Community service and the rule of law go hand in hand: Colonel Faduma Mohamed
In her youth, Faduma Hassan Mohamed knew it would not be easy to become a police officer, given the prevailing views in Somali society that law enforcement was only suitable for men.
Her parents, relatives and friends tried hard to discourage her from joining the Somali Police Force (SPF), arguing that she was not cut out to deal with security issues.
“My parents did not want me to join the police force, and it took me a lot of time to convince them, especially my mother who was very hesitant,” reminisces Faduma, who joined the SPF in 1971 at the age of 16.
She says she was inspired by the few women who managed to join the SPF and become senior officers in the male-dominated profession.
“Being in the police force was my passion. It was the only profession I knew and still understand very well. It runs in my blood,” explains the 64-year-old Faduma, who was promoted to the rank of colonel in 2017.
Making her dream come true
During her childhood, Faduma’s family was struggling to make ends meet. Her father was the sole breadwinner but did not have steady work. To help her household while still aiming to achieve her professional dreams, Faduma left school and joined the police force.
“I underwent an intensive six-month training at the present-day General Kahiye Police Academy and graduated as a police constable. My dream had finally come true. I also had to support my siblings,” says the colonel.
While at the police academy, Faduma managed to resume her secondary school studies.
“I would work in the morning and go to school in the afternoon until I completed my secondary education in 1976. I knew the importance of education in my future life,” she adds.
Challenges and violence all around
It has not been an easy path for the Mogadishu-born officer during a career that has spanned almost five decades of work in law enforcement. She has had close brushes with death and lost close relatives to terrorist attacks.
The worst year in her career was 2016, following her appointment as the SPF’s Director of Community Policing.
Faduma was at work when she learned that an improvised explosive device had targeted her house in Mogadishu’s Hamarweyne district, killing two of her grandsons, aged nine and 10, who were playing nearby.
Later that year, gunmen ambushed her vehicle in the Somali capital, spraying it with bullets and killing three of the six occupants. By happenstance, Faduma was not in the vehicle that day because she had lent it to friends who needed to run some errands. The gunmen attacked the vehicle on the assumption that she was among the occupants.
“I thought about abandoning police work,” she admits. “I was hurting inside and felt helpless. However, I thank Allah that the two incidents eventually made me stronger and even more committed to law enforcement,” says Col. Mohamed.
In addition to facing attempts on her life in recent years, Faduma was forced to take a break from the profession she loved due to the outbreak of civil war in Somalia in 1991 and the consequent collapse of the country’s security institutions.
“There was anarchy everywhere, warlords were staking a claim to the city and we would go for months without salary. I decided to take a break from police work and venture into farming,” says the mother of three children.
A gradual return to order
This hiatus did not last long, however. In 1993, she resumed her police duties when the United Nations rallied the international community to intervene and help establish a secure environment for delivering humanitarian aid in Somalia.
Over the ensuing years, Faduma managed to rise through the ranks until she became a full colonel two years ago.
Since Fadumo took over the SPF’s community policing programme in 2015, relations between the force and members of the public have improved in Mogadishu. For example, all police stations are required to carry out regular community policing activities under the guidance of her directorate.
As a result, the number of volunteers working closely with the police on security matters has increased over past years when the relationship was fraught with suspicion on both sides.
“One of the major achievements of my directorate was the recruitment of over 300 volunteers in Mogadishu to work with the police. This has helped bridge the information gap between the police and the public,” she notes.
An example for Somali women
Security matters aside, Col. Mohamed is a strong advocate of education for girls and believes women can excel in any profession if given a chance. She has no regrets about her decision to pursue law enforcement as a career, adding that she is satisfied with her contributions to the country’s stabilization process.
As Somali women join their counterparts in the rest of the world to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, the senior police officer urges them to be more involved in their country’s decision-making process.
“If women are not involved, there can be no peace because women are always in touch with the community,” Faduma observes.