In 2019, residents of Rocrocdong, a predominantly agricultural community in Jur River county of South Sudan’s Western Bahr El Ghazal, were caught in the epicenter of cattle migration related conflict.
The county witnessed largescale seasonal migration of cattle herders who crossed over from Tonj in neighbouring Warrap state.
The influx of these nomadic animal herders caused increasing tensions with settled farming communities, especially as cattle grazed freely on croplands.
These escalations culminated in clashes where numerous people died while an estimated 25,000 others were displaced.
Since then, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), together with the state government and traditional authorities rolled out a series of meetings, discussions, and dialogues between herders and farmers to restore calm.
An overarching takeaway from numerous such conversations: The need for a police station and law enforcement personnel to ensure a stable security situation!
This dream recently came true, thanks to a purpose-built construction funded by the UN Peacekeeping mission, through its Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) programme.
The new, solar-powered police post boasts of four detention cells, including separate facilities for women, men and juvenile offenders, ablution facilities as well as four fully-equipped offices, one of which is reserved for a prosecutor.
Small wonder, therefore, when jubilation was the order of the day at the official handover ceremony, where government representatives and county authorities, as well as a mammoth crowd of excited women, youth and men came together in the spirit of rapprochement to enjoy a vibrant cultural programme that aimed to build much-needed trust between uniformed officers and civilians, to the joy of Sergeant Asunta Abouk Laval, a female police officer.
“Communities had lost confidence in us and stopped reporting cases because we could not detain suspects who were reported to have committed crimes in our old police facility,” she revealed.
“But today, we have a place where we can interview victims of sexual and gender-based violence in a confidential manner. And with four detention cells, no criminal will escape the justice chain. Importantly, we can hold suspects without compromising their rights and dignity,” she emphasized.
Brigadier General Kon Mel Ayok, Chief Inspector of Police in the county, too, was delighted with the essential support provided by UNMISS.
“The revelry and dancing you see is an expression of hope. People feel that their request for greater security has been honoured,” he stated. “I am confident that this police station will enhance our capacity to deal with crimes and serve communities to the best of our ability,” he added, as he formally received the keys for the new building.
For his part, Sam Muhumure, the Head of the UNMISS Field Office in the state urged police officers and state authorities to focus on providing the best security services possible to communities.
“Constructing this building is perhaps the simplest bit of this intervention. The tough work begins now because it is up to every officer working in this new police post to protect and serve all community members, including investigating reports promptly and opening case files so that when a prosecutor comes, justice will not be delayed,” he averred.
Rocrocdong police station is one of three police stations that the UN Peacekeeping mission is helping fund in Jur River county to ensure peaceful seasonal cattle migration. Other efforts, according to Mr Muhumure, include ongoing support to mobile courts and capacity building among local policing counterparts by UN Police.
“We want to thank UNMISS for this initiative to bring justice and security to the people of Rocrocdong,” said Julio Bensensio, state Minister of Cabinet Affairs. “I call on community members to be law abiding citizens because upholding the rule of law is a collective action.”
As the ceremony winded down and people began to head home, there was hope in the air for a better, brighter future for Rocrocdong.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).