really appreciate the Nigerian government and Police hierarchy for sending their vigilant officers to support Somalia at this challenging time of their history. I want to say, we are having a good output from these officers and they are really maintaining their professionalism and showing they are coming from great African nation, Nigeria.




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