Residents of Greater Tonj in South Sudan’s Warrap state feel safer and more secure, thanks to constant coordination between the South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) and the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC).
The latter are a grassroots-level security team of local leaders who work with police to boost the efficacy of national police by being their eyes and ears on the ground.
In this regard, some 20 South Sudanese police officers in Greater Tonj received a training on the PCRC system as part of the Kong Koc project funded by the South Sudan Reconciliation, Stabilization, and Resilience Trust Fund (RSRTF).
The project’s aim: To develop resilience and stability among conflict-affect Greater Tonj communities.
“Police officers are few and cannot be everywhere all the time. Security is a common responsibility where communities can partner with us and bring to our attention any suspicious activity to fill the void, which makes the PCRC an appropriate mechanism,” explained Santino Machar Manuk, a Tonj East police officer.
Participants also agreed that the working group will be an effective platform for reducing crime and building trust between law enforcement personnel and community members.
“As PCRC members, we will collaborate with the current Crime Watch Committee, also founded through the Kong Koc initiative, to create a safe and secure environment for residents. Together with communities, we will be able to achieve better results,” stated Marco Abul, a police officer based in Tonj North.
Forming alliances between communities and police officers is vital to the PCRC’s success.
Maladin Baharga, a police officer at the state’s SSNPS headquarters, underlined the positive impact on upholding the rule of law that community participation can have.
“Together, we form a complementary body to defend and protect our people. It is a mutual effort to deter violence, maintain law and order as well bolster police capacity,” he explained.
Heated debates were part of the sessions during the workshop, especially when it came to discussions on holding perpetrators accountable and applying the law equally to everybody.
“Police officers cannot arbitrarily detain suspects. Accountability should apply to everyone irrespective of social or political status. No one should be or act above the law,” argued Achui Ariek, a woman police officer from Tonj South.
Tonderayi Kudakwashe Kunyetu, a United Nations Police (UNPOL) officer based in Kuajok, agreed with Ms. Ariek, while highlighting the need for public participation in conveying these important messages to people.
“Women, youth, elders, traders, everybody must be responsible for improving security as well as speaking up and reporting unlawful activities to authorities. Empowering citizens, especially uniformed and civilian women, is key to upholding human rights and ensuring all segments of society contribute to an effective community-led mechanism for crime prevention and security,” he averred.
The Kong Koc project supports local, durable solutions to issues faced by communities.
Consortium partners for this multisectoral project funded by RSRTF in Warrap include the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP), The Organization for Children Harmony (TOCH), The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), and Peace Canal.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).