Random shootings and killings resurged in Juba and across South Sudan over the past week.
While some victims were either shot dead on the streets or dragged out of their houses at night, particularly in Juba, others were killed in raids and peaceful protests in Western Bhar al Ghazal (WBG) State.
Those killed include journalist Isaiah Abraham, who was murdered at his house, and ten protestors who were shot in Wau during demonstrations against WBG's government decision to relocate Wau County Headquarters from Wau Town to Baggari.
Concerns have also been raised about rampant robbery, theft and harassment.
To explain this increasing insecurity, Radio Miraya hosted Interior Minister Alison Manani Magaya.
Manani said the police are tracking several gangs of criminals suspected of wreaking havoc. He added that screening is being made within the security organs to get rid of elements suspected of participating in crimes.
More in the following interview:
Radio Miraya: Briefly, could you describe for us the security situation in South Sudan, and in Juba in particular?
Alison Manani Magaya: It is true that for the last one week or so in Juba here there has been brutal killings of innocent people. These are gangs of criminals. And also in other places in the South, particularly in Wau, there was an incident there where lives were lost and properties as well. And also in other places, we still have this problem of cattle raiding. All these are problems we are facing.
Radio Miraya: Who are these people who are killing innocent people at night time, even at day time? We have reports of people being robbed during day time when they go to withdraw money from the banks and only their bodies are found. Who are these people, is the Ministry aware about them?
Alison Manani Magaya: These are organized crimes planned and carried out by gangs of criminals. Some of them are southerners. Some of them are foreigners. But they meet in one objective, which is to kill people in order to robe money and enrich themselves and solve their social problems. These are the people who are doing these. But we don't rule out the fact that some of these are paid gangs who may be working in the pocket of hostile elements to the present government of SPLM, to try to destabilize it and create fear among our people and loss of confidence so that they can decide that the government is not protecting them, the government is not doing enough for them and that it must go.
Caller: It seems that these people who you claim are being organized are within the government and even in your ministry there is no proper coordination to combat these crimes; the people organizing this are within the government top positions.
Alison Manani Magaya: Well, our people are made to believe this. This is one of the objectives of those who are behind, particularly the hostile elements, to believe that the government is doing this. But I don't even rule out that there are individuals within our organizations who may have become prone to this type of engagement for the same benefit and same objective; probably they want money. But those ones, I think, are easy to deal with and I think we are working very hard to flesh them out. They may not be many, but majority of them are foreigners and some civilian elements or those who were first in the army or in the Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) who have no work with staying around. So they organize themselves into these gangs and then they readily get people who can hire them and give them money to carry out these killings.
Radio Miraya: The police have been trying to arrest these alleged criminals in Juba and in South Sudan, but people don't know what happens to them after being arrested. They have not been tried in a court of law. What is happening: is the judiciary not working or are you not working in partnership with them to make sure that at least people who are committing these crimes are tried in a court of law?
Alison Manani Magaya: I think many have been tried. This year alone, we have dismantled over seven groups of gangs who have been causing havoc in Juba and they were arrested. Some have been imprisoned. Some of them their cases are pending. Some investigation is going on to complete the process of law. We are also coordinating with the judiciary. We have agreed with them to have special court constituted by the Chief Justice so that they can accelerate the process of justice in taking care of these types of cases which are very serious. These meetings are going on. And I think the courts are there. Now we are trying to reduce the number of inmates who are there waiting for their cases to be seen. But we give special focus to these criminal gangs. Once we complete their investigations, they are brought immediately to the court. Probably because we have not been informing the people of how many have been imprisoned and how many have been dealt with, that is why people don't know. We thought, perhaps while continuing the effort of trying to arrest this situation, in the process people will understand. But I think we will, from now onwards, try to tell people what have been done about certain cases so that they are aware. For example, we now have some of the cases of killing that happened during the last ten days. The fellow who killed an Eritrean was arrested and he has confessed that he killed the Eritrean and the Eritrean Ambassador has heard it and that he had actually killed four people before that. But to complete the case, we are looking for another person or two people so that we can now bring them to the court. The others who killed police and other civilians some 15 days [ago] have also been arrested. These are foreigners and their cases are being handled also. A number of arrests have been made, but some arrests have not been made because we have not got the clue. We could not just arrest people without getting the clue to make arrest.
Radio Miraya: You said you are going to dismantle these criminal groups. What do you mean: Are you going to wipe them all out?
