By Hodan Osman, Liaison Officer for UNMAS
A member of an EOD team wears protective headwear during a demonstration held by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Mogadishu, Somalia, on April 4. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team partook in a number of excercises, as part of the International Day of Mine Awareness, in order to draw attention to the large number of mines, unexploded ordnances (UXOs), and explosive remnants of war (ERWs) that still exist in the country. Photo Credit: AU UN IST PHOTO / TOBIN JONES.
It may have been the excitement of seeing Mogadishu for the first time or apprehension about starting a new job in what is reputed to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world, that meant that I could not sleep the night before heading to Mogadishu. It is a city I have only read about in newspapers peddling stories about war and famine. But I have also heard about a very different Mogadishu from my parents and grandparents, a Mogadishu that was thriving before chaos descended. The Mogadishu depicted on postcards, a once picturesque and cosmopolitan city with vibrant trade, universities, beachfront hotels and white villas.
In my short time here I have learned not to attempt to reconcile these images of a past Mogadishu with the horrors of the civil war, but rather to focus on building a Mogadishu that will be. I mentally reassemble the broken pieces of buildings, clear the rubble, remove the plastic bags from the barren tree branches and restore the lights and I root for this jigsaw city that could be. There is a sense of hopefulness and excitement about change in Somalia that beams through every conversation and meeting I have had with both government and non government actors in Somalia. Every meeting and discussion takes place against this backdrop of hope and collective need for change. It is intoxicating.
It is an exciting time to be in Somalia, as the Liaison Officer for UNMAS, working to negate the explosive threat to Somalis and creating conditions for access and recovery. Although the core of our work is focused on humanitarian mine action and supporting the Somali security sector as well as AMISOM on explosive management, our reach is much broader and has a greater impact.
To be able to respond to a single call about a possible explosive threat in Mogadishu, we would need to have established training and mentoring for the Somali police not only on the technical aspect of handling the explosive ordinance, but on all of the logistical and administrative functions required to coordinate and report on the response. We would have raised the awareness of local communities so that they are able to recognise and report potential explosive threats and a level of trust would have been established between the police and communities, as communities become willing to discuss explosive threats and other security and safety issues.
The successful removal of explosive threats would result in further cementing the relationship between the government and communities, as the government is and will be seen as providing a valuable public service. The area will be safe to use once more, allowing local businesses to continue flourishing and for children to play in a safe environment. These are the list of activities leading up to and supporting the Somali Police team’s response to calls.
It is this type of residual and spiraling impact from a series of smaller activities that will lead to greater change in Somalia. The process of the Somali police responding to a single call is demonstrating a key thread for stabilisation – a Somali police force supported by the Somali government providing essential services to Somali communities. This is the change we are all working towards and its optimism is evident and exchanged in every transaction, conversation, school lesson, coffee shop, government meeting and gathering in the streets of a Mogadishu that will be. Today, we are celebrating this as part of International Mine Awareness Day in Mogadishu.