Home | News    Monday 19 January 2009

Juba Airport officers accused of harassing Indian Ambassador

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By James Gatdet Dak

January 18, 2009 (JUBA) – A number of unidentified Security and Customs Officers deployed at Juba International Airport have been accused of harassing a senior diplomat on Thursday.

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Ambassador Deepak Vohra

Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Gabriel Changson Chang, told the press on Friday that about six Customs or Security Officers involved in dramatic embarrassing situation on Thursday when they demanded to inspect the baggage of the Indian Ambassador to Sudan, Deepak Vohra, and tried to block him from boarding a plane to Khartoum if he did not pay them some money in bribery.

The incident which ended peacefully after some other interventions forced the Indian Consul General in Juba to present a complaint to the Government of Southern Sudan through the Ministry of Regional Cooperation after informing the Ministry about the incident.

The Government of Southern Sudan’s cabinet after being briefed on Friday by the Minister of Regional Cooperation, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, on the incident immediately resolved to direct the Minister of Internal Affairs to take some immediate measures that included identifying the culprits who involved in the incident, investigate and prosecute them.

The incident disappointed the Government which described it as “embarrassing.”

In his narration to the Council of Ministers meeting chaired by the Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, the GoSS Regional Cooperation Minister told the cabinet that the incident started when the Indian Consul General in Juba went to the Airport on Thursday morning to check-in the baggage of the Ambassador who was traveling to Khartoum. He said four security or customs officers emerged and asked the diplomat to open the baggage for inspection.

Marial explained that it happened despite the fact that the baggage which consisted of four packages were clearly labeled as “Embassy of India Khartoum” which unfortunately the Officers did not respect.

He further explained that the diplomat tried to explain to the Officers that it was not necessary to search the baggage since the Ambassador had privileges and immunities that exempt him from such searches, but they still insisted on opening the baggage.

Under the international Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the baggage of the Head of Diplomatic Mission is exempt from Customs searches.

The incident was resolved after intervention by another senior officer from the Security Detachment at the Arrival Section who immediately authorized check-in of the Ambassador’s baggage without inspection.

Unfortunately, the matter did not end there. When the Ambassador, Deepak Vohra himself arrived at the Airport and went to the VIP lounge, two other personnel in plain clothes who were not present among the first four officers accosted him in the lounge and told him rudely that they would open his baggage unless he produced the relevant “documents” or gave them money.

“When the Ambassador politely asked what documents were needed, they were unable to answer. In order to avoid an unpleasant situation, Ambassador Vohra offered to travel without his baggage. As he was on his way to the aircraft, the two officers rudely tried to block his way, but seeing other passengers looking at them, they moved away,” lamented the Minister.

“When the Ambassador’s diplomatic passport and Identity Card were shown to them, they shouted, “We don’t care throw the passport away,” he added.

The cabinet discussions on the incident also recalled other similar unpleasant incidences involving not only diplomats but also senior GoSS officials at the Airport.

One of the many incidences that involved GOSS senior officials at the Airport was when the Minister of Gender, Social Welfare and Religious Affairs, Mary Kiden Kimbo, was also harassed by some security officers during this New Year’s holidays when her plane was prevented from taking off as she was traveling to Kaji-Keji (her constituency).

Madam Kiden said the security officers told her that they would first ask for permission from the Minister of Internal Affairs before they would allow her plane to take off.

Even so, the Airport management that deals with issues of flights (landing and taking off) of planes is under the Civil Aviation (i.e. GoSS Ministry of Transport), not under the security (i.e. Ministry of Internal Affairs), officials also observed.

Another incident occurred during the same holidays when $500 dollars belonging to the GoSS Minister of Housing and Public Utilities were robbed by unidentified security personnel at the Airport. The Minister gave about $2,000 dollars to a Kenyan business man who was traveling to Nairobi so that he could take the amount to the Minister’s family in Nairobi.

Inspecting the baggage and getting the money inside the bag, the security personnel demanded to take $500 dollars in order to leave the Kenyan man with the remaining $1,500 dollars.

After taking the money by force and hurriedly leaving the Airport compound, the Kenyan man alerted the Office Manager of the Minister who then rushed to the Airport to rescue the situation. The security personnel who already left the Airport was traced and found later as he was shopping in town with the money.

In the light of the embarrassing and unpleasant incidences, the Council noted that there were uncoordinated and parallel deployments of security, customs, civil aviation (from both Government of National Unity and Government of Southern Sudan) and the SPLA intelligent officers at the Airport.

In order to prevent from recurring what the officials say was “embarrassing to the Government,” the Council of Ministers passed a number of resolutions that called for streamlining of the different agencies that seemed to be working independently or in parallel of each other without proper coordination.

