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Changing Guards In Somalia

Like so much of Somalia, the city of Galkayo is divided between competing factions that each controls part of the city. WFP telecoms experts Ryan Twittey and Aleksandar Dulovic, who were recently there on assignment, describe the tense border crossing necessary to get from one part of the city to the other.

A tense situation as guards from the northern part of Gaklacyo escort a WFP armored truck to the dividing line with the southern section of the town, where guards from a competing faction will escort it the rest of the way. Copyright: WFP/Ryan Twittey 

Like so much of Somalia, the city of Galkayo is divided between competing factions that each controls part of the city. WFP telecoms experts Ryan Twittey and Aleksandar Dulovic, who were recently there on assignment, describe the tense border crossing necessary to get from one part of the city to the other.

GALKACYO—Ryan Twittey and Aleksandar Dulovic sat in an armoured vechile on the outskirts of Galkayo watching as their military escorts from the north of the city handed them off to a new set of guards from the south.

“There are two points where you can cross over – one in town and one outside of town,” said Twittey. “We couldn’t access the one in town because of fighting so we had to use the other one. It was a bit of a strange situation.”

It was also unavoidable, he added, as WFP’s office in Galkayo is located in the northern part of the city while its warehouse is located in the south. Travelling from one to the other meant having to change guards in between.

The northern escort accompanied them to the border and then withdrew 100 metres. The escort from the south then approached them and ushered them into their side of town.

A big job

Twittey and Dulovic are members of WFP’s elite IT unit, the FITTEST team, who go to work in emergencies making sure that aid workers can communicate with each other.

They were deployed to Somalia to assist WFP offices in Galkayo, Hargeisa, Berbera and Bossaso in carrying out telecommunications, IT and electrical assessments.

Humanitarian operations across the area are gearing up to manage the escalating food crisis and, as global lead of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), WFP is working to upgrade installations to provide more reliable services to the community.

Working in Somalia

Years of conflict have taken a heavy toll on the East African nation, which the two comms officers said was visible at every turn. “There are a lot of old decrepit buildings, destroyed houses, empty shells and old tanks,” Twittey said.

“In Galkayo, we did get woken up at night by what we think were mortars,” he added. “There was some heavy fighting when we were there. Fortunately, they weren’t aiming at us.”

Due to the volatile security situation in Somalia, the WFP Somalia Country Office is located in Nairobi. Ryan and Aleksandar are now helping out with various IT tasks in Kenya until the equipment arrives and they can gain access back to the country to carry-out necessary infrastructure upgrades.

“I’m looking forward to going back in and getting the work done,” said Dulovic. “The situation across the country might be tense, but we are used to working in tough conditions.”