UNMISS and UNDP jointly support review of Police-Community Relations Committees to bolster protection of civilians
A technical working group has recommended that Police-Community Relations Committees be headed by traditional leaders in Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area of South Sudan.
Earlier this week, United Nations Police (UNPOL) serving with UNMISS and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) jointly supported the review of 20 such committees in Bor, Pibor and Akobo. The main aim: To fortify the protection of civilians.
“We are reviewing these committees to identify and prioritize the needs and the problems faced by our communities in all states and are consolidating a single, overarching policy for community policing,” said Major General Stephen Warkozi from the national police headquarters. Major-General Warkozi is leading the task of making these committees more effective and responsive to people’s needs across this young nation.
Each Committee is constituted by a team of community leaders who work with local police to prevent crime. Previously it was headed by State Governors but now, in a bid to promote local ownership of law and order, it will be headed by community leaders.
Each committee shall consist of minimum of 12 members drawn from paramount chiefs, members of organized forces, civil society and faith-based organizations, trade unions, women, academics and media partners among others.
Regular Committee sessions shall be chaired by the Chief while the police focal points will serve as Secretaries. These meetings will be either monthly or bi-weekly as decided by the security situation in individual states. This arrangement will be replicated at all levels within the state.
The plan is simple: Community members will have a responsibility to maintain law and order within their area and bolster police capacity. This strategy is supported by UNPOL which is building capacities among their national counterparts. “South Sudan has been through many crises in the decade following its inception as the world’s newest nation. Jonglei state and the Greater Pibor Administrative area is perhaps among the worst affected by conflict. Our aim with this unified policy is to boost community resilience, trust and confidence in national police,” explained Emmanuel Boampang, UNPOL Coordinator, Bor. “Every individual needs to be aware of and follow the laws of the land. These Committees help build collective responsibility for a peaceful, prosperous life for all communities.”
For its part, UNDP is providing technical and equipment-based support to this capacity-building endeavor through its Access to Justice, Security and Human Rights Strengthening programme in Bor. “Every citizen has a role to play in the sort of community they want to live in. The police cannot be everywhere all the time. So, it is up to you to shoulder your individual role in building a safe, stable environment for your children,” said Peruth Karungi, a security specialist from UNDP.
There are currently 14 Police-Community Relations Committees in Bor, one in Twic East, three in Greater Pibor Administrative Area and two in Akobo which have proven to be effective in resolving individual and community disputes that could have, potentially, spiraled into violent conflict.
The insecurity in Jonglei State has been exacerbated by a weak security and justice due to the several years of conflict and political violence. Moreover, community safety and security were compromised by circulation of small arms and light weapons in the hands of unauthorised individuals, increased crime rates, gender-based violence, abductions and intercommunal feuds, revenge killings and abductions. Trust deficits and competition over resources have further strained relations and spread social tension.
However, the people-centred core of community policing and its emphasis on partnerships between the police and the public for purposes of promoting public security has become increasingly popular since community members themselves are viewed as equal stakeholders in crime prevention and detection.