Johannesburg – The world’s newest country, war-torn and cash-strapped South Sudan, has spent millions of dollars on Israeli surveillance drones and security cameras to fight another of its big problems – crime, Uganda’s Daily Monitor reported on Tuesday.
While continuing political unrest and civil war - and the associated death, destruction, and displacement - have rendered South Sudan the origin of Africa’s largest refugee crisis, the capital Juba is facing a crime wave.
Hence the need for surveillance drones, President Salva Kiir explained on Monday at a police training centre as the first two drones and 11 cameras were to be deployed by Israeli company Global Group.
Criminals can now be traced and they cannot get away with crime, while all the planes at the airport will be safe and everybody can be screened wherever he or she is going, said the president.
Edward Dimitiri, technology director at the interior ministry, would not put an exact price tag on the project, which he said was costing "millions of dollars".
South Sudan’s oil-based economy has all but collapsed following the outbreak of a new civil war four years ago.
This has further impoverished an already poverty-stricken population while the ongoing conflict has uprooted a third of the population and pushed millions more to the brink of starvation.
"The drones are like helicopters, they can fly in the air, they can be zoomed in and out and one can tell if there's a criminal suspect hiding elsewhere or running," said Kfir Shilder, a company director at Global Group said, adding there are plans to install more than 100 other cameras and deploy more drones.
State House, the ministerial quarter and the airport will be where the first cameras are installed.
One hundred and fifty policemen will be trained to eventually monitor operations but until then Global will oversee these.
However, how Juba will actually sustain the project financially remains uncertain as a cash shortage has exacerbated the country’s problems.
And as Juba outlines plans to fight crime, military clashes on South Sudan’s border with Sudan claimed the lives of three rebels on Monday following fighting within the rebel faction of South Sudan United Movement/Armed Forces (SSUM/A).
A senior rebel official loyal to General Peter Gatdet Yaka confirmed that the incident occurred at an undisclosed border area.
The fighting followed a misunderstanding between officers from a portion of the Gok community and relatives of Gatdet from Mayom county on who should head the rebels’ military intelligence.
Fighting, eyewitnesses said, erupted after the arrest of the former military intelligence chief whom Gatdet replaced with his nephew, the Sudan Tribune reported.
In 2015, Gatdet abandoned the main armed opposition movement led by South Sudan’s former First Vice-President Riek Machar, currently in exile in South Africa, and formed SSUM/A.
Gatdet is currently based in Khartoum where he commands a few soldiers.