June 25, 2012 (SSNA) — “Things that are not said divide people”. The implication and the opposite of this quotation is very clear which is “Things that are said unite people”. This was what precisely happened in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) leadership council meeting in Rumbek in 2004. In the meeting commanders and heads of commissions spoke their minds, heavily criticizing the chairman and commander-in-chief of the SPLM/A for running the SPLM/A as a one man’s show and his inability to address issues. The commanders and heads of commissions poured out openly their grievances to the chairman and commander-in-chief without mincing their words. At the end one commander observed that the meeting had saved lives and added that if there was anything which was not clear was said then. This clearly suggests that problems should be put on the table for a dialogue in search of solutions.
Insecurity in Juba is so rampant that no one can be mussled for speaking out openly about it. Everyone is aware that insecurity in Juba is indeed worrying. An accusing finger has been pointed at the police in uniform for aggravating insecurity by participating in night crimes such as robberies. On the other hand the lack of clearly defined responsibilities between the police at the state and national level is blamed for the rampant insecurity in Juba. This, however, suggests that we may have to revisit the concept of decentralization and devolution of powers in addressing the menace of insecurity. Insecurity in Juba is taking a high toll and is a cause of great concern to law abiding citizens.
Insecurity a challenge
Insecurity in Juba is indeed a great a challenge to anyone concerned. People are very uncomfortable putting up with rampant insecurity close at home. They constantly fear for their safety. This may affect performance as people’s concentration is on constant fear instead of on their jobs. This may not be difficult to understand why this is so. Two days ago a manager of Eden money exchange institution was gunned down in cold blood and robbed of money at dusk not far from the black uniform police unit in Nyokuron. Strangely enough the South Sudanese public seems to have become apathetic. No one raised the alarm when the manager was shot several times before the killer drove away with the money leaving the manager mortally wounded and dead. This is one typical example of insecurity in Juba that instills fear in people.
The enormous challenge is apprehending those criminals who are the perpetrators of insecurity. It is the absence of capturing those criminals to face the law that sends the worst fears through the spines of people. Such criminals should be captured and face the law with heavy penalties as a deterrent. How often are these criminals caught is not clear? Nevertheless, short of catching these criminals, rampant insecurity with horrific crimes committed will become part of life in Juba with unknown consequences to the stability and development in this new nation.
Decentralisation and devolution of powers in South Sudan
Decentralisation and devolution of powers in South Sudan as a mechanism of stability and unity is revisited. The SPLM political programme 2008 – 2013 aims to transform a secular South Sudan to a nation of peace, freedom, unity, equality and prosperity for all, and the programme highlights decentralization and devolution of powers. Also, Article 47(b) of the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan 2011 stipulates that South Sudan shall have a decentralized system of government.
On devolution of powers Article 49(1b) is helpful in that it sets out how the link between the national and state government should have been like. This makes it difficult to understand what the confusion is between the national government and the state when they are supposed to provide the same services to the same people. For example, insecurity is blamed on the lack of clearly defined responsibilities between the police at the state and national level and the absence of land to establish police stations. For land there is a police unit in Nyokuron with transport facilities but some of the most grueling and horrific killings are occurring in Nyokuron. How can this be explained where there is a police unit on a secured land yet people give lack of land as an excuse for rampant insecurity in Juba? To address insecurity in the short term which is urgently needed is to rent a place in a residential area as a visible security measure while a piece of land is being sought for a long term solution.
Adhering to a decentralized system as conceived by experts but not by politicians would have eased insecurity where it is the state to train and deploy its police force. However, what seems to be happening is that the national government trains and deploys police to the state which seems to have a minimum role in the deployment. This is unfortunately mistaken for decentralization which is in fact centralization contrary to the concept of decentralisation. The national police service should have been a support to the state police service instead of being separate and overriding on state police service. This is where the confusion arises as there seems to be a competition and duplication of effort which drains the available meagre resources. Also, lack of clear zoning to locate where each police service should have operated adds to the confusion. Zoning would have been helpful to identify which police service was responsible for an area for accountability. Politics may be to blame for the confusion. However, for now a better way forward is an urgent mechanism for effective coordination, collaboration, cooperation and teamwork between the state and national police service as a solution to the prevailing rampant insecurity in Juba.
Ideally the police are there for the community where the community looks to the police for protection and justice. However, in Juba more often the police and men in uniform have become suspect of some of the most horrendous crimes. For example, in a Nyokuron residential area a woman was shot dead at night in her home and the killer was suspected to have been a police. The following morning the lamentations of community members touched the hearts of police officers. Now there is a contingent of police stationed in the area mingling with people. The illustration is clear. Night police patrols were seen as dangerous when killings and robberies occurred with impunity. It is obvious that stationing the police in the community is helpful in promoting good community-police relations. The community is likely to have confidence in the police when the police are close and discuss issues of interest to the community. This may warm up community-police relations which will be helpful to the community and the police as confidence is built up.
When community members and the police mingle in an atmosphere of trust, friendships may develop. This is useful in creating mutual understanding that may make the police as suspects of crimes a thing of the past. One problem may be that night police patrols are made haphazardly with no clear system in place. For example, a police patrol may start off without a clear plan of routes and areas to patrol. The police move at their own convenience without any focus to protect the community. This may explain how police are suspect of crimes in their night patrols. The police are also known for their brutality. They take the law into their own hands when sometimes they beat up people and harass them to their satisfaction, making the police look sadistic. More often police brutality goes unnoticed or even ignored completely. This suggests that the police are sometimes the first to violate citizen’s constitutional rights instead of protecting them. However, with good community-police relations things may improve for the better.
Police complaint unit
When the police or members of other security organs brutalise citizens what happens next is an open question. The citizen may have nowhere to lodge a complaint against police or indeed any other security agent’s brutality. For example, a police may be reluctant to investigate a fellow police. Also, when an officer brutalizes a citizen a mere police may take no action against the officer with the possible claim that their rank is lower to handle the case involving an officer. Often citizens are left bitter after an experience with crude police. There may not be any way out to lodge a complaint but for the citizen to shallow his bitterness in silence. This may be where the public is likely to be distrustful and even hate the police.
One way of addressing citizens’ grievances against the police or indeed any other personnel of security organs is for the institutionalization of a police complaint unit. This unit should be mandated to receive all sorts of complaints against the personnel of any security agency regardless of the rank of the personnel. The unit can also work as a bridge between citizens and security organs in promoting mutual understanding for a better way forward in citizen-police relations.
In conclusion, South Sudanese are people of one destiny. They struggled together, navigated the route to freedom together and ultimately achieved independence together. A failed South Sudan is not in the interest of anybody because none will be left immune. South Sudanese will all sink together to the bottom. Divisive politics of intrigues is therefore a recipe for disaster. Decentralisation and devolution of powers is a mechanism well thought out by experts and revolutionaries for sustainable unity and progress of any country on planet earth. However, the opposite is a catastrophic disaster in waiting.
The author can be reached at [email protected]