One of my favorite tweeters, Laura Seay (@texasinafrica), posted an article by the AP entitled “Stop! Somali traffic police try to restore order.” The article is a good reminder of how the basics of creating a modern state might not be flashy, but they are important and they take time. As Laura put it, “The slow, painful, unsexy process of building the rule of law involves traffic control, too.”
Somalia doesn’t have traffic robots yet, but they do have some brave traffic cops trying to do a very difficult job: enforce traffic laws in a country that hasn’t had any in a long, long time. Here are some of the things the cops have to deal with on a daily basis:
1. When police officers try to get people to stop at red lights, most just keep on driving.
2. “Mogadishu recently began installing road signs for the first time..[for that reason]…Large parts of the country’s residents are unfamiliar with traffic laws.”
3. The traffic police have no cars of their own, nor are there any modern laws on the book to enforce. For instance, Somalia last passed traffic laws in 1962 and the fines listed in said law are in a currency that no longer exists.
4. Suicide bombings are still a regular occurrence. For that reason, “troops from the African Union do not stop for traffic signals or accidents they are involved in.”
5. Militants apparently are not amused by the traffic cops, killing 4 last year in targeted attacks.