Adverse conditions, an ongoing insurgency and a lack of women police officers are undermining the best efforts of the hybrid United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur to police an area about one third the size of South Africa.
The South African commander of the UNAMID police, Assistant Commissioner Mike Fryer, in his first public briefing on law enforcement there noted the first challenge was that Sudan is not a failed state.
In fact it is a “very strong government and they dictate to us what we can do,” down to authorising individual helicopter flights.
Fryer, who has been in Darfur for 18 months, adds that the next challenge is that “there is no conclusive peace agreement in place in Darfur, we`re working in an environment where there is no peace to keep.
An interim agreement has only been signed by two of the 25 to 35 belligerent parties.
A harsh climate and rough terrain, the lack of infrastructure and the emergence of organised crime are further obstacles.
Fryer says the main task of the UNAMID police is protecting civilians, with an emphasis on refugees or “internally displaced people” (IDPs). In order to do this the mission is establishing permanently-staffed police stations in IDP camps and implementing a community policing system there.
They are also providing skills training to the government police as well as that of cooperating insurgent movements to “reflect International Policing standards and increase their impartial service delivery to the local communities.”
With rape being used as a “weapon of war”, Fryer says a major focus is dealing with gender-based violence. But only 13% of his force of 2013 are women. The requirement is for 40% and they should preferably be Muslim.
Fryer`s force is also badly understrength. His unarmed police element should muster 3772 and his armed paramilitary should number 2660 officers in 19 units. The current force level is 975 in seven units, or just 36.65% of the authorised strength. Despite this the force includes offices from 34%, mostly (80%) from Africa.
The commissioner notes that crime is now also becoming a problem in the area. “Long after the guns have fallen silent, crime will continue,” he says, adding that crime always follows in the trace of conflict.
Crimes affecting UNAMID and other aid organisations include burglaries, house robberies and carjackings.
Fryer says his force will continue to train Sudanese and insurgent police, including 800 government officers in election monitoring and conduct.
He is also keen that the UN, African Union and Sudanese government expedite the deployment of police, increase the UNAMID police presence in IDP camps and put in place “additional technical means to increase camp security such as lighting
His trainers are also continuing “with capacity building of UNAMID police officers by means of internal and external training interventions” in the fields of gender-based violence, gender mainstreaming and community policing. His officers will also up efforts to support humanitarian agencies and protect civilians. In this regard the force will also establish a Special Investigation Unit to address rape cases.