New police stations a step in building peace in Guinea-Bissau
The inauguration of a new police station would be an event of modest importance in many countries, but not in the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau, which recently opened its first proper installation of this kind since achieving independence nearly four decades ago.
The new commissary, unveiled in September in a neighborhood of the nation’s capital, Bissau, is the first of a dozen such “model police stations” slated to be opened in the next two years in Guinea-Bissau – part of a UN-backed effort to help build lasting peace and security following decades of chronic instability.
Expertise and funding for the project comes from the United Nations Integrated Peace-Building Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS) and the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission. The assistance is part of a broader effort supported by the international community to help the country reform its security forces, improve public safety for its people, and establish functioning judicial institutions.
Guinea-Bissau is one of the world’s poorest nations, with
a growing problem of drug trafficking in recent years. Law enforcement has been inadequate to respond to the challenge of providing effective security, lacking often the resources and professionalism.
First police station since independence
Symptomatic of the problem, the last time new police barracks were constructed pre-dates the country's independence in 1974. Additional police stations were set up in improvised fashion over the years, in residential houses lacking even basic facilities in many cases such as water, electricity or even furniture.
The implementation of model police stations, including the construction of modern premises,
provision of updated equipment, and the selection, training and mentoring of police personnel, is thus a significant step within the overall support of UNIOGBIS and other international actors to Guinea-Bissau’s program of Security Sector Reform (SSR) to restore the credibility of the security forces with the community. More than 50 officers for the first police station have already been trained through UNIOGBIS and the training and mentoring is ongoing, covering issues such as respect for human rights and gender-related policing. UNIOGBIS will maintain a presence in various regions of Guinea-Bissau in order to provide adequate support to the national police and the model police stations. Within a year, six police stations will be completed;
the second year will see the establishment of another six stations.
International support for security sector reform
At the inauguration ceremony of the first police station on 12 September, the UN Special Representative for Guinea-Bissau and head of UNIOGBIS, Joseph Mutaboba, called on the international community to continue its support for the country’s security sector reform.
The United Nations, through its Peacebuilding Commission, will disburse $17 million not only for the model police stations but also for courts, a judiciary training center, the Pension Fund for the Armed Forces as well as measures to address drug trafficking and unemployment, among others.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently called the model police stations initiative and broader support and training “an essential step” toward restoring state authority, establishing public security for the population and overcoming past practices of disregard for the rule of law and human rights.
The new station opened in September and is staffed with policemen and policewomen recently trained in modern policing practices including techniques aimed at forging improved relationships with the communities to be served.
Established after the end of the civil war in Guinea-Bissau in 1999, UNIOGBIS today assists the country in a variety of areas, ranging from security, political reconciliation to electoral assistance. The Department of Political Affairs provides guidance and operational support to UNIOGBIS, one of a dozen political field missions under its supervision.