Alison Manani Magaya: In simple terms, that means joint efforts by all of us. That means the organized forces (the police), the army, the national security working together to identify these criminals and bring them to books. What we are trying to do is to enlighten our people to understand the need to participate in their own protection and to know that security is the responsibility of everybody. We are trying to do these through organizing quarter councils particularly in big cities like Juba. [In Juba] we want to organize the quarter councils together with the mayor and the government of Central Equatoria. They have divided Juba into 54 quarter councils. In each council, there will be a committee of that council working with the police to know who are the people staying in that council, one by one, men or women, children, anybody. Any new person coming there will be identified. That is what I mean by flashing out.
Radio Miraya: You said there are people who paid them. If you cannot get rid of people who are paying them, giving them guns, and the rest (and transport), do you think you can get rid of the organized people who are doing these crimes in Juba town?
Alison Manani Magaya: Well, I don't need to talk about that in length, but I want to tell you that we are aware of these so that they are also aware, but we will get all of them.
Radio Miraya: We have reliable reports that people are being killed at night and thrown to River Nile and their bodies are found in Gemeiza area in Terkeka. Every day, fishermen who go fishing every morning identify dead bodies floating on the river. And we also have reports here from the Human Rights Commission here in Juba, Central Equatoria State, saying that they have also heard that people are being killed, tied like firewood and damped along Juba-Yei road. Is the ministry aware about this?
Alison Manani Magaya: No, I am not aware about these. It is important not to generalize situations. It is better to be very definite and specific. If there is killing, let us know that there is killing. If there is a dead body, let us know that there is a dead body. If there is a floating body on the Nile, let us know so that we can now follow the cause of this. What you said, some of them may be meant to create the situation which I talked about in the first place.
Radio Miraya: By dividing Juba into quarter councils, when will the people of Juba see this happening and the situation will actually be right in place as we head towards Christmas and beyond?
Alison Manani Magaya: This is going on. We need to enlighten people in the quarter councils. We want to educate them on how they should do this work together with the police. This is being organized by the mayor. We hope that before the end of this week it will happen, but on a very rudimentary basis we are already having quarter councils functioning like Kator. Kator is almost functioning with all the youth there working with the police, arresting criminals. The people in Atlabara are almost doing the same. The people in Gudele West have almost completed. So we are now in the process of completing all these organizations so that we are able to arrest this situation. Meanwhile, we have intensified foot patrolling. We have also intensified patrolling by cars also and we have also deployed all those people who can get the activities about the gangs.
Mabok (caller) in Juba: Many times, the police have been accused of taking part in these alleged killings in Juba. What steps have your ministry taken?
Alison Manani Magaya: Not only the police, but all the other organized forces. And not only that, even these civilians who form themselves into gangs, they acquire police uniforms from the market and use them. Everything is put on the police. It is not necessary that all the police are doing these. I do not deny as I said it, but what we are doing is to make sure that we weed out all these people among ourselves, whether in the police, security, Military Intelligence (MI) or wherever they are. We weed them out because we want strong institutions that will protect our people. So this is going on. We are screening all the forces. We are screening important institutions like the CID to make sure that the people who are working there will be people who will stand for the cause of this nation, who will stand for the people of this nation, but not people who are weak; who can be used against their people. So this effort of screening will weed out all the people we want. We have also instituted courts to try anybody found creating problems: stealing, indulging in crimes. These courts are functioning. Many police have been put in prison, some have been dismissed and this process is continuing. I believe that police is on the right path to become a professional police as we intensify the trainings for them. We know that the biggest problem we have is training. The police do not know their job. Because of their background – these people came from the army, they were fighters; they came from the militia, they didn't know anything – so what we need to do is to train them so that they know the police work, so that they desist from violence. And this is what we are doing now.
Radio Miraya: In the last few days in WBG, many civilians were killed. These were peaceful demonstrators who were trying to express their views in regards to what they believe was not right in their own opinion. But unfortunately they lost their lives during that peaceful demonstration. What do you say about the use of army in Wau to crack down on peaceful demonstrators?
Alison Manani Magaya: Well, first of all, I would like to pay my condolence to those who died; to their families, friends and everybody... it is our intention now to be able to protect our people and their properties. But in the course of doing this, sometimes some of the things can happen. Once you see that a car has some elements of people having guns and they try to use it, the security forces can now respond. And in Wau, a lot of things happened. Some policemen were shot. One policeman of the Criminal Investigation Department, his whole family was killed, and the civilians tried to go to the bank and tried to go to the government officials and in the process this type of thing happened. What is important is that the government has taken it serious. Investigation is now being carried out to identify what happened and if some people are found guilty, action will be taken against them but now the situation of Wau is under control and we are calling on the people of Wau to be patient, to be calm and to ensure that anything they want to do they should do it within the law without taking law into their hands. Some of these youths have burnt seven to nine cars which belong to foreigners carrying goods to Wau and other parts of Western Bhar al Ghazal. This is very bad and I don't think that helps in the cause. Whether they have a cause it doesn't help their cause at all.
