In their unmistakable Zimbabwe Republic Police uniform, Inspector Jane Mavima, the United Nations Mission (UNMISS) in South Sudan gender officer and Assistant Inspector Winnie Shoko brave the sweltering Juba sun as they wrap their pep talk.

Insp Mavima, who is also the UNMISS child protection focal point, gives a quick and reassuring hug to Asst Insp Shoko, who is getting ready to enter Protection of Civilian Site (POCIII) in Juba as she takes up her patrolling duty in the camp.

Insp Mavima and Asst Insp Shoko are part of the outgoing Zimbabwe contingent of 37 members plus a professional at the UNMISS on peace keeping duties.

Headed by the unassuming Chief Superintendent Kezias Karuru as the Contingent Commander, the group has received acclamation from the United Nations Police Chief of Staff Girmany Gebrekidan who described them as the most professional and disciplined group.

Inspector Jane Mavima with South Sudanese children at UN camp, Juba. Insp Mavima is among Zimbabwe’s contingent of 38 at the UN’s peacekeeping mission.-(Picture by Tawanda Mudimu)

“I have worked with the Zimbabwean police contingent for the last three years where they have excelled in peace keeping duties. You will find Zimbabwean police in all areas of expertise. You will find Zimbabweans in planning, human resources management, rotation, civilian protection, community policing, assessment – in fact, you find Zimbabwe police members in all the components of the United Nations Police.

“The officers are highly skilled and professional, and all have a mission to make a difference in peace keeping. I am particularly pleased with the high number of the females in the Zimbabwean contingent,” said Chief of Staff Gebrekidan

There are two PoCs in Juba (Central Equatoria) with a combined population of 39 198.

The other five PoCs are in various localities throughout South Sudan with a combined internally displaced population of 171 347, with a total of 210 545 civilians under UN protection.

Asst Insp Shoko and 12 other female officers of the Zimbabwe Republic Police are part of a unit of peace keepers that give a reassuring presence to the vulnerable women and children who make up the majority of the internally-displaced population that has sought sanctuary at the United Nations protection site.

As is typical in conflict situations, ra_pe, se_xual and domestic violence top the list of crimes in protection of civilian camps.

Chief of Staff Gebrekidan says the need for female officers in the peace keeping mission can never be overemphasised as the displaced and traumatised women and children feel more comfortable interacting with them.

While Asst Insp Shoko go out in the PoCs on patrols and other duties, some like Insp Eugenia Tongoona and Sgt Melody Ncube work from the office as administration and personnel officers.

“While Asst Insp Shoko is going on patrol duties in the camp, I will remain in the office working out strategies and doing paper work for the gender unit. As we do our duties, we do not carry our titles – we are police advisors.

“We do not have arresting powers, but we assist in the capacitation of South Sudan National Police on how to handle gender and child protection issues during policing,” explained Ins Mavima.

She has been heavily involved in the training aspect of gender policing.

She said in conflict situations like the one that exist in South Sudan, children often come out as witnesses, victims or get in conflict with the law.

“Even if they are in conflict with the law, they still remain children and our duty as police is to ensure that they are protected as thus. There are various UN instruments that protect children, and our duty is to see to it that we protect the children.”

In a brief to The Herald news crew, Contingent Commander Karuru said Zimbabwe has been a police contributing country to the UNMISS since its inception in 2011.

“ZRP Superintendent Elizabeth Silenje is in the senior management as she holds a professional post as United Nations Police (UNPOL) Chief of planning. Of the 38 Zimbabwean police officers in UNMISS, 13 are females, translating to a good 34 percent. This is far above the mission female officer threshold percentage. Zimbabwe has responded commendably well to the UN calls for gender parity in peace keeping,” said CC Karuru.

ZRP head of contigent in South Sudan Chief Supt Kezias Karuru addresses some of the peacekeepers at UN camp in Juba, South Sudan recently.-(Picture by Tawanda Mudimu)

He explained that the duty of the Zimbabwe contingent, like other contingents in the UNMISS is to render technical assistance and advice to the host police of South Sudan in the direction of human rights and gender responsive policing with a view to support durable peace initiatives.

As the female officers of the Zimbabwe contingent have excelled, the males on the other hand, have equally acquitted themselves highly.

Chief Inspector Simbarashe Tumbe stands out, as he has been instrumental in setting up a crimes analysis unit in the UNMISS UNPOL – the first for the whole UNPOL.

“We have a crimes analysis unit at the Zimbabwe Republic Police and that unit assists police in crime prevention and watching crime trends. The unit is very helpful and I was very happy when I was asked to help set up such a unit in the UNMISS UNPOL.

“This gives me honour as an individual, but more so as an officer serving in the ZRP. We have made our mark, and we shall continue to excel,” said Chief Insp Tumbe.

The outgoing PoC III chairman Mr Koang Luash Holh Whiab said life in the protection site was difficult, but they at least were safe from conflict courtesy of peacekeepers from Zimbabwe and other countries.

“We work very well with the peace keepers from the UNMISS. But the Zimbabwean ones stand out. They are very respectful and professional. We shall miss Commander Karuru and his colleagues. We hope the new group will be as equally respectful as this group. The new chairman Mr John Chool Bandeng will hopefully work well with the new crew,” said Mr Whiab.

As the recently inked peace agreement show signs of holding out in South Sudan, CC Karuru hopes Zimbabwe’s representatives in the UNMISS will forever be remembered as having contributed to the UN peace efforts.

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