UNMISS and local police service sign agreement to collectively protect displaced families
With a ceasefire deal and a peace agreement in place, many communities across South Sudan are finally beginning to rebuild their lives in the wake of a five-year long civil war.
A significant reduction in political violence across the world’s youngest nation is also improving the lives of displaced families living in UN protection sites. Many residents have returned to their own homes while those remaining in the camps move freely to work, shop, and go to school in nearby towns.
As a result, these sites are gradually being transitioned to more conventional displacement camps under the sovereign control of the national government. The South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) is taking on the important role of ensuring the safety and security of displaced civilians in the camps.
“Local police are the lynchpin upon which displaced people ultimately depend on to feel safe enough to eventually return to their homes. As UNPOL, we will, of course, continue to do everything we can do to support them,” explains Unaisi Bolatolu-Vuniwaqa, UNMISS Police Commissioner.
This week, an operation coordination agreement was signed between UNMISS and the SSNPS empowering the local police service to assume primary responsibility for the protection of all citizens.
The agreement, signed by Commissioner Vuniwaqa-Bolatolu and General Majak Akec, Inspector General, South Sudan, provides an overarching framework delineating the roles and responsibilities of UNPOL and SSNPS, in terms of policing activities within and around these camps. These activities include responding to sexual and gender-based violence and other criminal acts. It will ensure a combined effort to protect displaced civilians through coordinated security patrols and information-sharing.
Speaking at the event, General Majak Akec called the agreement a “historic document.”
“We at SSNPS take full responsibility and are committed to working cooperatively with all stakeholders to ensure that our people are safe” he added.
General Majak also asked UNMISS to continue building local policing capacity through training and providing updated equipment.
Commissioner Bolatolu-Vuniwaqa commended the SSNPS for being accountable as the primary law enforcers in South Sudan.
“Police to police cooperation is vital for a nation’s safety,” she stated. “This agreement binds us to each other and makes it incumbent upon us to put the security and protection of every South Sudanese ahead of any other task.”
“If national police are accessible to the community, then community members will feel emboldened to come forward and report offences. They will have a sense of security and know that law and order issues are being properly addressed.”
Humanitarian services will continue at these camps after the transition is complete. No one will be forced to leave, but it is hoped that the full implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement will enable the displaced families to return safely and with dignity to their homes to enjoy a more peaceful and prosperous future.