In the past, it was not uncommon to see civilians carrying guns in Somalia. Now that is a rare sight. But that does not mean that there are no guns in the hands of civilians. The job of carrying guns has largely been left to private security companies, a new phenomenon in Mogadishu as more business set-up base.
Somalia has achieved relative peace and stability. Business activity has been stirred with both local and foreign investors pumping in millions of dollars into the economy.
All over Mogadishu, there are office blocks, new housing units and apartments. At the port, containers lie in ships awaiting their voyage to the rest of world.
Beneath this commercial excitement, there is one question that troubles the minds of investors and property owners in Mogadishu: How secure is my property?
This worry is understandable. The government can only do so much as to offer general security. It is pressed for resources and has little officers to spare for specific engagements that go beyond the basic responsibility.
This is where private security firms come in. Offering baggage and cargo security, VIP services, residential area security and office security services, private security service is a new phenomenon in Somalia with only a handful players involved so far. In fact, considering the rate at which businesses are setting up here, the few players can hardly meet the need for private security services.
Consider this: According to the Somalia NGO Consortium, there are over 60 international NGOs and development agencies operating in Somalia. These are the ones who have chosen to join. The number of local NGOs is probably way higher.
These development agencies are run by foreigners and for their operations, they need security.
There is also a growing number expatriates in Mogadishu, the capital, and other parts of Somalia. They need escort services and private security services as they go about their business. Then there are local business men who have to secure their property, be it in towns or at the port. The need for dependable private security service is obviously there.
Black and White, Duguf Enterprise, and Daryeel Security Service are some of the few private security firms that operate in Mogadishu at the moment.
These firms and their personnel are easy to spot. They are always at the entrance of any office complex, hotel or in a security pick-up track on the street. They charge an average of US$1,000 per day for the services.
Without any clear legislation guiding the setting up and operations of security companies, these firms just emerge.
A Private Security Service Providers Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2013, but it has never seen the light of the day.
That notwithstanding, for a firm to operate as a private security service provider, it will have to seek a permit from the ministry of internal security.
Firms that are owned by foreigners will operate if: a) it is registered in Somalia; b) the director is (must be) a citizen of Somalia; and c) majority of the shareholders are (should be) citizens of Somalia.
Of course, the universal rules of engagement by security firms apply to the few private security firms in Mogadishu too. For instance, no security guard or firm will divulge to anyone, except as is legally authorised or required, any information regarding operations, client information or other activities conducted as private security agency or guard.
As the Somalia political and economic sectors undergo transformation, supporting services like private security will be critical in satisfying the needs of investors to secure their businesses and other investments.