Some prominent lawyers say they will soon take to court the minister of interior for ordering the police to shoot motorists who disobey verbal -unlawful -traffic orders.
Last week, Michael Chiengjiek told the traffic police and other members 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 also been described as “irresponsible, dangerous and unlawful” by a parliamentarian and an activist.
Chiengjiek defended the move saying its a follow up to similar utterances made by the President in 2016, although Kiir’s directives were made in light of rampant robberies associated with people riding boda-boda motorbikes. He said motorbike riders have often snatched women’s bags and people’s valuables and ordered the police to shoot such criminals [if] they resist arrest.
But Chanjiek believes the order applies to both robbers on motorcycles, and those driving numberless and/or tinted vehicles.
The order has been described as unconstitutional and will only encourage unjustified harm on the civilians.
Since Thursday, motorists in Juba have reported increased levels of harassment and extortion of money by traffic police officers on the roads of Juba.
“Even on a Sunday, they stopped me and wrote a note charging me 5,000 South Sudanese Pounds for driving a car with factory-made tint. The paper is not even an official document, and there is no stamp. They said I can drive freely for the next 15 days using this paper,” said a motorist who spoke on conditions of anonymity.
As a result, some lawyers told Eye Radio that they will sue the minister of interior for making “reckless” statements that bear the potential to endanger the lives of the ordinary persons.
Issa Muzamil, an advocate in Juba said they will seek a legal intervention over the matter by dragging the Minister and the Director of Traffic to court.
“It has turned out that every time…the traffic police are broke, they come and launch operations, they extort money from the public when they are satisfied with the money, they disappear,” said Muzamil.
Transitional Constitution 2011
It is not clear whether the Minister sought approval from the parliament or the Council of Ministers before moving forward to implement the order.
The constitution requires the council of ministers to approve any “general policies initiated by the respective ministries,” while the national parliament is mandated “to adopt resolutions on matters of public concern” as presented by the executive.
“We as the lawyers in this country, we are not going to leave the Minister of Interior to run South Sudan like his private enterprise, we are going to the court for interpretation,” Muzamil added.
Chapter 3, article 117 of the Transitional constitution allows for any person aggrieved by an act of a National Minister [to] contest such act before the Supreme Court, if the alleged act involves a violation of [the] constitution, or any other court of law or competent authority if the allegation is based on other legal grounds.
It also obligates the citizens to “prevent and combat corruption and sabotage”, as well as promote “democracy, good governance and the rule of law.”
This is not the first time the traffic police has embarked on penalizing people driving tinted vehicles.
Early this year, Juba experienced heavy crackdown of tinted vehicles, with officers accused of removing numberplates from licensed vehicles and charging motorists about $70 to recover their plates and licenses.
New Sudan Traffic Act of 2003
Mr. Muzamil said from the onset, the order by the minister contradicts the provisions of the New Sudan Traffic Act 2003.
“This is the minister of interior and the traffic police’s law -just to get money from people, but not to fight crime,” he said.
Currently, the government through the Customs and traffic police departments clears vehicles from the border point of Nimule -with or without tints – and allows them into Juba and other parts of the country.
Motorists have described the act as a “deliberate attempt” to swindle money by allowing these vehicles into the country, only to be told the tinted-glass cars are illegal.
The Traffic Act 2003 says a “licensing officer, before registration of any motor vehicle or trailer, may verify all the particulars in the form of application and may if he thinks fit, send the vehicle to an inspector for examination to satisfy himself that the vehicle is fit for the purpose for which it is intended and to conform in all aspects to the provisions of this Act.”
“So this decision to ask or subject citizens or any person driving a tinted vehicle is just something out of the law. The minister is only focusing on the Police Act, forgetting that all the laws of South Sudan are subject to the constitution,” Muzamil concluded.
On Friday, the Chairperson of Information Committee at the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, Honorable Paul Yoane said such orders by Minister Chanjiek will not help address the root causes of insecurity in the country. He told Eye Radio that the parliament will soon summon him over the matter.
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