Fiona Muchbetter Dhafi (on the far-right) is a Law Enforcement Advisor with UNDP’s Access to Justice and Rule of Law project. She poses in Torit with the newly elected Police Community Relations Committee for the Addis Ababa Boma community.

Fiona Muchbetter Dhafi is an United Nations Volunteer based in Torit, South Sudan as Law Enforcement Advisor with UNDP’s Access to Justice and Rule of Law project. Recently she helped coordinate an outreach meeting, in collaboration with UNMISS, with members of Addis Ababa Boma. The group of attendees participated in lively discussions on law enforcement in their area, and collectively elected members to serve on the Police Community Relations Committee. The Police Community Relations Committees across South Sudan are supported by the Government of Japan.

Can you tell us a little about how the Police Community Relations Committees complement the other work UNDP is doing around access to justice and rule of law, especially in Torit? What challenges are present in the area? What opportunities or successes have you seen?

Fiona: Rule of Law implies that the Government and the citizens know the law and obey it. UNDP Law Enforcement Advisors are there to advise the police on how to use community policing as a strategy for fighting crime.

The mandate of a police force is to maintain law and order by arresting offenders, detection and prevention of crime. But the world-over, there is not enough manpower to cover every area perfectly in preventing crime -- hence the need to use the concept of community policing where the police join hands with the community to fight crime. With our work in South Sudan, this takes the form of committees known as Police Community Relations Committees (PCRCs) like the one that was formed most recently in Addis Ababa Boma in Torit County.

These PCRC members are volunteering to fight crime in communities. They do not have any official form of identity and at times are harassed by other law enforcement agencies, especially during patrols at night. They lack basic things like torch lights, gumboots, raincoats and reflective vests so as to effectively patrol especially during the rainy season. Some of the PCRC members lack training to properly execute their duties.

The police station has no telephone. When a suspect is apprehended, the committee members call the personal phone numbers of police members, some of whom may be off duty. In turn, they will then phone the members on duty to go and attend.

It is unfortunate that the whole Torit State has no transport with which to attend to reports from the community. This puts the community under a lot of pressure to provide transportation for the suspect to the police station.

There is currently only one police station in Torit County. Some communities are several kilometers away from the police station and find it difficult to have their cases attended to, on time. The town would need around 4 -5 police stations to effectively deal with crime. Torit town faces major crimes of concern like theft, robbery, rape and child abduction.

Despite these challenges, we have seen some successes emerge. Crime reduction has been registered in Odikolong, Morwari ‘B’’, Mairo and Longute Bomas in Torit County. Criminals have fled to other areas. Some of the PCRC members were trained by UNDP and they lead the patrol teams in their respective areas.

How do Police Community Relations Committees (PCRCs) work?

Fiona: PCRCs are members of the community who are elected/selected by the community. Police members from the police station who are assigned to that area also form part of the PCRC. In some cases, police members who stay in the residential area of that community also can become members of the PCRC. The Chief of the area is included as a member of the PCRC, as well.

The basic idea is to mix police and community members to fight crime. The PCRC conduct patrols aimed at suppressing crime. Each PCRC develops a Patrol Plan in which some PCRC members, together with youth, are included. They are divided into teams. The teams take turns to conduct day and night patrols.

The PCRC needs to meet regularly (in Torit’s Addis Ababa community, they decided to meet twice a month) to discuss and review security issues of the community. They identify criminal/security problems that affect the community. Sometimes the problems can be social. In some cases, the PCRC can even call the community elders to assist in solving problems. The Secretary of the committee maintains a record of all meetings and all arrests made and any activities conducted.

UNDP and the PCRC carry out crime awareness campaigns to the community, to sensitize them on issues of access to justice, rule of law, gender-based violence, human rights and crime awareness. UNDP equips the PCRC members with access to justice and rule of law knowledge and the PCRC disseminates the information to the community members. This is all made possible with the support from the Government of Japan.

What do participants find particularly important or useful?

Fiona: Participants feel that the police care for them. They feel they are not abandoned because there is someone protecting him/her during both day and night. Participants are beginning to trust the police. A close relationship of mutual trust and confidence is built between them. There is inter-dependency of the police and the community in maintaining peace and harmony in the community.  Participants feel important because their views are being heard. They feel they have been empowered to join the Police Department.

Why is it important to engage the local population in rule of law in Torit?

Fiona: A society that understands the rule of law is easy to police hence the need to make every citizen knowledgeable to the rule of law. By involving the population in the rule of law meetings, it creates a solid relationship and builds trust among the police, the courts, the judiciary, prison staff and the society. When the local population feels that they are valued and they are important, they are capable of fighting crime. They become confident and they will bring more information. There is unity in identifying problems. There is unity in finding solutions together, that is partnership and trust among all partners. When the PCRC team meets, there is knowledge sharing and everybody benefits by acquiring knowledge of the law, including UNDP staff.

You are a Law Enforcement Advisor with UNDP, and also a United Nations Volunteer. What inspires you to work in this field and to volunteer your expertise?

Fiona: As a Zimbabwean, I am coming from a country which once went through the same period of war and I have learnt a lot of lessons which I feel obliged to do to help the most vulnerable people, especially women and children, as they tend to be the worst affected during and after war. I am pushed to ensure that the rule of law is observed in every society or country, as this will invite development. Having also served for a time now within the UN, I have gained a lot of experience which I feel can contribute immensely to peace and development in South Sudan.

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