For this report, ten marqaati volunteers took public transportation vehicles across Mogadishu and to Afgoi, Balad, and El Ma’an – the three main roads out of the city – to observe illegal money collection checkpoints in and around Mogadishu that had been reported to marqaati. A further 40 regular users of the road, including drivers and ordinary citizens, were also interviewed.
The findings of our investigation are as follows:
- Government security forces illegally collect money from public buses and cargo trucks.
- The pursuit of illegal payments is hindering security because roads that are supposed to be closed are open to he-who-can-pay.
- Security forces rarely pay bus fares when they use public transportation.
- Security forces collect illegal payments and don’t pay bus fares in plain sight, which creates a sense of lawlessness in the public arena. Interviews conducted with commuters reinforce this finding.
- All illegal payments are collected at or near known security bases.
In our 29-day investigation of 12 security and administration
checkpoints in Mogadishu conducted by 10 volunteers who interviewed 40
users of the roads, illegal money collection amounted to no less than
the equivalent of 3000 US dollars and no less than two hours spent
each day on the roads by each of the 10 volunteers. This means the
figure illegally collected each day is significantly higher. Sums
ranged from as little as 0.25 dollars at the smallest end to 50
dollars at the greatest. See the map below.
View Illegal Money Collection Points In and Around Mogadishu in a larger map
This is a regular occurrence that not only illegally deprives people of cash and slows down traffic, but also risks and exposes the security of a capital regularly under attack.
Most illegal money collection points in and around Mogadishu use legal cover. They are meant either for security or administration purposes; either to search for weapons and suspects or to collect taxes, but no security work actually takes place in all the checkpoints investigated.
Some checkpoints double as security points to search for illegal weapons and terror suspects. But as witnessed by marqaati volunteers, no searching for weapons and suspects actually takes place. Even during times of heightened security threats and when some roads are closed off, marqaati volunteers have witnessed policemen taking “tea” from motorists who want to use roads closed to non-government traffic. None of the 10 marqaati volunteers was searched even once on any of the 12 security checkpoints surveyed in the 29 days that this investigation took place from June 20 to July 20.
No searching for weapons and suspects takes place in any of the security checkpoints that we investigated. The soldiers and police busy taking bribes and not doing their jobs enables the escalation of insecurity inside Mogadishu. Below is a selection of hand grenade, car bomb, and IED (Improvised explosive device) attacks in the neighbourhoods and roads with significant security presence and where said attacks took place during the period of our investigation, showing that the checkpoints are failing and giving a false sense of security.
View Selected Attacks From June to July in a larger map
Some checkpoints inside Mogadishu are used to check for whether public transportation vehicles have licences and also to collect daily vehicle tax from them in the morning. Many minibuses in the city don’t have the proper papers and even fewer drivers of these minibuses have driving licences (due to Somalia’s recent past, few people have valid driving licences today). This makes them vulnerable to traffic and regular policemen who harass them and stop their work if they refuse to pay them a little something.
Given the security risks associated with and the economic burden of these illegal money collection points, marqaati calls on the Somali government to take firm action to fix this problem by:
- Increasing the professionalism of the security forces and discharging criminal elements from duty.
- Paying the security forces on time and in full.
- Banning the chewing of khat by security forces. Given the fact that the average soldier and policeman makes less than enough to pay for a fortnight’s worth of khat (150 dollars), paying them on time becomes irrelevant if they are armed addicts.
- Creating an investigative unit within the ministry of the interior that identifies, investigates and arrests illegal money-collecting security forces.
We at marqaati understand that all these will take time, but we believe that actions should be taken now for this problem of the security forces openly extorting payments from the public to end and to ensure the streets are patrolled properly and made safe.