NORTHERN-BAHR-EL-GHAZAL – Road travel in South Sudan can be adventurous, and not always in the positive, exciting sense of the word. Monitoring the flow of movement are police officers who are not always familiar with traffic rules, or how to keep more vulnerable road users, like pedestrians and (motor)cyclists, safe.
UN police officers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) are trying to change the currently dangerous scene.
“The community is ignorant and don’t know the meaning of different road signs. We put up signs, but they tend to become either removed or stolen. Drivers need to be educated, and we need to learn how to teach them. Imagine, many road users don’t even have a driving licence,” says Major General Nhial Nhial Monycol, Director of the Traffic Police in Northern-Bahr-el-Ghazal State.
Basic communications skills and tips on how to protect pedestrians and vulnerable motorists were part of the skills that UN police officers shared with 35 of their South Sudanese counterparts at a workshop conducted in Aweil.
“There is a gap among the traffic police officers themselves, and that gap is education. Most of them are not educated. That being the case, we taught them how to initiate outreach programmes on road safety to build the skills among road users,” says Rose Moris Magita, a policewoman serving with UNMISS.
The aforementioned challenges, combined with poorly maintained roads, sometimes dangerous weather conditions and the frequent presence of a motley lot of animals where drivers are jostling for sufficient space to navigate their vehicles all add up to alarming statistics: in the last six months alone, traffic police have recorded more than 400 road accidents, claiming at least fifteen deaths.
“For this reason, we also taught the trainees about road signs, driving offences and safety precautions to take, as well as the rights of suspects who have been detained, how to write proper incident reports and about the harmful consequences of police misconduct when controlling traffic,” Ms. Magita added.
Those in attendance praised the training initiative and pledged to make good use of it.
“The workshop was very informative and critical for us to better perform our duties while saving lives in the process. I will conduct awareness among road users, and also among colleagues who could not attend these vital sessions,” said Warrant Officer Paulino Yal Anei.