By: Justin Ambago Ramba
September 10, 2011 (SSNA) — One feels that it’s time we address the weakness in the apparatus foreseeing the public security in what has now become the Republic of South Sudan. It was and continues to be the main reason why anarchy, fear, and uncertainties never cease to cast their heavy shadows on every aspect of life as seen through the eyes of both its native residents as well as the foreign visitors, even six and a half years after the official end to the North – South two decades war.
Like anywhere else in the world those dispensing security services tend to be more often inclined to blame any short comings in their services on the general lack of equipment, low pay or poor logistics as such, whereas the easily spotted corruption and individual weakness that are too often sighted by service users remain issues very few insiders would admit to without putting a fight.
Although as commonly said that generalisation is not good, yet people have come up with many good fixes for problems largely based on the reasoning that they are basically to be general phenomenon. With this in mind I want to start by the general statement that, ‘power corrupts’, and understanding it is important to understanding why many good people to start with often end up succumbing to the pressures of well organised powerful corruption networks. Politicians and the police together with the other law enforcement agents are most prone to be drawn into this malicious establishment for they do not only hold power, but are also powerful to make things happen, disappear or simply remain the same.
It is for the above reasons that when we refer to the security apparatus, we actually mean to include everybody from the president, cabinet, parliament, security and the law enforcement officers who finally end up being sacrificed too easily when the big sharks deem it necessary to cover their backs. Nonetheless for the sake of this article the author primarily intends to highlight issues pertaining to the Police Service and thus will discuss how effective weeding can benefit the performance of this important sector in our new born state.
But first before we even think of finding out what is wrong or where does the mistake like lie, we are by the necessity of trying to find out a solution directed as such to set up a clear definition and understand of what we mean by Police Service as such, and preferably no more a Police Force. This is so for the obvious reasons that our primarily goals are to offer security to our people, while putting in mind that we are by the law requested to never ever infringe on their Human Rights, an area too often abused when the use of blunt, brute and unwarranted for force becomes the order of the day as currently is the state of affairs with our Police Service.
The issue of Human Rights is a universal concept and it is here to stay and be respected, protected and maintained. When it comes to Human Rights all states are called upon to perform well whether they are as old as the French Republic, the United Kingdom, the United States of America or as new as the Republic of South Sudan, Macedonia, Montenegro or Croatia. So if a state can claim sovereignty it must equally be ready to show the political will of establishing institutions that uphold the concept of Human Rights, especially so in their Police Services as well as their Judiciary.
In the case of South Sudan, while in its semi –autonomous status following the 2005 CPA, per that settlement it was granted the right to form its own Police Service, which it obviously did by drawing most of its ranks and files from the former guerrilla fighters of the SPLA. However now six and a half years this new Police Service has become a problem in itself, while it failed completely to deliver the much needed security for which is was primarily established.
The current Police Service operating in the Republic of South Sudan has never lived up to the expectations of the citizens nor has it given the donors any value to their millions of dollars that they spent on trying to make a conventional Police Service out of it. If it is anything to go by, the South Sudan Police Service (SSPS) is a national disgrace. And based on records of scandals that have found their ways to the media and those hidden within the inner political circles for the fear of criminalising the entire establishment, like dead fish our police service is rotten right from the head.
With a Police Service that condones the systematic rape of female cadets who train in its newly established Academy of Rejaf – this is a severely traumatised sector , bent to dehumanise the entire country beginning by its law enforcement apparatus. Many horrible examples have filled the media across this period of time. One unforgettable ordeal was a young lady who died in July 2011 due to septicaemia after the police authorities in a central police cell in Juba the capital of South Sudan chose to torture her by staffing foreign materials (metal nails, broken glasses, stones) inside her private parts and birth canal.
Not too long ago in August 2011, barely a month from internationally celebrated new country’s declaration of independence from the Republic of Sudan (North) to become the sovereign state of the Republic of South Sudan, a UN official who was also the organisation’s chief Human rights representative was reportedly beaten by some ruthless SSPS Officers who then bundled him at the back of a car to the police department. This UN member of staff was later to be admitted for medical attention due the injuries he sustained in the hands of none but the SSPS officers. All these coupled with cases of a widespread harassment of the civilian population and foreigners from neighbouring Kenya, Uganda , Eritrea, the DRC and Ethiopia, and a bribery-minded Traffic Police, all these contribute to paint an extremely bad picture of a country born in the Internet and Communication Technology (ICT) era, where bad news travel very far and very fast.
Till here a clear pattern of unethical police behave is too obvious to be shovelled under the carpet and no way should the new Minster in the Ministry of Interior fail to discern the miserable state of affairs that he has inherited from his predecessor. There is enough already to implicate much of the old guards in that ministry and no wonder that the public holds a very low opinion on them. They are in their own rights sources of problems given their non-police backgrounds, where they in fact lie more on the side of lawlessness than otherwise.
The fix to the criminal elements in the SSPS is a straight forward one, for a habitual criminal can never be expected to delivery lawfulness. It is just not him/her for the job. Those who will not end up behind the bars despite back records should be retired for their own good because next time they will definitely face the long arm of the law, not too long when the true change comes to South Sudan.
All police officers must undergo revalidation for fitness to serve in this sensitive institution. A clear police code of conduct must be produced and officers without exception must live up to that standard. The Police Academy curricula and in-service courses must be in-line with the international policing standards. It’s time that the entrance to the Police Academy be set at University Degree holders to train as specialised senior officers, while only those who pass the Republic of South Sudan School Certificate or equivalent should be allowed to train as a general police officers. All illiterate officers should better be retired or seek career changes as manual workers in the vast roads and infrastructural constructions industries.
However the author believes in federalising the Police Service while maintaining a national standard in the various States’ level Police Training Schools. A Federal Police Academy for Highly Specialised Officers will exist in the centre open only to university degree holders with clean criminal record checks.
The bottom line to improving policing in our country is to accept the bitter reality that what we current have is not a Police Service but rather a grave source of insecurity that needs to be addressed in its own right as a priority to setting a properly functional Police Service. More than three quarters of the serving officers at different ranks will have to be done away with and a new system for recruitment and training put in place.
It is only when we have trainable and transformable men and women in the service can we they talk of developing them into officers of calibre. Those will be the ones who will need the sophisticated equipment, gadgets and ICT for policing. Till then any money to be poured into what we have now is in fact a reckless waste of public funds, a malpractice we will do well to part with.
Other issue of urgency in need of immediate restructuring in the SSPS is its non- representative composition. The SSPS was anomalously designed to favour particular ethnicities and it is no any secret that the SSPS Commissioners in the Ten States of RSS all without exception hail from one ethnic group. This obviously intended domination could not be treated separately to how it was used to the detriment of the whole South Sudan over the past six and a half years of the CPA semi-autonomy era. This needs an immediate readdress as a prelude to any reforms.
Many ideas and arguments in this article are obviously not meant for gaining personal favours with people in power or high office. However many sugar coated malicious propaganda opinions have for long crippled us from seeing ourselves for exactly what we are. Today we know that we have a rotten Police Service which requests the urgent attention of the new Minister of Interior together with his deputy; they are to commence the needed reforms in their backyards. The National Legislative Assembly and the Council of States should both take a leading and a promoting role on giving momentum to these reforms before we become completely under the mercy of “criminals led Police Service”.