South Sudan cracks down on soaring crime

2011-09-27 21:09

Juba - South Sudan vowed on Tuesday to crack down on the flow of people and goods to the newly independent country, amid fears of terrorism and soaring crime levels that the government blames on outsiders.

Interior Minister Alison Monani Magaya said strengthening the country's police forces to tackle rebel groups, disarmament and a spike in serious crime was a priority.

"It's never been a part of our life here, and according to intelligence, these people are coming from outside, from neighbouring countries. They are committing sophisticated crimes such as armed robberies on shops and people," Magaya told a news conference.

He was unable to provide statistics but said the southern capital Juba had been particularly hit by an influx of criminals, spawning money counterfeiting and drugs operations.

The government hopes a new database to screen and track foreigners will curb concerns over people pouring into the new country unchecked and South Sudan ranking fifth in the Terrorism Risk Index published last month.

It also promised tighter border controls with Sudan, having identified around 27 entry points for vehicles.

"We are also concerned that terrorism will come here because of our weak infrastructure, and so we are setting up an anti-terrorism unit. We are taking this very seriously," said Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin.

He said the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army was operating near the border with Chad, supported by the Sudanese government, and was still a threat to the economy and security in the west of the country.

Trained by Khartoum

"These people that we are aware of are being trained by Khartoum to hit us with two stones," said Benjamin, accusing the north of wanting to destabilise South Sudan and its neighbours.

Some rebel groups have responded to President Salva Kiir’s amnesty promise, including up to 10 000 troops under renegade general Peter Gadet who were successfully integrated last month.

But Benjamin said a steady supply of weapons from the north was undermining the government's efforts.

Fighters loyal to renowned rebel leader George Athor were still a major threat to people's security, he added, warning the amnesty offer was not "open-ended, and a government has a duty to protect its citizens".

Magaya said it was a "big task" to strengthen and professionalise South Sudan's police force, widely viewed as corrupt and heavy handed by the public.

But he underlined the government's intention to raise standards, and expressed hope a permanent police presence in all states would boost security and disarmament after decades of civil war that left the region awash with weapons.