South Sudan

Rule of law actors in Eastern Equatoria agree reducing crime is top priority at forum organized by UNMISS, UNDP

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OKELLO JAMES

Reports of increased criminality and organized gangs in Torit, Eastern Equatoria, putting civilians at risk has led to local law enforcement actors and rule of law partners developing comprehensive approaches to raise awareness among young people on the need for crime prevention and desisting from harmful acts that go against the grain of established law.

During a day-long event on strengthening crime prevention jointly organized by the United Nations Police (UNPOL) serving with the Field Office in Torit and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), local participants came up with several recommendations including, but not limited to, reinforcing community policing activities, establishing additional police posts as well as constructing reformatory facilities. “Extra police posts within the quarter councils of Torit town adequately staffed by police officers will, in my opinion, go a long way in deterring crime,” agreed Lucia Jovani, Rule of Law Officer, UNDP.

For their part, women’s groups working within the arena of promoting the rule of law stressed on the importance of advocacy and awareness-raising on fostering reconciliation and a crime-free society in rural areas across the region. “Young people need to be made aware that a life of crime has serious consequences for them as well as for their families and their communities. We, therefore, have been sensitizing youth, especially those who are allegedly members of gangs, about the benefits of development, skill-building and abiding by the law. I’m happy to say that we are making a real impact, said Davidika Ikai Graciano, Executive Director, Itwak Women’s Group, Torit. Ms. Graciano also revealed that their outreach extends to parents, particularly mothers. “In South Sudan, parents, specially mothers have a lot of influence in their children’s lives. We, therefore, also raise awareness regarding the merits of peaceful coexistence and avoidance of crime among mothers in these areas,” she stated.

Lieutenant Julius Muzigiti, UNPOL Police Adviser, UNMISS Torit, echoes Ms. Graciano. “As police officers serving with UNMISS, we have been receiving reports of crimes being committed by young people during our community policing meetings. Awareness-raising about crime prevention and the benefits of peaceful coexistence is an important aspect to ensure a decline of criminal activities. We, therefore, consistently sensitize communities within our area of responsibility about the importance of following the law as a means of complementing the efforts made in this direction by our local counterparts and civil society organisations,” said Lieutenant Muzigiti.

Another key recommendation unanimously agreed upon was the need for reformatory institutions. “Building a reformatory institution in this region is of paramount importance. It is the only way we can ensure that young people who may have participated in unlawful activities have a fighting chance to mend their ways and become productive members of society,” averred Major-General Khamis Morjan Musika, Police Commissioner, Eastern Equatoria. “Disadvantaged youth are often teenagers who feel they have no other choice but to resort to petty crime as a means of earning a living. Reforming and reintegrating them into their communities are essential to maintaining overall law and order as we work towards a durable peace in South Sudan. I, therefore, appeal to our international partners for support in this regard,” he added.

While much remains to be done to ensure a crime-free environment in Torit, Ms. Jovani is hopeful. “I’m heartened by these recommendations since they have come directly from local law enforcement and rule of law actors; they know best the challenges they experience daily,” she stated.