Radio Miraya: Does it mean that the police was unable to contain the demonstrators in Wau, which is why the army was called in?
Alison Manani Magaya: It is not necessarily the case, but we are coordinating efforts. In the situation where we are, we need to coordinate efforts together. The police, the army, we have to work together because we don't have sufficient police to cover all the places, all the strategic installations we have. We needed to call on the army to protect some of these installations.
Radio Miraya: You find people going to withdraw money from the bank and immediately after stepping out from the bank premises, they are always robbed. Is there a way the ministry of Interior can actually work together with the CID and the rest of the community to contain this problem.
Alison Manani Magaya: Yeah, we are trying to identify. This thing is not [just] happening: it is coordinated. There are people within the banks themselves, who are officials in the banks who tell the criminals with whom they are working that somebody is going with an amount of money so and so. And then they are followed to where they are going and then [if] they cannot get by day, then they go and get it by night. So we are now trying to identify all these people. So we are warning all the people, the officials working in the banks that if anybody is found helping criminals he will have it very hard. We cannot condone: you are working; you are getting salary, why do you want to enrich yourself by trying to grab what other people have. I am very sure that these criminals are not doing it alone. Our police and the security are trying to do this. We are also trying to make sure that we clear those idol people who stand near the banks with boda boda [motor cycles] and take them far away because they are part of this.
James (caller): One major issue among the police is that the police are divided into tribes... how do you intend to solve this?
Alison Manani Magaya: We are trying to solve that by making the police a national police. All institutions which are national police will bring the police, whether they are officers or men from the ten states, we train them and then we deploy them in these institutions. The police in the state are drawn from the people, from the counties in the states. They have to be relocated within the state. If there was imbalance, that imbalance is being addressed. It will gradually ensure that everybody sees him or herself in the police service. Not only in the police service. In all the security institutions, we must make sure that the security forces are representative of our people. It is not necessary that equally but equity is important to give the people [sense] that they are part of these institutions. This is going on well. It is going on in the police. You have seen the intakes into the police colleges. Even those who graduated, they are mixed; they are from all the tribes of the Republic of South Sudan. But any element, any bad element, who tries to lean to his tribesmen to create a problem among others, we will deal with him. And we need the support our civilians to help us in this.
Ajuong Mangui Gak (caller from Juba University): Why is it hard to identify the police forces in South Sudan? Can his ministry provide identity cards for the police forces? The Police Regulations of 2010 states that the police should get their salaries on the 28th of every month. Why is it delayed? There are lot sounds of gun shots every evening. Police are complaining of lack of communication. Can you provide them with a lot of motorolas (communication equipment)?
Alison Manani Magaya: Let me begin with the issue identity cards. You can only tackle this in two ways. One, you need to ensure that ghost names are not in the lists of the police because this has happened in the past: lots of ghost names in the police rank. The objective was to get money. We cannot do this except you have to make screening. Once you have made the screening, you identify the people who can be trained and do the work irrespective of their standard of education because what matters is the training. Then you can put people according to the area where they can do the job rightly. This is a process we have almost finished. Those we have finished up to now have reached to about 54,000. We used to estimate about 60,000+. But we will finish soon. As soon as we finish this, we will begin to give them the identity cards. We will make sure that we don't have ghost names again; we will make sure that they are trained properly so that we begin now to recruit new people who have background of education. And it is a policy; we have said anybody going to the police, the least for a police person is the standard of primary leaving certificate but it can be secondary school, so that we can raise the standard of police. Police is a specialize service that you need qualified people who can do the job. So this process is going on. They will get the identity cards. But we cannot just issue identity cards to everybody. It happened that we trained people here, after they came out from the training the number was swollen. So now do you give the number to all these types of people? You have to screen them to find out those who are not the right people, then after that you give them the identity cards. The question of salary: all this time we were paying our police very regularly. But you there is the problem of austerity. We need to be patient but still they are getting their salaries. Whether they get it late by one week or so, it is not a problem. They are getting their salary. The issue of communication; we are also solving that problem. We are aware that arms are in hands of people: in the hands of soldiers, in the hands of criminals. So the directive from the president is that all arms which belong to the organized forces must be in the stores. Only those on duty [will keep their guns]. So we are executing this.