Protecting South Sudanese children: National police learn new skills, thanks to UNMISS

19 Jul 2018

Protecting South Sudanese children: National police learn new skills, thanks to UNMISS

Beatrice Mategwa

“Children need shelter, children need food, children need protection. They want to be educated,” echoes Jane Hasha Mavima a female Police Officer from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), as she leads a class session of senior police from the South Sudan National Police Service.

These law enforcers are learning about issues concerning the protection of children. For three-days, they will also learn about how to deal with issues relating to sexual and gender-based violence, conflict-related sexual violence, and human rights.

 “We have some of the best laws in the world, but we are still behind in implementation,” says Timothy Kulang, a South Sudanese instructor working for the Child Protection Unit at UNMISS, as he challenges the class to come up with a list of who should legally protect children.

“Mothers, fathers, brothers, relatives, neighbours, community, teachers, local authorities, …” call out the policemen one by one, in a highly interactive session as Kulang charts out the list on a flipchart.

The workshop, dubbed Technical Advice and Assistance, is aimed at transferring skills to the senior police, most of whom are involved in drafting policies that are expected to positively impact on the current status of issues.

“We need to have a buy-in from the national police, because they are the ones who understand their environment very well. We are providing the skills transfer,” said Stephen Okere, the UN Police’s Community Policing Advisor.

“We are looking at the strategic level because for any engagement, it is good to start with the strategic level. Once we have the strategic level we will be able to cascade this concept,” added Okere.

Participating in a role play depicting two minors in trouble, one of the actors, Brigadier John Pacifico, is a delinquent child whose problem is resolved out of court, with parents being part of the crisis resolution.

Speaking on his participation on the course, Pacifico says “it generates some new ideas, and helps you in your own line of work to contribute, maybe, to do something better - they are trying to give us what we know and what we don’t know so that we better our jobs professionally.”

Over the years armed conflict in South Sudan has resulted in various forms of human rights violations and abuses, with communities being neglected and many being subjected to untold suffering.

Though the country is signatory to various international, regional and national laws that see to it that myriad human rights are respected - this does not translate on the ground. Working under its mandate, UNMISS is trying to address this.

Security Council Resolution 2406 mandates the peacekeeping mission to liaise with the national police services, security and government institutions, and carry out protection-focused activities, such as sensitization to issues of sexual and gender-based violence and children and armed conflict.

The resolution also mandates the mission to provide “technical assistance or advice, within existing resources, on international humanitarian law, investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence, as well as other serious human rights violations, in order to strengthen protection of civilians.”