- Its image tarnished by several killings of international humanitarian workers, still unrecognised Somaliland has become the first country in the region to create a special police unit to protect the UN staff, workers of non-governmental organisations and other foreigners. Germany is assisting in the training of the force.
In an exclusive interview with 'Awdalnews Network' conducted in Somali language last Thursday, Interior Minister Ismail Adan Osman said that Somaliland had approached Germany for the training of the Special Protection Unit, SPU, that Somaliland had recently created to safeguard the personal safety of workers for the UN, EU, organisations and other foreigners in the country.
Responding to a question on the purpose of his visit to Germany as part of a Somaliland Ministerial delegation to Germany during the second week of May this year, Mr Osman said that Somaliland had sought Germany's assistance in training Somaliland police and security forces.
- Besides asking general training for our police forces, we have requested Germany to help us in giving high quality training to the newly created units of the SPU and a mobile unit that would be deployed with speed during emergency situations, Mr Osman said.
He added that the German government had agreed to assist Somaliland in the training of these units as well as the Criminal Investigation Department, CID, forces.
Answering a question on whether his delegation - which was led by Foreign Minister Edna Adan - raised the issue of Somaliland passport, particularly as the Somali passport recently has been rejected by several countries, Mr Osman said the delegation had travelled to Germany with Somaliland passports. Many Somalilanders still hold Somali passports.
- We have travelled with Somaliland passports and got visas stamped in our passports at the German Embassy in Addis Ababa, Mr Osman said. He affirmed that Somaliland passport was now accepted by a number of countries, including the EU, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Regarding accusations levelled against his Ministry's high handedness in handling youth demonstrators during the country's celebrations of its National Day on 18 May, Mr Osman asserted that Somaliland was not ready for such spontaneous protests and demonstrations.
- According to our constitution, the people have the right to come out in peaceful demonstrations, but the question is can we manage demonstrations in the present situation?, he said.
He added that the Somaliland government could not allow any demonstrations to take place until the police force was empowered, properly trained and equipped to handle such civilian protests and demonstrations for several reasons.
- First, you know we have 90 percent unemployment in our country, people have guns at home, gold and all kinds of merchandise are sold in the open market like Europe's Sunday Markets, even money is everywhere in the streets, therefore the police force doesn't have the capability to control a demonstration, Mr Osman said.
He underlined that without proper training and equipment used during demonstrations such as police batons, gas masks, tear gas, water cannons as well as proper training, the police force wouldn't be able to control demonstrations. He said many of the demonstrating youth were detained and all the students were released.
Talking about the outcome of his Ministry's investigations into the several killings of foreigners, Mr Osman said that the arrest of the perpetrators of the latest attach on the German GTZ workers had helped the police to glean a lot of information about all three operations.
He was referring to the killing of Annalena Tonelli in Borama on 6 October 2003, the shooting of British Teachers in Sheikh 21 October 2003 and the last killing of a Kenyan woman working for GTZ on 19 March 2004.
- We have come to know that the perpetrators belong to a terrorism network that has links with Abdi Qasim Salat, Somali Transitional National Government President in Mogadishu, he said.
Mr Osman added that his Ministry had confiscated satellite hand telephones, Thurya mobiles, from the perpetrators and after these had been examined by US intelligence agents they had found that the criminals had contacts with international terrorists wanted by the US government.
Answering a question about conferences held by the Islamic Tabligh groups in Hargeisa, Mr Osman said that the Tabligh groups had no links with terrorism and that their only interest was spreading and propagating Islam.
On the existence of the extremist Al Ittihad in Somaliland, Minister Osman said that the group had disintegrated, noting that some had joined Al Qaeda and others had simply went underground. "Al Ittihad had never had a strong foothold in Somaliland," he said, underling that after the arrest of the killers of the GTZ worker, the underground elements had escaped to Mogadishu.
Asked whether he considered the Saudi Arabian style bill on the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice being debated by the Parliament would constitute to an infringement on personal freedoms and democratic principles if it was passed, Mr Osman affirmed that the bill was not against the people's democratic or freedom rights.
- We are a Muslim nation and our laws should be in compliance of Islamic teachings, he said, noting that the bill was being discussed by the legislative council which had the authority to either pass it or reject it based on its adherence to the country's laws and the international norms.
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