It also resolved on the immediate need to further train or educate such agencies or officers deployed at the Airports on international Conventions or protocols that deal with diplomats, VIPs, etc.

The cabinet through the Ministry of Regional Cooperation also urged diplomats and other relevant international bodies to continue to coordinate their travels (arrivals and departures) to and fro Southern Sudan and Juba in particular with the Ministry of Regional Cooperation.

(ST)

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  • 19 January 2009 07:54, by Nelson Turdit

    wow, India Diplomat harassed at the airport? this is all about corruption that ,s why security offiecrs at the airport misbehave toward Diplomat and demand money. all those who are depolyed in the airport are not qualified for the job to protect the integrity of this country. in advance countries where there is proper security, any person assigned to the airport duties must take a aoth in front of the judge for transparency, accountability and other involvment of dealing with Dipolmats and maintain international imigration law. i believe that, those who are working at the airport know nothing about dipolmat or protection of the people rather than money to get rich quickly and be at the same level with corrupts bosses.

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    • 19 January 2009 08:18, by Biden Osire

      Nelson you are correct but if i can imagine this issue is not a new case always and if investigated well you will find that those deployed as security officers there are from one tribe/language of origin with some close relationship with the boss who deployed them for the sake of getting money rather than doing the actual duty as stipulated to them... otherwise try take survey by finding who are those officers deployed at boarder check points if not one tribe starting from Nadapal,Tseretenya,Nimule, Kaya etc the ....see also sensitive places here in juba like Banks,head of department(finance etc) still the some category of people play the some game, like army deployment from top to bottom all are the some case infact it is needless to count them or name but try ur best to find more.

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    • 20 January 2009 01:40, by Mr Point

      Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, the Minister of Regional Cooperation, is exactly the minister who will put an end to corruption at all airports.

      He will set an example that anyone will wonder at.

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  • 19 January 2009 13:51, by Gen. Double Wood

    It is not only Embarrassment, but this is a situation will would leave most of our GOSS official looking at each other. I don’t see any reason our untrained Airport security officers would like to retard their career by doing such appalling moves. Remember Juba Airport is a baby type airport which is subjected to terrorists which all of us understand but could not allow our security officers to harass such a world renowned person.

    For this culprits, there is no terrorist or drug dealer caught in the world leading Airports(london, Tel aviv, london)who is of this Man’s age leave alone the Diplomacy status he owns.

    Ashame on You. You deserve termination from the duty and will never be accepted anywhere as airport security personel.

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  • 19 January 2009 14:23, by Malou Manyiel

    Hi guys, this is to show our government that nothing is secret but cannot appear. What has happened has happened and it is a shame to the government, not either to those who posted their views on this site. The leadership have been talking about corruptions every day and night but it has been a word of mouth not by action. This is how it began and it will never stopped unless some actions are taken.

    Malou Manyiel in Khartoum

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    • 19 January 2009 16:59, by wango

      The government of southern sudan need to do more than just talk to talk,they need walk to walk get in and do it.You reap what you sow expect the same kind of treatment in india and around the world. He who attemp such kind of treason should be punish for vialating the right of others citizen,and wayward act will post an example to those who have disdain of the kind. Whatever happen let it be, but shame on him. He has betrayed the public truth on southern sudan and i hope the government should dealt with him accordingly. So that we don’t have to retrive the same issues next time. My apologies to the elit ambassdor. I believed some leaders are involve since bribery has become the extra cash for some an attended offices who think they are crooked enough to blindfool the public for the wrong doings, who call themselves offices,and don’t u dare take the name of office for granted.

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      • 19 January 2009 17:10, by Tony

        Hey guys! why do we discussed on issue that are in the government which was born 3years ago? this is not the way we shall handle the affairs of the akuma the you need to tell the foreign countries ,please guys late us defend our government and don,t let the cat out of the back! there is nothing wrong that have been done the government and they are doing there duties.and shut your mouth on those issue

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        • 20 January 2009 02:37, by Gattour

          As long as officer is doing his job, there is nothing wrong about checking some body bags and even his person belt around his .... whatever. Because we want to be safe we have to act before there is no tragic incedent that has occure from our airport.

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          • 20 January 2009 09:36, by Daniel William

            This is really a difficult situation. Now in such a setting as that in Juba with the security apparatus not yet properly in place, it is difficult to know who is doing the right thing. Cautions has to be excercised in that setting. Who knows some people may use or now are using the opportunity of poor security system in South Sudan to do their own business. A mechanism has to come in place to ensure that things are properly done.

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            • 20 January 2009 19:24, by NgorKur Mayol Chier

              This is the way the law work on the airport’s responsibility. Therefore, I agree with what once of the security officers has done to this Indian. He is right because he doing his job right by checking on each of every customer is luggage. If we let them do a favor some on other, then you will never know exactly who may be your terrorist and who may not be the one? Everyone must be check at the check point because; it is all about the safety of the citizens, no matter who you are when coming into the airport terminal. People must be checking on your personal belonging. So, if they are people who are unhappy about what the security officer has does, and then I will say to you sorry for following the law on the security’s measures inorder for you to know what the right for the security person to do is?

