UNMISS gives 94-year-old Pibor police station its first full on facelift
At the grand old age of 94, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan has given the police station in Pibor a first and much-needed facelift.
While the entire community was in a jealousy-inducing jubilant mood as the refurbished facilities were handed over to the local authorities, female citizens certainly celebrated the moment the most.
“Now I feel safe,” said 47-year-old mother Bithlele Lapenek. “When female and male suspects are put together in one detention cell, it is worrisome,” she added, hinting at the major new feature of the renovated station: separate rooms for men, women and juveniles being held while awaiting court hearings.
Women make up a minority of the detainees at the Pibor police station, and their needs differ from those of male suspects. Yet, being so few, the females behind bars tend to suffer worse treatment than the rest of the clientele. Harassment of a verbal and/or sexual nature has been known to be rife, with women most likely to be on the receiving end of the abuse.
Three and half months of renovation work, financed by the UN peacekeeping mission and undertaken by local organization Humanitarian Development Consortium, has also resulted in other improvements, including three new offices and new ablution units, for inmates and officers alike. The reception area will house an investigation and interview room, while crime evidence material will be closely watched over in the commanding officer’s room.
Enhanced security is yet another nifty feature of the rejuvenated station, according to Police Commissioner and Major General Basilio Thomas Wani.
“Now, suspects can’t escape. The youth will no longer break in and release their [detained] peers,” he said, confident that the upgrade will contribute to a more efficient enforcement of the rule of law.
The youngsters mentioned by Police Commissioner are regularly accused of instigating conflicts and being involved in much-maligned activities such as cattle raiding, abductions and adultery.
“In line with our mandate to protect civilians, the renovation of this police station will hopefully provide a space where the police can work and plan for the security of the area to enable civilians to live in peace,” said Liban Haji, a representative of the peacekeeping mission’s field office in Bor.
To further facilitate the work of their South Sudanese counterparts, UN Police also handed over copies of the country’s constitution and penal code, stationary and equipment optimized for the creation of a register of ongoing and completed cases.
It is hoped that a more effective police force will make displaced people more inclined to return to the area they once called home.
At the handover ceremony, it was noted that bats are no longer likely to overfly the facilities, built in 1925 under British colonial rule. It is also believed that the common sight of rats strolling around the building in broad daylight will become a thing of the past.