Ntono, a shining star in Somalia

She believes involving women in peacekeeping will save the world from conflicts because of their ability to de-escalate tensions with great effect, due to their possession of soft skills like communication and patience.

It is said that Africa cannot achieve its agenda for peace without the involvement of the youth and women in nation-building, conflict resolution, and peace processes.

Perhaps this is the reason why, across the continent, more and more women are working with courage and determination for the realisation of a peaceful, progressive and prosperous Africa.

Take, for example, Mildred Ntono, a 39-year-old mother of four, who, for the past several months, has been on the frontlines actively participating and contributing to the restoration of peace and security in Somalia.

With 17 years of service in the Uganda Police Force, Inspector Mildred is one of 33 female peacekeepers deployed with the Ugandan contingent under the police component of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

She believes involving women in peacekeeping will save the world from conflicts because of their ability to de-escalate tensions with great effect, due to their possession of soft skills like communication and patience.

“With such soft skills, women can easily gain the trust and confidence of the local people and foster social cohesion, which is exactly what we are doing out there interacting with Somalis from all walks of life,” Ntono says.

But then, women and children are also the biggest casualties of war, due to their vulnerabilities. This is where Ntono’s one-year tour of duty in Somalia with AMISOM comes in handy as she has done her best to address this problem.

With formal training in Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Ntono pays keen attention to women while in the field, with a view of enlightening them on the role they can play in peacekeeping while insulating them against sexual exploitation and abuse.

“I look out for women because they are targets for all kinds of violence during armed conflict. In most cases, women are left behind to take care of children and are unable to escape, making them vulnerable to rape and other forms of violence. So, the effects of the conflict impact them differently from men. That’s why it’s vital for me to enlighten them and involve them in active community safety so that their interests are catered for,” says Ntono.

Bringing together police officers from Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Zambia, and Sierra Leone, AMISOM Police has the mandate to build the capacity of the Somali Police Force (SPF), in the ongoing efforts to pacify Somalia from years of civil war and terrorism. In a nutshell, they keep law and order in the areas the military has liberated from the Al-Shabaab.

In honour of her contribution to this mandate, Ntono’s dedicated service was recently recognised by the AMISOM Police Commissioner, Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP), Augustine Magnus Kailie.

While decorating her with an AMISOM pin-up badge at a function held in Mogadishu in February, AIGP Kailie remarked: “She might look small in size, but don’t be fooled, her contribution is remarkable.”

Mildred was one of 15 Individual Police Officers (IPOs) from the six AMISOM Police Contributing Countries (PCCs), who were recognised by AIGP Kailie in an initiative to identify and motivate distinguished service at an individual level. Two other Ugandans, both male, were also recognised.

Tasked with mentoring and advising the Somali Police Force (SPF), IPOs conduct training and roll out several policing approaches meant to transform SPF into a force that adheres to international policing standards, above all, one that respects human rights.

Ntono’s dedication to actualising this task stood out to many, including SPF officials, her colleagues, and superiors.

“She has empowered many women encountered during her one-year tour of duty in Somalia. As a result, Somali women have been encouraged to join SPF and keep law and order in their country, a number of them encouraged by merely looking at her and her female teammates in police uniform,” says Chief Superintendent of Police, El-Mustapha Sani, the AMISOM Police Public Information Officer.

Ntono says it takes a lot of sacrifice working on such a mission, considering she had to leave her young children, and husband back home, just so she can serve.

“I am even lucky since my husband has been supportive taking care of the children while I am away. A lot of women serving under the same mission are single mothers and have to figure out who to leave their children with before depployment,” Ntono says.

Deployed in Mogadishu as a team site leader, Ntono leads a team of seven IPOs from the different police contributing countries (PCCs) on daily trips to different police stations, where they collocate with the SPF, mentoring and advising them on different policing aspects.

“Typically, collocation with the SPF is doing daily police work alongside them as we observe and later advise on what was done right and what wasn’t, and then giving pointers on what should have been done,” Ntono says.

On a daily basis, Ntono draws out a collocation programme for a given geographical area, deploys team IPOs to respective duty stations, and coordinates the activities of the day out in the field with colleagues.

While at it, she handles any administrative matters and eventualities that sometimes include run-ins with law breakers and correcting improper reporting procedures.

She also compiles daily activity and situation reports updating the mission headquarters on trends in the team’s area of responsibility.

Together with her team, Ntono has mentored the SPF in care and handling of suspects, recording of cases, running different kinds of investigations with specific attention to cases related to SGBV, and community policing.

“Working with her has taught me a lot, most importantly, leading by example. She doesn’t just deploy you and sit back, she joins in and sees the work through with you,” says Ntono’s teammate, Inspector of Police Victor Katuta from the Zambian contingent.

That aside, Ntono also conducts joint patrols with the SPF and executes special duties as instructed by the AMISOM operations coordinator, including vetting prospective female police officers ahead of recruitment into the force.

“Because of our work, there is a visible change. There is no more torture of suspects, police cells are no longer congested, and documentation and investigation of cases has improved. Plus, more Somali women are reporting SGBV cases because they trust the system, and are guaranteed privacy,” she observes.

A holder of a Bachelor of Development Studies degree from Makerere University and a Diploma in law from the Law Development Centre, Mildred’s expertise in policing covers areas like counter-terrorism, peace support operations, SGBV, and investigations.

She has worked in different units including fire, intelligence, operations, and criminal investigations. Before joining AMISOM, Ntono worked in the Criminal Investigation Department at Parliament of Uganda, assigned to the House’s public accounts committee as a detective.

She has held leadership positions like district crime intelligence officer for Sironko and Ngora districts, Officer-In-Charge of Lubigi Police Station in Nansana, and Officer-In-Charge of investigations of police posts and stations like Ngora, Sironko, Jinja East, Nalufenya, Nansana Gganda, Kajjansi, and head of SGBV desk at Jinja Police Station.

Born in Namutumba district in eastern Uganda, Mildred attended Aturukuku Primary School, Rock High School, and Tororo Progressive where she sat her Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education. She, thereafter, enrolled for her law diploma, after which she enlisted with the Uganda Police Force in 2003 to fulfill her childhood dream to work in law enforcement.

“Many people don’t live their childhood dreams; I am and am so grateful,” she says.

“I am especially humbled to have been given the opportunity to take part in the liberation of Somalia, engaging with people at the grassroots level, uplifting women and making them realise they matter plenty in the ongoing peace process.

Representing my country on such a multidimensional mission is even more fulfilling. Though I have given, I have also learnt a lot from the Somalis and other people from different parts of the world. Most importantly I have played my part in fostering regional peace because peace at your neighbour’s means peace at your own. And I am confident peace will come to Somalia.”


Sources: New Vision