Transformation of the police force is possible
General Majak Akec Malok is a man on a journey and duty to transform South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS). His mission since appointment has been to see a discipline and friendly force that could serve the country with dedication and love. He is on the journey to achieve. Juba Monitor Managing Editor Odongo Odoyo, got a rare opportunity to have an exclusive interview with IGP Gen. Malok in his office.
Q1: General Malok, since taking over you must have faced a lot of challenges, and when you came in you talked of transforming the police force. How far have you gone with the transformation agenda?
Ans: Well, thank you very much and I welcome you to my office Juba Monitor on behalf of South Sudan National Police Service.
First of all, I think it is a long story now to narrate everything from the beginning because of time today. I was appointed on the 16th February, 2018. When I came in, I organized a conference for all police commissioners of the states and Directors of the Directorates in the headquarters. Our theme of the conference by then was transformation, reforms and building trust for the public, in which we did. The conference was actually opened by His Excellency the President, Salva Kiir Mayardit on 17 February, 2018. It was also closed by the same authority that encouraged us to make sure that transformation is one mission that people will actually do as authority of South Sudan National Police Service.
For us we are here to make sure that we are fulfilling our mandate according to law. One of the transformations we are doing as police is maintaining security, in which when I was appointed there was a group who called themselves ‘Unknown gunmen’ in Juba. So unknown gunmen in Juba, we cracked them down and made them known instead of being unknown and many of them are actually jailed and will face justice. So, this is one.
Two, we have actually improved in terms of investigations in the police stations and the training of our people/forces. Since I came in, training did not stop. We have been training batch to batch. By training the old police have existed in the police force, we have continued training them. After graduating the first batch, you also need to put another batch for training and that is what have been consistently doing. We are continuing with the training to build the capacity and skills of our personnel. This is one of the transformations.
The other transformation that we are doing is also to supervise and accountability to police personnel and officers who have been involved in some multiple malpractices when they are doing their work.
One of the accountabilities that we have enforced, there are those who were involved in robberies before I came in. they have been counted by the accused persons. So, we recommended them and were dismissed by the President of the country. Seven of them from the police force of different ranks, were dismissed without pension and that they will not receive anything after their work/ when they retire from the service. So, this is to indicate that we the police are here to protect the lives of our citizens with their property and we should not be the ones posing a danger to the citizens or maybe creating insecurity for them. At least police should be a best friend to the people of South Sudan and the guests who are living in the Republic of South Sudan. We should actually do our job without even favor and compromising anybody who is a criminal committing some crimes in the country and then we should not allow any criminality to practice in this country. So, this is a lot of transformation that we are doing.
The other transformation that we have been doing is improving relationships with our neighbors. We have signed bilateral agreement with Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda and also Tanzania, issues to do with visas. Kenya, issue to do with free visas to underage children from one day to seventeen years old. They are moving freely to Kenya without visa requirements except when it comes to issues to do with Covid-19. So, for us we have improved our relationships and bilateral agreements with our neighboring countries as I put it earlier in which many of these neighboring countries provide training for our people in terms of capacity building, in the area of Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the area of Forensics expertise, the area of Interpol, the area to do with crimes intelligence, the area of operations, the area to do with Trainer of Trainers (ToT), area to do with Immigration, area to do with Custom service, area to do with traffic, Administration and are even supplying us with uniforms.
Last year Sudan and the IGP of Sudan assisted us with seven thousand pieces of uniform. In the 2018 the IGP of Uganda gave us about three thousand pieces of uniform. IGP of China has also contributed about nine thousand pieces. That came out as a result of police diplomatic relationships with other countries and governments. There are other things that I cannot share with you in detail like exchange of criminals, exchange of experiences, exchange of information, so those ones are there.
We have also improved borders control on issues to do with organized crimes, human trafficking and smuggling at the borders. We have improvement in these, as we speak, the borders are under control and those who are there know their job.
Security of Juba as I speak, I cannot even be the one to explain, it is even speaking by itself. How was security of Juba in 2017 to 2016 downward and then comparing it to security of Juba of 2018 to 2021, how improved it is. That one can explain itself. The rate of crimes in Juba has improved. There are no security threats in Juba and we are actually making sure that whoever commits crimes has to be arrested to answer for the crimes committed. No one should commit crime and get away with it. It is going to be rare.
Q2: Sometimes it becomes so difficult for the general public to identify who is a policeman because so many seem to be overlapping their roles, you find that all uniform forces sometimes doing the same work. Where can we draw a line to know that this is a work of army, this is a work of national security service, or this is the work of police?
