A key police officer in the minister of internal affairs of the government of south Sudan denied Friday allegations of rape of female police recruits and physical abuse during a year-long police training period in Juba.
Speaking in an interview with Sudan Tribune Friday, General Acuil Tito Madut, the inspector general of the South Sudan Police Service, said the Associated Press story attributed to investigators from the United Nations "lacks ethnics". He said that the allegations were not correct.
AP reported that: ‘U.N. investigators say police recruits were beaten to death, sexually assaulted and forced to stand for hours in the blazing sun as part of a training program funded by international donors, demonstrating the challenges ahead for what will soon be the world's newest nation.'
"The so called human right report attributed to investigators from the United Nations lacks ethics of investigation. It is all about allegations which are not correct. They are fabrications. No women were raped. There were quarters for different sexes. Men and women were living in separate quarters, right from the time the training commenced until graduation day", said General Tito.
"They were not mixed so that one could say this happened because the recruits were grouped together,” said General Acuil, denying also that this report does not come from the United Nations because UN took part in the training.
“Although it is alleged to have been a report from investigators from the UN, I do not believe this is a report from the UN because the UN itself took part in the training", he said.
Tito, who is also the second top officer in the minister of internal affairs equally denied beating female recruits to death. "The training was not organized to specific gender. It was general police training opened to all sexes including women and there were quarters".
"So why is the report talking about women to have been raped and beaten as if they had their training without other sex group. Why is there no report about men whom they were trained complaining about beating? These are just fabrications to tarnish image of the government of south Sudan", said Acuil.
Sudan Tribune has also spoken to policemen who say they have experienced harsh training styles and procedures.
Speaking to Sudan Tribune from Wau, capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal, Rizik William Vicente, a one of the new recruits graduated at Rejaf police academy in Juba, denied beating but said experienced difficulties with practical demonstrations during the initial days of the training.
"The training was really very good though tough. It equipped us with necessary skills and knowledge in crowd control, investigation procedures, plans and techniques to capture and arrest harmful suspects but we faced difficulties in drills during the first weeks of the training", said Vicente.
The officer, however, said women found it hard and some of them had to run away during the training because drills were difficult for them.
"For some of us, especially men, it was not a big problem but it was not easy for the women some of whom were old. Practical demonstrations were not easy. Most of the women who showed interest in the training were old. A negligible number were young, so it became difficult for them", said Vicente.
He said around 400 women showed up for training classes started in January 2010, but less than the initial figure were graduated with them in December when the training was completed.
"In the beginning there were about 400 women. Women in the camp before the training commenced were many but started to escape when the training started with difficult practical demonstrations. Many of them pretended to be sick all the time even when medical reports indicate they were not sick", said Vicente.
Acuil was reacting to a report attributed to investigators from the United Nations and published by many media outlets claiming that police recruits were beaten to death, sexually assaulted and forced to stand for hours in the blazing sun as part of a training program.
The report attributed to the investigators from the United Nations indicate that some of the 6,000 recruits who took part in a yearlong program to train new officers to promote stability in the war-torn region say they were raped and were beaten with sticks and found that at least two trainees died from injuries.
Funded by the international donors through United Nations, the academy received more than $1 million from the U.N. Development Program with promises of more aid. However, following reports of human right abuses, the international donors have expressed reservations to suspend their support to the Rajaf police academy pending further investigation thus putting plans for the next class of recruits on hold.
Some of the recruits complained that their rights were not respected.
"Our rights as recruits were not respected. We were not getting our allowances on regular basis. We were buying things that were supposed to be catered for by the government like soaps and training dressings. We were buying our own soaps and training clothes", said another policeman who did not want to be named in an interview with Sudan Tribune from Wau on Friday.
Unlike his colleague Vicente who denied the sufferings, he accused trainers to have turned their frustrations on them for not getting their salaries on time.
"One could understand from their talks and faces when instructors could complain of delay in their payments. This contributed to their being harsh on us by beating us with sticks, slapped us unnecessary, and made us to roll on the ground in spite of all conditions including heat of the sun under the pretext that they were part of the practical trainings.
"One would be forced to crawl like a baby and roll during the hot and boiling hours of the sun and sometimes you are put to stand and made to look straight into the sun as punishment. We suffered especially those of who had no relatives connected with instructors", he explained.
Some of the recruits who showed interest in the police training were either those who were living as a refugees in neighboring countries of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Congo, and could not find jobs after returning home. Other recruits were living in internally displaced camps in the north, during the over two decades long civil war, between the north and the south and which came to an end following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). The returnees had the same problem in getting jobs after returned in the south like refugees.
"When I returned in September 2009 from Khartoum after spending 13 years there, I faced a lot of difficulties including getting a manual work. It was really very bad situation because I have wife and children who depend entirely on me but there was no job until a friend I know work for police here in Wau told me there was a police training to be conducted in Juba," the anonymous recruit said.
"He said it was a six months training but went and took a year, so I accepted because there was nothing I could do,” explained the policeman, denying he did not regret attending the training because he had always wanted to be a policeman.
"Although it was not easy training, I am not regretting because I have always want to be a policeman. What pained me a lot was the delay of our allowances and responsibility to buy our clothes and soaps but it is okay I have completed the training successfully", he said.
South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly last month to secede from the north. The independence vote in the referendum was part of a 2005 peace deal that ended a two-decade war that had left two million people dead and four million more displaced.