South Sudan Police Spokesman Maj. Gen. Daniel Justin affirmed that security is generally stable except for some violent cases in Warrap State.
Radio Tamazuj caught up with him to provide in-depth perspectives on the current security landscape, recent gang-related arrests, and the legal processes involved.
Below are edited excerpts:
Q: Maj. Gen. Daniel, can you provide an overview of the current security situation in the country in recent days?
A: The general security situation remains calm, although certain states, particularly Warrap, are facing challenges. Despite inter-communal conflicts, Warrap State was relatively peaceful as of yesterday, thanks to the intervention of a joint force.
Q:What precisely occurred in Warrap?
A: There was a communal altercation between two groups, resulting in internal fighting and the displacement of some civilians from their villages.
Q:Concerning recent developments in cities under the new Inspector General of Police (IGP), who has initiated a 21-day and three-month plan to combat criminals, including gangsters, there were reports of 70 youths arrested in the Sherikat suburbs of Juba last week. Social media discussions suggest the IGP is targeting individuals with dreadlocks and long hair. Could you clarify this matter?
A: Since the appointment of the new Inspector General of Police, a strategic plan has been implemented to combat criminal activities, particularly involving gangs. The recent arrest of 70 youths in Sherikat suburbs was prompted by heightened criminal activities in that area.
Contrary to social media claims, the focus is not on individuals with specific hairstyles but on ensuring public safety in areas where criminal elements are prevalent. The ongoing operation has resulted in arrests, with investigations aimed at distinguishing between innocent individuals and those involved in criminal activities.
As you rightly outlined, the IGP’s plans were promptly executed, directing our forces to focus on apprehending individuals associated with the groups known as “Toronto” and “Nigger.” These groups posed a significant threat, particularly in Gumbo Sherikat, where movement after 6:30 in the evening became perilous. Our immediate action resulted in the arrest of 70 individuals, who were subsequently taken to the police station for further investigation.
Most of these individuals, part of the “Toronto” and other young gangs, are often engaged in internal conflicts and criminal activities fuelled by drug involvement. Additionally, they frequently organize parties, including birthday celebrations. While these events are generally trouble-free, post-party confrontations between groups have been a recurring issue. Recognizing the need to address these challenges comprehensively, we collaborated with the Ministry of Social Welfare.
Our approach involved implementing community policing, actively engaging parents, school administrations, and the youths themselves. Through awareness campaigns in residential areas, we gained insights into these groups, discovering that some individuals were innocent bystanders victimized during internal conflicts. The ongoing operation has led to the arrest of 123 individuals, and investigations are underway.
Given the nature of these gangs, identifiable by group names and slogans on T-shirts, claims of innocence based on attire or hairstyles are being thoroughly examined during the investigation. Innocent individuals will be released, while those suspected of criminal involvement will be brought to court.
We emphasize that the safety of the arrested individuals is a priority, and we are taking measures to ensure their well-being. We appeal to the public, especially parents, to collaborate with us by monitoring their children’s activities, preventing involvement in drugs or alcohol, and establishing clear timelines for their movements. This collective effort is crucial in addressing the issue holistically, as these individuals are not just subjects of concern but also represent the future of our nation.
Q:There are claims from the public that you are specifically targeting individuals with dreadlocks, assuming they are associated with gangs. Is there any truth to this?
A: Indeed, these allegations have been circulating. However, as a professional in law enforcement, I want to clarify our approach. We focus on specific high-risk areas, like Gumbo Sherikat, where after 7 pm, movement becomes restricted, and individuals are subject to search, including phone checks. If someone is found in that area inadvertently, they might be suspected until proven otherwise. It’s important to emphasize that our intention is not to criminalize; rather, our emphasis is on thorough investigation, and the ultimate determination rests with the court. We are diligently collecting evidence to establish innocence or guilt.
Q:Among the 123 individuals suspected of gang affiliation in your custody, what charges have been brought against them?
A: The total number of individuals under suspicion is 127, and they are charged with offenses related to public disorder. The specific legal article pertaining to the charges will be cited when the case is formally opened.
Q:The laws of South Sudan state that any suspect arrested should be presented before a competent court of law within 24 hours of arrest. Are you adhering to this provision?
A: No, the law does not explicitly state that suspects must be arraigned within 24 hours. It stipulates that the police have 24 hours to complete their initial processes upon arrest. If additional time is required for ongoing investigations, a petition is submitted to the attorney general to extend the suspect’s detention. The police division’s attorney has a three-day period, and if the investigation isn’t concluded within that timeframe, the case is forwarded to the county-level attorney general. This official is then informed that Mr. X, with case number X, is under arrest, and we are still investigating. If the investigation remains incomplete, we request an extension, as permitted by law for up to six months.
The Chief Justice oversees the case, ensuring that the detention is extended while awaiting trial. Once the investigation concludes, the case file is submitted to the court, which then schedules a hearing date. The police, as parties to the case, respond when called upon by the court. Our actions are guided by the law, and we cannot detain individuals arbitrarily.
Q:We have received information that some of the suspected gangsters who were arrested have been transferred to Rejaf. Can you confirm the accuracy of this information?
A: No, we have relocated them. The 70 individuals arrested in Sherikat overwhelmed the 3 by 4-meter cell, designed for fewer occupants. In adherence to human rights principles, considering the limited space, they were transferred to the Central Equatoria police headquarters, where suitable facilities were arranged. This move ensures their right to be in a more suitable environment.
Q:When can we expect them to be arraigned before the court?
A: We are actively working on the case, but I cannot provide an exact timeframe at this moment.
Q:The musicians’ union says that you are now targeting people with dreadlocks. What is your message for them?
A: Absolutely not. Numerous singers with various hairstyles move freely, and none have been arrested based on their appearance. These claims are unfounded. If anyone feels their rights have been violated, they have the right to address their concerns through proper channels.
The court is available, and individuals can submit petitions detailing police actions. We encourage people to seek justice through official avenues rather than relying solely on social media discussions. The association of singers has not registered any complaints, and we have maintained an open line of communication with them. If anyone has grievances, they should approach us or escalate the matter to higher authorities, such as my boss or the Inspector General, instead of resorting to social media speculation.
Q:Lastly, what message would you like to convey to the general public?
A: In conclusion, I urge everyone’s cooperation. These individuals are our children, and our primary goal is their reformation, not their criminalization. Achieving this requires collective effort, with all of us working together to ensure we cultivate a positive generation for the future of our country.