Well, when you see forces combined in the streets. This one we become one team who are working doing the same thing as a team of security organ but under command of the Inspector General of the Police. We do request the army to bring small number of forces not the maximum number and the same thing also we request the national security to bring us small number from their forces but the bigger force that is in charge is the police. We do it so because some other senior officers sometimes have been the ones that are not listening or understanding, especially those with tinted cars and those who move without number plates. Some senior government officials have been the ones doing these. When they don’t see some of their personnel within the force, it may create misunderstanding even if the between unit and other unit fighting each other. This is why we bring these forces together to prevent or avoid clash between different units. Therefore, we are doing one job working together as one team so that when it is an army officer, the army will deal with him, if it is police general, the police will deal with that general and if it is from the National security service, the National security will handle that issue. This is what we are doing. However, when it comes to job of police, even if national security went out and caught someone who might have committed a national crime, that person will be handed over to the police. If the issue is related to national security and it happened that we are the ones who arrested the suspect, we hand over that person to the national security.
So we are actually working together and doing the job as a team.
Q3: What would be your take on a lean police force, what do you mean having a lean manageable and disciplined force, that was your initial idea and how far have you gone with it?
The lean police force actually the forces tasked with general security altogether. We have specific units that are tasked with security and protection of the people. So, security of the people and protection of population is tasked to operation unit, then CID are involved, professional standards also are involved. These are the only three units in police force that are in charge of protecting civil population. Then we have VIP protection units who are trained professionally to be security guards of VIPs such Ministers, MPs, constitutional post holders and so forth. They are not involved in night patrols. They are only in charge of protecting the VIPs.
We have also diplomatic police units who are not involved in the night patrols but are in charge of the embassies an all diplomats in the country. They are ones guarding diplomatic missions in the republic of South Sudan.
So, each unit in a particular institution has got its roles and functions. For example, you cannot just take someone from Passport and Immigration department to come and do night patrol. He/she is specifically assigned to particular job he can actually do. You cannot just take from custom. They are doing their job as custom officers and you cannot also take from the traffic to come and do the work of operation. If you want to take from any unit, you must at least transfer the persons and give them some training on the new assignment.
Q3: Tell us about reforms in the Traffic police,
We have got reforms in the traffic police. Many transfers have been made to those who might have been caught red handed with some unlawful activities and there are some people who have been dismissed from the service. Some are still in the police court as per now. Even if it is a small case that you might have wrongfully committed, you will actually be arrested and be accountable for it.
We are also training them. The training is continuing because it is something that cannot change overnight, it takes time.
How police handle investigation, the bond of contention, I can work to a police station but without investigation I may find that an order issued and I am arrested, how do you go about these issues?
On the investigation, we cannot investigate anyone who has not been convicted. First you have to obtain the warrant from the attorney. When you get a legal case being compiled against someone then legal attorney can refer it to the police for investigation. When you finish with the investigation, you will then forward it to the judge and then the judge will forward the case/ file to the court.
Our role sometimes, the people of this country will not understand or differentiate between what is the police case and what is the civil case.
Once the warrant of arrest has been issued, the agent that implements the order is the police, from there people would not mention the case that is opened against the person but they only talk about police arresting someone. I am really tired of receiving calls from here as if I am the one arresting people but you have been arrested based on particular case opened against you by somebody. It is not the work of police to get you on the street and just arrest you. I have always been suffering listening to people telling me that this people have been sick, you are the one who arrested him and now you release him. Police have been arresting people taking them from station to station and so on. Honestly, we are not the ones arresting people, when you go to police stations, you will find warrant of arrest and warrant of arrest are not being issued by police but by the attorneys.
Q4: What are your future plans for the police service?
We are going to make a thorough screening after graduation of Unified Forces. We have to screen them so that we can figure out those who might have died, those with old age, those who might have been absent, those who might have been wounded, those with disabilities and those who are unable to work in the police force. This is a season of screening after graduation. This is our projection.
Second, when the economy of the country, we should have pension system so that those who are unfit to be in the police force should be given package for them to do something else rather than increasing the number of police force that are not actually responding when the force needs them to carry out their duty.
Thirdly, we will continue with the training. You can transform the police through trainings. Training people and building the capacity is the one of the paramount requirements for the forces and it is one of our missions.
Fourthly, we have to look after their welfare. Whenever you are organizing people and you don’t look after the welfare, you will have no force. I have already started although we have economic problem in the country, I am now trying to get uniform from here and there. Up to this morning, I have received about 1500 pieces of uniform and up to date 9th I will receive about 20, 000 without a single pound that is going to be paid. So, this is only through bilateral relations with our neighbors as I put it earlier. This year we will complete our police force and they will have uniforms and no one will even complain of not having uniforms as some years back. You know we have actually received uniform in 2014 only at a time when Comrade Achuil was the IGP, up to date there are no uniforms. Other IGP in between here did not get uniforms due to crisis and other factors that could be beyond their control.
Now we have started bringing in uniforms to color up the police. The physical appearance without uniform and you are carrying a gun will not differentiate police with the criminals. Unless you have uniform to identify you as police. These uniforms will also reach states and all police of South Sudan.