Somaliland: Expatriates Disregard UK Security Alert

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Ms Erica Bonanno happy and Secure in Somaliland“Apart from the fortnight after the alert when most expatriates took a low profile and mostly remained within the confines of their residences and offices, things are as usual” Ms. Bonanno.

By: Yusuf M Hasan

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – The UK alleged security threat has gone unheeded with less than ten westerners having left the country and subsequently returned a few days later.

Foreigners working in the country continue with their daily activities unencumbered by the security threat alert issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office last

According to Ms. Erica Bonanno, an American citizen working for an international organization in Hargeisa, life in Somaliland continues as usual with most expatriates having stayed in apparent disregard of the UK alert.

“Apart from the fortnight after the alert when most expatriates took a low profile and mostly remained within the confines of their residences and offices, things are as usual” Said Ms. Bonanno.

The Somalilandsun interviewed Ms. Bonanno during the launch of the Transparency Solutions owned Somali Star Investment at Ambassador Hotel where the American informed that she has been in Somaliland since November 2011 and her security remains the same.

She related that during a period of 15 days after the insecurity alert, she and her colleagues curtailed most of their after work activities like jogging, strolling in the markets or dinning out etc. while coordinating events with assigned Special Protection Unit-SPU officers who continuously kept them abreast.

Said she, “Since then we have reverted to pre-alert activities having failed to verify the aptness of the alert”

She reveals that heExpatriates join locals at the launch of SSI in Hargeisar main persuasion to stay is mostly related to having learnt of the alert through the BBC and subsequent perception that the UN was not perturbed thus staffer’s non adherence as they continued business as usual. Most international agencies operating in Somaliland rely on the UN office for Somalia on any important issues like security etc. for expatriates as well as The NGO Safety Program (NSP) for Somalia / Somaliland.

Ms. Bonanno who like other expatriates interviewed by the Somalilandsun requested that her employer should not be mention because her comments were personal and have nothing to do with the international organization she works for.

The 29 years old American of Italian descend informed that she finds Somaliland very secure as opposed to Afghanistan and Sierra Leone where she worked before thus having regular visits from her Washington DC based boyfriend.

“Although there was no war in Sierra Leone during my posting, I feel more secure in Somaliland’ she said

Last month, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office released a travel advisory in which it advised its citizens and other foreigners to leave Somaliland immediately due to an imminent security threat against westerners especially as pertains to kidnappings.

The government of Somaliland has negated the alleged security threat while confirming that the security of all expatriates/foreigners in the country is the responsibility of the government. The police commissioner went as far as to invite British security branches to visit thus firsthand experience of existing security.

During a an official visit to the UK in early February the Foreign Secretary Hague and President Silanyo after their meeting discussing the UK alert in Londonhead of state H.E Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo raised the issue with the British foreign and commonwealth secretary William Hague in London as well as the American Envoy to Kenya Ambassador Ropert F. Godec

During their meeting in London Both the president and the Foreign Secretary drew attention to the invaluable role that Somaliland plays in the fights against terrorism, noting that, the recent travel advice citing threats to western nationals in Somaliland will soon be revised as the security agents of both countries conclude their joint operations on those threats.

Meanwhile a number of expatriates contacted by Somalilandsun have informed that they have taken returned to usual routines after their extra precautionary security measures that followed the insecurity alert from Britain.

Just like Ms. Bonanno most expatriates say their security remains the same as always and their movements are back to normal and their main bone of contention with the UK alert emanate from what they term as poor channels of communication.

“While taking some Anti UK Travel Ban demonstrations/fileprecautionary measures we failed to heed the A security alert and travel ban due to the source which was the BBC’

The expatriates say that having learned of their UK perceived insecurity they pursued the matter with the UN and NSP of whom “We are not aware” was the respond.

The NGO Safety Program (NSP) for Somalia / Somaliland is a program created by NGOs, which aims at contributing to International and National NGOs operating safely and securely in Somalia / Somaliland.

NSP, initially called the NGO Security Preparedness and Support (NGO SPAS), was established in 2004 by NGOs operating in Somalia / Somaliland. One of the driving forces that gave rise to the program was the targeted killing of five aid workers between 2003 and 2004 and the realization that the operating environment for national and international NGOs was changing rapidly. Today, Somalia is considered as one of the most challenging context in terms of security for NGOs.

Based on similar programs around the world like ANSO, the specific objective of NSP is to ensure ‘NGOs operating in Somalia are receiving relevant and efficient support and preparation in terms of security’.

The January UK insecurity alert which was the first issued by a foreign for Somaliland elicited a lot of opposition from citizens who took to the streets in Massive demonstrations protesting the terming of their country as a terrorist haven thus insecure.

On 28th February 2013 the NSP released an Updated Advisory on British Travel Alert for Somaliland with clarifications that the “specific threat” that was mentioned in that travel alert was not directed at humanitarian agencies.

The NSP advisory read:Special trained officers provide expatriates with 24/7 security

Quote – Additional information gathered from various sources during the week indicates that the threat level for humanitarian agencies operating in Somaliland has not fundamentally been modified despite the updated British travel alert that was issued on 27 January 2013

The “specific threat” that was mentioned in that travel alert was not directed at humanitarian agencies.

Recommendations

Precautionary measures that were suggested on 28/12 can be lifted, namely:

• Avoiding sending international staffs to Somaliland for unessential missions.

• Avoiding unessential movements of international staffs already in Somaliland.

• However humanitarian agencies should:

• Avoid concentrating international staffs – particularly American or European – in compounds with poor protection.

• Review their compound protection particularly considering a generic threat of kidnapping.

• Maintain a high level of vigilance and ensure all staffs report suspicious behaviour to their managers.-Unquote

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