Security personnel violence against Somali people must end – UM

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Nine year old Deqa Dahir was shot dead while on board a school bus by Somali soldiers opening the road with gun fire. Photo courtesy: Public domain

Mogadishu (UM) – The heartbreaking story of the murder of the bright 9 year old Deqa Dahir while on board a school bus by Somali soldiers opening the road with gun fire must not end with a few tears and an apology from President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo. Mr. President, the public are sick of their security forces violence, abuse and mistreatment of them. The forces that should be protecting the public that pay their salaries are killing them. As the overall Commander in Chief we say ENOUGH is ENOUGH!

The news widely publicised by the authorities that four soldiers have been arrested in Somalia after Deqa was shot dead in Mogadishu, is not making any sense because it is only the beginning of a pointless routine that begins and ends with a show trial. Deqa lost her life and it is important to remember another student was injured and no doubt all the children on the school bus were shocked and frightened. These are victims of a culture of security sector incompetence and impunity with a focus on a shoot to kill.

Most of the Somali security forces are brave and honourable. Despite the poor pay, weak training, dangerously incompetent leadership, and limited weapons, their sacrifices and daily duties keep Somalis safe across the country. However, there are a few among them that have and continue to hurt the Somali people they should be serving. These criminals, their commanders and the security leadership that is politically responsible must be held to account. Across the year and in particular during Ramadan when the roads were closed on a daily basis, the Somali security forces combined have killed an untold number of people  who to this day have had no justice.

It is sad to think that in this age of supposed Nabad and Nolol, security in Mogadishu remains weak to the extent that government officials, including those right at the bottom of the bureaucratic pyramid, and business men still use armed convoys to travel across the capital. These convoys are manned by either members of the Somali security forces or private tribal militias protecting their asset at any costs. These officials and private citizens use these security officers to bully other road users and security personnel on duty to threaten them to speed things up. Shooting in the air and pointing guns at other road users is a nasty custom that likely led to the murder of Deqa. The question for President Farmaajo and the security leadership is: was young Deqa’s life not as important as that of the person the killers were protecting? If a child could wait in a traffic jam in the heat could not an adult no matter how important they see themselves as?

The murder of 9 year old Deqa is a dark stain on the reputation of this government. President Farmaajo acknowledges this and responded by apologising to the family.  However, this is not enough. The President has apologised too much and did too little to remedy the situation. Now, to show he cares and to end the impunity of the security services,  the President must initiate an independent public inquiry into security personnel killings during his time in office. Deqa, as young as she is, is just the latest and will not be the last given the situation in Somalia, especially, Mogadishu today. Sentencing the killers to death is also not a long term solution because there are more untrained, violent thugs in security uniform protecting impatient public servants and businessmen who are willing to abuse and even kill to open a road for their bosses who are often in a rush to do nothing of value at all.

Justice for ALL the victims of state violence will determine whether the government’s mantra of justice, transparency and accountability actually means anything more than fanciful rhetoric. Mr. President, you promised justice, now deliver it.

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