Local Community Safety volunteers help prevent armed clashes and accidents in SomalilandSomalilanders improve their local safety and security with support from training by the Danish Demining Group (DDG). A legacy of civil war has left Somaliland (a break-away republic in northern Somalia) contaminated with landmines, Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and firearms.
By: Jens Bjerg Sand
More than 7 out of 10 households posses a firearm and one in ten households possess some form of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). The ready availability of weapons means that everyday conflicts can quickly escalate into armed confrontations if they are not managed carefully. Limited knowledge of weapons safety, unsafe storage and household possession of explosives leads to accidents. DDG’s Community Safety programs improve local safety and security by training village volunteers as trainers in Mine Risk Education (MRE) and firearms safety. The volunteers then teach this to their fellow villagers. DDG’s staff additionally provide training to community members in anger management and conflict resolution techniques, in order to assist them in reducing the escalation of disputes into violent clashes. This training, along with the DDG-provided gun locks, used to physically secure weapons, reduce the risk of being exposed to accidents and incidents.
On the 4th of march 2014 in the Burao District of the Togdheer region of Somaliland, DDG celebrated the accomplishment that 80 volunteers have trained a total of 3,751 villagers in MRE and 5,536 in firearm safety in their respective villages. Work on a similar scale was also carried out in Ainabo and Baligubadle Districts during the same period. The districts’ school teachers were also trained by DDG so they could educate children about landmine and weapons hazards.
The governor of the Togdheer region where Burao is located, Mohamed Muuse Diiriye, is very happy with the positive outcome of DDG’s work in his region. “We need to increase the awareness, [make people] not to use guns”, said the governor. “We need you to educate all our districts”.
“The mix of conflict resolution training, safe weapons training and the safe storage-devices that DDG has provided, has significantly reduced the number of [firearms] accidents here”, says Safia Hassan Ibrahim, a 45 years old volunteer women from Unuunley village near Burao. She continues, “Where people used to be fast to pick up and use their guns when agitated, the mix of firearms safety training, gun-locks and anger management, now means the people are handling their conflicts peacefully and without using violence”.
Safia was trained by DDG, and has subsequently voluntarily trained 60 people from her village. She says that in the beginning, people were suspicious that DDG would take their guns away, but when people realized how useful the gun locks were in preventing theft and misuse of their weapons, they became very enthusiastic to use them.
DDG’s mission is to recreate a safe environment where people can live without the threat of landmines, ERW and Small Arms and Light Weapons. DDG’s Community Safety program has operated in Somaliland since 2008 with the goal of improving the safety and security for the ordinary people on the ground.
In 2013, DDG trained 420 community volunteers and schoolteachers in Somaliland who then trained 20,398 and 26,786 of their fellow community members and students in MRE and firearms safety respectively.
“In DDG, we are very grateful that so many villagers feel that the training and the gun locks we have provided has been useful in improving the safety of their villages. The communities are of the impression that DDG’s effort has significantly decreased the number of firearms and violent incidents in their communities” Says Mustafe Ahmed, Acting DDG Community Safety team leader.