Here in Somalia, there are quite a few armed groups kicking around. Some are on the good side of the Somali government, other groups, not so much. Let me run you through the good guys, first.

Somali Police Force

The Somali Police Force isn’t your typical law enforcement agency. Some of its members are former militiamen from back in the day, and some of them are nice dudes. They run the day-to-day jobs here in Mogadishu, man checkpoints, and deal with violent situations. And here, those happen a lot and can involve gunfights and machete attacks. The police are also here to limit the presence of al-Shabaab.

These men have seen a lot of fighting in their past—some have 20 years or more of fighting experience. It’s safe to say these guys have seen their fair share of violence over the years, and as such, they are just like the regular Somali army. Here in the city, they more or less do the same job and act the same way. They also share the same mentality: They act as a fighting force rather than a protection force. They sometimes wear the same uniforms as regular military, which can make it hard to tell who is who.

I personally think this causes a lot more problems than it solves. The police are drawn into every counterinsurgency campaign, and meanwhile, the people need a more friendly, accessible force to go to and share information. It’s proven that the police are a more approachable force than the military. But because the two intertwine here, I feel as though the country is missing that element in this fight. I have heard a number of stories while I have been here of the police being scared and on edge. This has led to gun fights and innocent people getting shot, which does nothing to generate trust or rapport with citizens.