March 21, 2013 (JUBA) - The spokesperson of South Sudan’s police service has refuted claims alleging its forces arbitrarily arrested people and looted properties during a raid in the outskirts of the country’s capital Juba this week.
- South Sudan police officers on the streets of Juba (UN photo)
A resident told Sudan Tribune that members of the law enforcement body stormed a house in Jebel, breaking its door and allegedly beat up women and children, before making off with unspecified amounts of cash and mobile phones.
“They didn’t leave anything. They took all my belongings, including money, cell phones and arrested two of [my] daughters and a brother before they were released. No reason was given,” Acuil Deng Akol said Thursday.
Akol said the police claimed to be acting on a tip-off that his house had allegedly been turned into a hub for criminals engaged in the counterfeit money business.
Police spokesman James Monday said he was not informed about the Jebel incident, but admitted criminal-related cases, some linked to uniformed officers, are on the rise in Juba.
“We have not received such information and I cannot say that it did not take [place] because there are people who dress themselves in police uniforms in order to commit crime in the name of the police,” said Monday.
On Wednesday, police arrested two foreign nationals and a South Sudanese in connection with such crimes, he added.
Almost two years since South Sudan gained independence, its law enforcement institution still faces enormous challenges, requiring urgent reforms. Citizens often complain about corruption practices within the police, with many officers accused of allegedly taking bribes from offenders.
Others also claim promotion within the force is not based on merit, despite the rhetoric on transparency and accountability by the country’s top leaders.
Speaking at last week’s police graduation ceremony, South Sudan’s internal affairs minister, Alison Magaya, said the government is making progress in police reforms, despite the “extremely” harsh and difficult environment they operate in.
“I know journalists look at the response measures by the police instead of the cause. This has been the cause of concerns in the public, but we are changing our way of doing things. There are also some improvements,” Magaya said at the occasion where 90 officers graduated, after completing training requirements.
In recent years, some politicians have been accused of working to destabilise the young nation, making efforts to reform the police an uphill battle.
“The issue of security cannot be left to the ministry of interior or the police alone. It is the work of everybody,” Salva Mathok Gengdit, the country’s deputy Interior minister, remarked.
He said those trying to cause instability in the country were “trying to sink a boat” because “they do not want the boat to cross the river.”
Gengdit, also a senior member of the south-ruling party (SPLM), insists South Sudan’s independence will not mean anything if its borders with neighbouring Sudan are not fully demarcated.
South Sudanese official says nearly 80 percent of the over 2,000km border has already been demarcated.
While briefing the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Thursday, Hilde Johnson, the head of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNAMISS), said the new nation had made remarkable and positive achievement in the area of police reforms.