25th August 2019
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Interior Minister criticized for ordering shooting of “disobedient” motorists

Authors: Emmanuel Akile | Joakino Francis | Published: 3 months ago

South Sudan Interior Minister, Michael Chanjiek at the National Parliament on 14th May, 2019. PHOTO: Joakino Francis/Eye Radio

The Minister of Interior is being criticized for telling security officers to shoot at any motorist who fails to comply to “a stop and search” order while driving tinted or numberless vehicle.

Michael Chianjiek on Friday told the traffic police and other officers of the organized forces that those driving tinted or numberless vehicle are considered “criminals,” and if anyone refuses to stop when ordered, the officers are “free to shoot.”

This directive has been described as “irresponsible, dangerous and unlawful” by a member of parliament and a civil society activist.

Chianjiek argues that the move follows the same utterances by the President to curb crimes in the country.

The President did not actually order the shooting of “disobedient” motorists driving tinted or numberless vehicles.

In 2016, Salva Kiir told new police graduates that several crimes within urban centers are committed by criminals riding boda-boda motorcycles, who often snatch women’s bags and people’s valuables. He said the police is authorized to shoot such criminals [if] they resist arrest.

Read related story: https://eyeradio.org/president-kiir-orders-police-shoot-to-kill-criminal/

But Chanjiek believes the order applies to both.

“When you go with a tinted window car, and we said it is not allowed…[and] some people cover their number plates, why do you do that? Who are you afraid of?” Chanjiek asked, adding that “it means you are a criminal.”

“The directives of the President that everyone using a car without a number-plate should be shot, should be implemented. If you find a vehicle without a number plate and the motorist refuses to stop, shoot them immediately.”

Kiir’s remarks

On the contrary, President Kiir’s orders specifically said “the police [should] ARREST anyone driving a numberless vehicle, [because] such cars are used to conduct crimes,” adding that “I am authorizing you to shoot those who snatch women’s handbags.”

Read related story: https://eyeradio.org/president-kiirs-issues-measures-fighting-crime/

The utterance by Minister Chanjiek has been received with utter dismay by the public.

Those who spoke to Eye Radio said the order is unconstitutional and will only encourage unjustified harm on the civilians by the security personnel.

“First of all, the ordinary persons respects the laws, it is the men in uniform and the big guys who do not respect orders or laws. They are the ones you find driving these tinted and numberless land-cruisers and V8s,” said James Mangar, a resident of Wau town.

Others insisted that the government is to blame for allowing the importation of factory-tinted cars, and collecting fees and other charges at the border entry points.

Activist and legislator

Rajab Muhandis, the Executive Director of the Organization for Responsive Governance said the order is flawed as it will endanger the lives of many motorists.

He said several factors may hinder drivers from noting being stopped by men in uniform while driving.

“For some reason you may not see the person stopping you…maybe there are several vehicles at a junction or something, and so you may not be deliberately escaping, you may just be moving away -not knowing that you have been stopped. So, shooting someone in that manner -I think is completely unacceptable,” Mr. Muhandis said.

He added that the order is ill-conceived and should not be applied indiscriminately.

“It is only vehicles that are associated with people in power and security [forces] that use vehicles without number plates or cover their number plates. Even if the orders are issued in good-faith, they can still be misused. The government should help the people and clarify the difference between tinted-glass and shaded-glass.”

For his part, the Chairperson of Information Committee at the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, Honorable Paul Yoane said such orders will not help address the root causes of insecurity in the country.

He told Eye Radio that the parliament will endeavor to summon the minister over the matter.

“My fear is that anybody can take the law in his or her hands, and try to stop anybody with covered number plate, or that tinted glass, and decide to shoot. The problem is…what will be the impact when such a thing happens?” Hon. Yoane wondered.

Traffic police officers have been accused by the public of harassing those driving factory-made tinted vehicles. They are also accused of extorting money from unsuspecting motorists.

“These are issues that probably our Minister Michael Chianjiek will be summoned before the house, and we expect him to also come with some of the Generals in the traffic police, because today if you see really the way the traffic officers behave in our streets, you will see that there is something which is not normal,” Hon. Yoane concluded.

Controversies

This is not the first time the Interior Minister, Michael Chanjiek has made controversial moves viewed by the public as inconsiderate to their safety and welfare.

In August last year, Chanjiek reversed an order by the Ministry of Health to ban the use of ‘form 8’ – a document issued by police to provide consent for emergency medical treatment.

Hospitals have been demanding for these forms from patients to enable them to make informed decisions as to whether to undergo medical treatment. The document can be used as an evidence in court as a record of physical injuries related to criminal acts.

But sometimes it is hard to get the forms during emergencies especially at night.

As a result, the Minister of Health, Dr. Riak Gai, abolished it.

Read related story: https://eyeradio.org/interior-minister-reverses-ban-form-8/

However, Chianjiek issued a reversal order arguing that the decision was made without the consent of his ministry and that of Justice.

“The minister [Dr. Riak Gai] did not consult with me and the minister was in deed enforcing a law which was issued out by one of the agencies,” he told the press in Juba.

In the form 8, police indicate information of when, where and how an injury occurred. It also shows the name, age and where the victim comes from.

But those who have had the experience of waiting the form 8 say the process disregards the notion of “saving life” in light of the condition of a victim who may require emergency treatment.

“Does implementing a law supersedes saving the life of a citizen? What is important to the minister…saving and protecting our lives or filling the form -which is just a formality?” asked Mary Nyamuc, IDP at UN house.

In most countries; one is allowed to first seek medical attention for emergencies or life-threatening cases and report the incident to the police within 24 hours or 10 days. a doctors report is also considered sufficient by the police while one is being treated.

But in South Sudan, doctors at the public and private hospitals are not allowed to treat anyone without a police Form 8, which often results into more health complications for victims of road accidents, or sexual gender-based violence.

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