Category: Opinions Written by The Nation Mirror Admin
By Kuyang Harriet Logo Mulukwat
n Juba, Traffic officers are deployed on all the street – they line all streets - is the best phrase to use. They have all undergone trainings- covering Basic Road Safety Regulation, to improve the work of local traffic police officers in the country and have been offered more courses on Traffic Accident Investigations, Traffic Management and implementation of the South Sudan Traffic Act, Public Relations and Customer Care and Community Policing - I have had my share of training them in Yei too. Despite all the training, I can hardly say I have had pleasant encounters with the traffic police, who sometimes I believe, are deployed to harass road users, particularly drivers – and especially those who drive private cars and most especially younger women – I fall in the younger women category and always ‘ presumed foreign’!
The moment one joins the main road; there is a traffic police right at the junction waiting to blow his whistle to stop a driver. Upon stopping, the traffic police comes over -and having learnt nothing about courtesy, rudely demands for papers. By the way, sometimes they ask why one is not in a very pleasant mood – well, I thought it was a matter of common sense, that when you employ rudeness, you expect a similar response! So once you present all your papers, they must peer into your car to ensure that you have the fire extinguisher and some other things like shoes - which a car must have.
When one is in possession of all the required documents, they move to the next level of harassment – ask for one to turn on the lights, the indicators and use the wiper and also open the car to ensure that your seat belt is securely trapped – what baffles me, is that, one can be stopped by the same traffic police officer over and over again – they are devoid of the recollection that they had stopped you on your way earlier on.
So, when they randomly blow the whistle make sure your sight takes immediately note and you act accordingly, failure to do so – and usually because you did not hear the whistle - another officer blows you to a full halt and then, the first one, who had stopped you, makes an appearance and the show down begins! All sort of accusations will be laid -on how you deliberately refused to stop and of course if you told them that you did not hear, or see them that’s your business - they don’t want to hear about it – their presumption that you have heard the whistle and decided to race on must be the most relevant and only one.
They seem to have lots of time for the harassment – as you continue to apologize and play humble and say it won’t happen again and even smile – they continue with lectures of all sorts, usually very annoying – and you have to sit through the entire lecture, hoping you are not going to be late for your next appointment.
They have no concept of time and never make the mistake of telling them to rush the lecture, because of your impending appointments. They don’t expect you to fret or to show signs of impatience. At such moments if you have all your papers in order – good for you and if you don’t have all that are required, then you will be accused of trying to purposefully dodge them!
These stops are multiple and one goes through the same things all over again on the way back or to another destination – they are usually harsher on non government cars and even harsher to women – especially those who they regard as foreigners – the foreigner status is easily determined – just a cursory look at you, would give them the impression that you are foreign and deserve the worst kind of treatment – you would be a little bit okay If you possess basic Juba Arabic – that is usually a determination that you are South Sudanese and deserves a less harsh treatment.
The determination of the penalty on the roadsides baffles me – who determines what is to be paid? And how the money is later deposited to where it should be, beats me –though I know most of it is dependent on the looks of your car and yourself and your demeanor and goes into individual pockets!
I am a victim of the actions of the traffic police and I want to red flag the issue. I have had several run ins with them and despite having updated and accurate papers, there is always something to pick on – for instance after inspecting my car thoroughly, one officer wanted to know why I was looking pissed and the other , by the way on the same day, asked me why my car was very dirty ! And the other wanted to know why I was putting my bags on the passenger seat and wearing sun glasses!
The author is a South Sudanese lawyer and senior consultant, a continuing legal scholar and writer on Democratic Governance and the Rule of Law and lectures at the College of Law, Juba University on a part time basis.