Hassan , a gang member turned tailor

 ‘I was one of the armed militiamen operating in Mogadishu for more than a decade and more. I was one of the fighters engaged in ousting the previous military dictatorial regime in Mogadishu. I was loyal to the USC faction who was supported by the civil society. The whole nation precipitated in a full-scale civil war between the USC groups - contending for power and leadership. For more than a decade, there have been very few employment opportunities other than fighting for a certain faction leader, or defending the economical and political interests of the clan. I and my fellow militiamen initiated, and gradually established the most dangerous gang in the city. Our criminal gang practiced staging roadblocks and forcibly extorting money from the public – and we were one of the most feared names in the city.

I have confronted many serious and risky events during my engagement as an armed militiaman. On one occasion, another militia group, coming from the same clan as ours, attacked our stronghold. There was a serious confrontation between the two groups, which triggered the death of some of the militiamen from both sides. Our leader was killed on the spot. Our group dispersed in the aftermath of the death of our leader. I finally succeeded in remobilizing my group and took the leadership. The group initiated a new working strategy for earning money, while creating friendships with other militia groups and also making alliances with diverse clan militia groups apart from our clan. My group started operating in different areas as a result. My group had the opportunity of earning more money. The collected money was spent mainly on drugs and procurement of ammunition.

Our main job was stealing trucks from one side of the city and taking them to another part of the city, where we would sell them to another group that would cannibalize the stolen truck and sell it as spare parts. We also engaged in abducting people suspected of having money and would release them in exchange of huge payable sums of money. At the end of 2005, the District Commissioner (DC) of my district, and my elder brother, recommended to me to give up the gang job. They told me, they had a good opportunity for me. They urged me to give up my gun in exchange for a skills training programme that would assist me to secure a better income and a better future. I accepted their advice after hard discussion, and agreed to give up my gun and abandon the dishonesty and naughtiness in which I was engaged.

I was enlisted in the programme and participated initially in a numeracy and literacy course for 3-months. After that, I selected to learn tailoring skill and suddenly started the tailoring lessons in a local tailoring business with a lot of experience. There were also some of my gang friends who similarly gained this opportunity. Now it is almost a year of tailoring training, and I have received a monthly incentive throughout that time. I feel confident that the skill I have chosen will give me a good future.

I am happy to have gained the skill training that will assist me live a better life. I promise that I will never retreat to my previous dirty occupation.’