Members of the Addis Ababa Boma meet during a police outreach meeting, to establish a Community Police Relations Committee (PCRC). Community policing and the PCRCs are one of the topics covered during Torit's monthly Rule of Law forum. Photo: UNDP

I don’t see government as a thing high up and far away. It’s us, the people, who are the government. We should do what we can, here and now. Together we can find out, perhaps, where they have gone and get the process started,” said one attendee at a recent Rule of Law forum held in Torit, speaking out during a discussion on the recent abduction of several children.

The spike in child abduction in and around Torit troubled many attendees, who spent a significant amount of time proposing solutions to recover the children and prevent future occurrences, including community policing, engaging UNMISS for information sharing, and cracking down on the sale of candy often used to lure young children.

At the August edition of the forum, more than 50 people attended, representing local communities, law enforcement agencies, and government. Collective responsibility for local security was a reoccurring theme across all sectors.

In addition to child abduction, the meeting touched on juvenile recidivism rates, construction of police posts, awareness-raising campaigns, general insecurity, and root causes of gender-based violence.

Also on hand were state officials from several ministries, including the State Minister of Local Government and Law Enforcement Hon. Dr. Ukidi Ugura, who chaired the discussions.

Our community is built in a way that controversial issues are impossible for one person or one institution to solve on their own. In Torit, the Rule of Law forum has brought on board many actors and I am proud to contribute to cultivating these human relationships,” said Dr. Ugura.

Through implementing the law, we can co-exist and respect human dignity. The climax of this work will be peace -- but it will be a peace that comes as a result of sorting out our differences while preserving the rights of all people, as enshrined in our Constitution,” he continued.

Speaking Up at the Torit Rule of Law Forum

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The monthly Rule of Law forum serves as one of the few open venues for citizens to talk and interact directly with law enforcement agencies, and for law enforcement agencies to transparently share their data with local communities. Representatives from the police and prisons service share specific figures at each meeting on prisoner and case counts, and candidly talk about logistical challenges they are facing.

Presenting our cases to the Rule of Law forum helps us do our work. We find the community here understands the police and helps us with our issues, which helps us do our work,” said TS/M Linda Zakayo, a police officer serving in the gender unit.

Ms. Zakayo reports the general rate of crime in Torit and surrounding areas seems to be decreasing, compared to when she arrived in 2015. On the issue of lost children, the local Special Protection Unit recorded four cases in August, compared to an average rate of 20-30 per month in 2017.

We can see crime going up and down some months,” she said, describing the overall ebb-and-flow of the decline in crime. “We saw in July, cases went down, but in August it raised a bit. Today we shared with the forum that we recorded eight cases of rape last month. So, there was a discussion on improving community policing as a unit, reporting, and protection.

The Rule of Law forum in Torit is supported by UNDP’s Access to Justice and Rule of Law project. Similar forums take place monthly in Yambio, Bor, Aweil, and Wau. The forum in Torit joins other activities to improve local-level security and public trust in law enforcement, including the establishment of Police Community Relations Committees, trainings on community policing, and training traditional leaders on national laws to increase legislative compliance of customary laws.

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