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  • 21 January 2009 01:09, by Buk Dan Buk

    Its too early and very awkward for us to begin such activities at the moment. We are still learning and that meant there is no room for corruption at the moment.Those unidentified officers must be identify and terminate immedaitely, they should not be given another chance for whatsoever.
    Those are not the reasons why we where fighting for 21 years. Airport security is not a joke, its number one job all over they world this days. That meant they must be well trained and they must also follow the rules.

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  • 21 January 2009 01:12, by Justin Chicago opiny

    Lack of discipline and little education is responsible for
    all that we hear happening in south sudan. As south sudan is
    emerging into a new country in the future discipline and respect must be planted into our bloodstream. If we do not plant strict disciple in a wide array of our daily life we shall always be a laughing stock before other countries. One
    good example is that of corruption that has become an addicted thing in every official in the GOSS. We should behave ourselves and have respect for ourselves so that in return we get the respect although we as sudanese are known for our kindness.

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    • 21 January 2009 05:43, by wango

      I think you folks don’t get it. When you are dealing with security you are not allowed to fish into the bags try to get some money from people you checking, that’s what we call corrupted policies and bribery. For our country to be respected we have to get rid of those who can not do there job efficiently without attentded. I know very well that i our nation is a young nation, but we need to start growing up at this time. It has been four year from the signing of CPA and we are going to manage ourselve as a nation after 2011. So we need to change those weak politic otherwise we are jeopardising our citizen and the lagacy of late doctor John Garang de Mabior

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      • 25 January 2009 22:43, by Theresa Angua

        South Sudan’s Sorry State of Affairs

        By Theresa Angua, Denmark.

        In a string of sleazy headlines about South Sudan in recent days, this one from Kenya reads: “Search on Envoy Sparks Row” –The Daily Nation, Jan 22nd 2009.
        Apparently, customs and security officials at Juba Airport, hell-bent on extorting money from an Indian diplomat, would not let him [the diplomat] board his plane without first rummaging through his suitcase. The diplomat, who tried several times to prove his immunity, was treated with disdain. When he finally decided to board the plane without his suitcase, he was subjected to further humiliation, much to the dismay of onlookers. The Indian Consul General in Juba later complained and GOSS had to do some damage control (they had no choice).
        Many in the upper echelons of GOSS would like to present the above as an isolated incident. However, this will be a tough sell to most Southerners, especially those in far-flung parts of the country who have to live at the mercy of those civil servants-cum- thugs. Those innocent people continue to be frisked, searched, humiliated, and degraded on a daily basis under the pretext of “ maintaining security” while their government remains painfully indifferent. Whether this is an act of complicity or a sign of impotence is left to individual judgments. I have reason to believe that most of those in the upper hierarchy of GOSS are aware of the magnitude and scale of this problem (they have spent time together in the jungle after all). It also begs the question: does it always have to happen to an important person or reach their own front yards before anything can be done? So it seems. It is even more disturbing that gunmen now have the audacity to murder right under the president’s nose (Malakal) without expecting any consequences. No country in this world leaves me with more questions than answers the way South Sudan does. But how exactly did we get to this point?
        The answer to the above question seems to lie in the culture that had been allowed to take root in the jungle during the war –a culture that was/is characterized by tribal sentiments of superiority and entitlement to privilege. Many of those buried in such delusions never thought there would come a day when they would have to mix with people from other cultures and shed some of that arrogance. I do not hold them responsible. Rather, I blame those who are currently masquerading as government officials. They have devoted so many of our precious resources to physical transition but left cultural, civil, and moral transitions out of the equation. All those resources could have been spent on enlightening those on the ‘other side’ and preparing them for post-CPA Sudan, not on confining them to a state of perpetual illusion. It is the failure to realize the general discord that would ensue when these two worlds collide that has led to the current situation in the country. Worst still, GOSS would rather barricade itself behind walls of denials and half-truths while the masses are left to fend for themselves. Somebody has to rein in those prowling gunmen, to instill discipline in the SPLA, to bring professionalism into public service, to purge the GOSS of all unqualified individuals, to give teeth to the judiciary and law-enforcement organs, to help all those who have lost everything (land, property, etc) reclaim them, to ensure safety and security of all citizens, and so forth. The [laundry] list is a very long one for GOSS and it may even cause our public officials to avert their eyes from it. But Mr. President, those dirty jobs have to be done if you want us to stay away from the Internet.
        The author is a Sudanese lady and can be reached at Tangua88@gmail.com

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