Juba — A senior South Sudanese government official has urged members of the security sector to remain patriotic and show true allegiance to the country's leaders, while discharging their duties.
Alison Manani Magaya, South Sudan's interior minister, said the country has in recent months witnessed acts of indiscipline, misbehaviour, robbery and killings in various parts, with citizens accusing the police of doing little to halt the spread of criminal activity.
"Police are a servant of the people and should show good example. It is one of the institutions in most countries of the world, which must promote respect and show act of professionalism. Show discipline, not what we have witnessed in the recent months where we saw some indiscipline (sic) practices, misbehaviour, robbery and killing of the people", Magaya said on Thursday.
The minister's remarks, made at a ceremony where the former inspector general of police (IGP) handed over office to his successor, is widely seen as an attempt by government to counter the series of accusations often levelled at members of its security sector.
In a report released on Thursday, Amnesty International accused South Sudan's security forces of arbitrarily arresting citizens after the clashes that took place in the Western Bahr el Ghazal state capital, Wau, in December last year.
The campaign group said at least 24 civilians died in the clashes, with over 60 reportedly injured.
Pieng Deng Kuol, the newly appointed IGP, said he would work closely with the police and the interior ministry to ensure citizens' lives and properties were well protected.
He thanked his predecessor, Acuil Tito Madut, for steering the police force, saying said he would continue consulting the outgoing IGP when needed, particularly on police-related matters.
The new IGP, one of the 35 top-level officers removed from active military service through a presidential decree issued on 21 January, called for coordination and cooperation within the police force, adding this would help promote strong working relations and build harmony within the various departments.
"I want to assure you that I will do whatever I can do within my capacity to promote better working relations. Creating [a] conducive and better working environment contributes greatly to effective and efficient performance of not only junior officers, but also at the higher level", he said.
Kuol also pledged to ensure all junior and senior officers work together to create a police force that promotes harmony and law and order in society.
"I would like to tell you - all police - not to look at me as your master. Do not look at me as your boss. This thinking does not encourage closeness. We should be looking [at] ourselves as comrades. Treat me as your comrade because we will be doing one thing together," he said.
Kuol also urged officers to put service before themselves, promising to strengthen efforts to restore the image of police, who in recent years have received widespread public criticism amid claims they were not professionally executing their roles as expected.
"I would like to tell you, my people, that we shall be committed to community policing. I would like to tell you that we will try all the efforts to regain the trust of the police back," emphasised the new police boss.
Madut, meanwhile, lauded South Sudanese president Salva Kiir for entrusting him to head the force, and urged his successor to continue implementing the police policy statement, which is said to be currently underway.
He said the new policy gives clear strategies, direction and plans that will guide police operations for many years to come.
"One of the most important things I am handing over today to my replacement is the police policy statement document. This is the document which guides all activities of the police service. This is one of the achievements while in office," he explained, adding that the new IGP would be oversee its implementation.