“We are now part of the global village.”

Cutting edge technology enables a solar-powered police training facility to serve the community.

Harnessing the power of the sun; technicians install solar panels at a police training facility. Photo: UNDP South Sudan

A remote region in South Sudan has become safer thanks to a UNDP-led green renovation of the police academy in southern Rajaf.

The Dr. John Garang Police Training Academy Facility, preparing to graduate some 1,260 cadets, had operated for more than a decade with nearly non-existent power and minimal sanitation — making recruitment and even the most basic training difficult, and creating security risks, particularly at night.

To address these issues, UNDP South Sudan renovated and upgraded dormitories and latrines with funding from Germany and Norway. UNDP’s Office of Information Management & Technology Green Energy Solutions rewired the compound so it could be largely powered by solar cells. The initial investment of US$220,000 included solar panels, a battery bank, solar street lamps, electrical wiring of the dining hall, and three years’ maintenance. Annual maintenance after three years is expected to cost just under US$1,270.

Game-changing innovation

The electrical project follows Smart UNDP Facilities guidelines, which expand energy security and reliability, improve energy storage, upgrade security, and reduce environmental impact.

According to South Sudan National Police Service (SSNPS) spokesman Colonel James Dak Karlo, these upgrades have been a game-changer.

“Before we had generators but no fuel,” he said. “This has given us a great boost. It has given us energy, power, and electricity. We have light, and we serve the whole community with water. We keep informed with radio and television — we are now part of the global village.”

The training facility has three dining halls, 12 dormitories, seven latrines, six wash rooms and an on-site hospital, kindergarten, and primary school, but it’s far from the electric grid.

The lights are on

Now, fans run 24 hours a day, all indoor lights are on between 5 p.m. and midnight and at least four lights between midnight and 6 a.m., six mobile phones are charging at any given time, and two kettles run for 10 hours daily. Radios, televisions, and computers are up and running.

Recruiting more female police is vital for South Sudan, and Rajaf in particular, for instance to address violence against women. With new facilities specifically designed for women, it’s easier for police to recruit and accommodate women trainees.

Recruiting women police officers in remote South Sudan is easier now that the academy has sufficient power. Photo: UN Julie Pudlowski

“This is a unique project that demonstrates how renewable energy and technology can improve security in a remote location — in this case, training a thoroughly professional police service trusted by the community,” said Gerald Demeules, Global ICT Adviser at UNDP’s Copenhagen-based Green Energy Solutions team. “The local businesses gain new skills, which they can use to replicate these environmentally-friendly solutions. That may trigger a country-wide green movement, which is our ultimate goal.”

UNDP has also used solar cells to power the emergency call centre in Juba, and will soon launch a solar-powered call centre in the northwestern city of Wau, which has suffered high levels of violence and insecurity in recent years.

Planning is under way to train local technicians to install and maintain these facilities, which will provide jobs in one of the world’s most deprived countries.

Building trust

South Sudan gained independence in 2011 but struggles with extreme poverty, poor infrastructure, challenges of governance, and factional fighting that has killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions of people to flee their homes.

Supported by UNDP and other partners, the government has established a half-dozen Police Community Relations Committees, which hold monthly meetings with community members to share concerns, establish trust, and devise solutions.

Technology means more equality for South Sudanese women. Photo: UN Julie Podlowski

“Building trust between police and communities is essential. It contributes to peace and sustainable development in South Sudan,” UNDP Country Director Kamil Kamaluddeen said in launching the Jubek State Community Policing Broad Network in November.

This effort, which prioritizes educating cadets and officers in criminal procedure, evidence, ethics, penal code, human rights, police conduct, community policing, and crowd control, is part of UNDP South Sudan’s long-running Access to Justice and the Rule of Law Project.

With support from the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, the United States and Norway, this project is strengthening police, prisons, and the Justice Ministry by reducing case backlogs, addressing prolonged and arbitrary detentions, and harmonizing customary and formal justice mechanisms.

Words by Sarah Jackson-Han, Communications Policy and Partnership Adviser, UNDP Washington

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