By Isaiah Abraham
February 21, 2012 — After independence of South Sudan from the Republic of the Sudan six months ago, the people of the South (say some) have started to misbehave towards other non-South Sudanese or foreigners on the ground that they aren’t part of them. The tendency is building that aliens are slowly taking up opportunities when the locals should have been the one benefiting. There are frequent reports of incidences against aliens by individuals among our society, veritable or otherwise.
Invariably, the people that do such offences are reported to be law enforcing agencies, especially police and the security personnel. People say they have seen these estrange officers on our entering roads, home states and around our cities harassing and intimidating our brothers from East Africa for reasons that are largely financial. But others are on the extreme.
Our new nation is engraved on the principles of human dignity and pride of an African man or woman; and hence unfortunate to routinely hear malevolence practices among our people about discrimination and the like on aliens. Among us, we have had different colors: Greeks, Turks, people from Lebanon or Arabs descent, Western Sudanese, name it whose future lies around here. We called them Southerners and they are identified with us in every aspects pertaining South Sudan. Though their numbers are insignificance, and anytime they could still go back to their places of origin, they formed part of us, as they participated fully during the referendum exercise, and we all celebrated the big event together on July 9, 2011.
Generally, Southerners have no problem with anyone around the world except Islamic fanatics in Khartoum. The world in fact is identifying with us, and that is why they stayed with us during tough times until the time of our independence. We must not make damning errors assuming that we are out of the wood. We were once hosted and cared by the same people we now see them on our streets. When we were on their cities as refugees, we were at home with them and this should be reciprocated.
Therefore the few South Sudanese that are bending to harass our friends across our land are a big let down to our nation building. It is possible to apply law without harassing, intimidating, shouting or yelling to anyone. Civilized people do things in a manner that gives away nothing but respect.
I happened to be on a weekend tour of the road leading out of Gumbo in Juba, and what my eyes saw there was a stark shame against the noble people of South Sudan. I witnessed a police officer at the so-called Immigration Check Point shouting out his lungs to a driver of one of the buses coming from Uganda, and within no minutes he rushed to the window of the driver. Then he quickly turned to passengers of that bus. The goof (police officer in question) was speaking wanting English and somewhere the travelers find their way out one by one with papers peeking out from their hands, while bags hanged on their shoulders. The papers are called Immigration Documents or ’waraga’.
The man yelled at passengers with a rough tone asking everyone to open his/her bag, and everyone obeyed. I disembarked immediately from my car (call it office car) and went to the chalice ‘boy’ peeping through dirty pieces of men and women alike. I motioned him to come aside for a discussion, he grudgingly did.
I look straight to his swampy face, and went he opened his mouth to say something like ’keef’ or ’hi’, I almost bang my head on another street girl selling sweets. I realized he never had water touching his mouth in the morning due probably to bibulous factor, let alone a brush. I asked him whether he could apply decorum about so private matters of men and women, but before he answered me he had wanted to know whom am I, and what am I doing there against his ‘official duties’. His face changed and looked me up and then charged forward a little, but he murmured and somewhere a young officer so blue in his police attire raised his voice in a vernacular, and suddenly the officer in question disappeared into thin air, but not completely as his breath haunted me for a while.
The Officer (not the ratty above) talked the matter up in a more reasonable and perspicacious fashion, something I didn’t expect from a person who claimed to be from Bor (he introduced himself that way anyway). I reasoned that there is a need to either enlist a female officer to check bags for female travelers or else sought a technology in this case. He nodded and I thank him, and we parted ways.
While driving back from Gumbo on a beautiful road down to the bridge, the episode of having failed to talk to the rude young man fully after all was boiling up in my head like a crime. I have been hearing people decrying the way our security officers treat aliens, but I never paid a damn attention. This weekend I was shocked to find it myself that we are doing wrong things behind the backs of our priests and government officials.
While we were in the bush fighting for our rights, we had few cases of aliens mistreat or kill. Whoever then that came to us could still remember us fondly.
But before cooling my head at Di Vinci Hotel (Juba), a friend called to tell me that some Sudanese traders (Northern Sudanese) were mugged in Malakiya the same night. Gangsters arrived there and shot in the air before they walked away with so much money. My throat was thick with lump of anger , as I gutted it with shame hovering my little head. I left , having cursed Gen. Titus Achuil (Police Inspector General) who failed to discipline his men at the Rajaf John Garang Training Camp.
The story am driving you at my people is that we were once living among these people peacefully, pockets of mistreatment notwithstanding. If it weren’t the sheltering and the protection we badly then needed from our brothers East Africa and beyond we won’t have arrived thus far. Police character is an international one and our police must conform to that standard. They got to learn to act politely but assertively on people found against the law, not through harassment or beating. The new nation police must not spoil our beautiful name because of few pounds on the pockets of our brothers from other part of Africa. It makes us small in the eyes of others. We are people of great history and sanity must be preserved.
The Police Unit should probe and apprehend individuals that are engage in such dirty job of extortion money in the name of ‘waraga’. Foreigners know well that if you want to cross over to another country you got to have a clearance papers (immigration status/papers) and if the there are illegal immigrants, the best way to go is to apply the law more prudently and gently.
But our brothers from East Africa must also play it right in this matter. Some of them come to South without papers, others have their papers expired or forged, and this in any sovereign state is unacceptable, it doesn’t work like that. You will have to go to jail and fine according to the laws governing the immigration situation of that country.
Our people have every reason to live in peace with anyone, but not on the expense of violation of any international immigration situation of another country. They must also relax some rigid immigration policies on children and sick people passing through land or entering their territory. Majority of our students have raised problems about tough laws government immigration in Uganda; this is more of a policy however at higher level and leaders should pick this matter up immediately, and not the subject of this note.
I hereby strongly feel that the issue of harassment by illiterate officers be looked into more seriously. I look forward for an Inquiry to investigate cases of harassment by the police against aliens around our cities, borders and on our streets (am repeating myself). Secondly, there is an urged need to work out ways of releasing piles of trucks entering the country. This is harassment! I could see chains of trucks waiting deep around Juba entry and people say some of these Lorries have been there for days without any clearance. The question is: how did they cross the border to Juba in the first place? Of course someone had bribed his way in and could apply the same to enter Juba or any other destinations.
Third, we need a friendly Immigration Officers, a fresh team to overhaul the current rotten one. Recruitment is the best place to start correcting. There were problems in the recruitment of the Immigration Officers. I thought the newly appointed Head there would do something about the bad guys or put up a plan for change, but alas the man isn’t prepare to conduct single press conference to tell us about his magic in immigration. He is too shy to look at men eyes. The President has made a wrong choice! Please police; leave our brothers from East African alone!
Isaiah Abraham lives in Juba; he’s on Isaiah_abraham@yahoo.co.uk