Departing UNMIL CAU Mentors Receive Plaques from Colleagues. In uniform, L-R: Angus Kimega, Samuel Kapandula and David Muyeshi
By: Zazay Kolubah
Although they have ended their tours of duty in Liberia as UNMIL Corrections Mentors, their professional legacy passed on to the officers of the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (BCR) across Liberia remains.
The works of David Muyeshi, Angus Kimega and Samuel Kapandula helped to immensely improve the correctional system in Liberia, where people who fall in conflict with the law still have the opportunity to contribute manfully to the nation rebuilding process after their release from prison.
This in no way ignores the challenges faced by BCR, but as the old saying goes, “It is better to give a man his flowers while he is alive”; so is the case of the three peacekeepers, declared Assistant Justice Minister for Corrections, Hilary Siakor-Sirleaf.
Under their stewardship, “our men obtained special skills in strategic security and administrative communications; health and safety measures; booking and release of inmates; supervision and special care for women, juveniles and elderly prisons who inhabit our prisons”.
All of these support have provided our officers the proper skills to respond adequately to emergencies - jail breaks and stampedes, Sirleaf maintained.
David Muyeshi, assigned at the National Palace Corrections in Zwedrue, Grand Gedeh County in his farewell note to the Ministry of Justice said “I indeed played my part as a team player just like you and everybody else; it’s now time to use the same experience in encountering other new challenges that may occur in life out there”.
Muyeshi described Liberia as a wonderful country whose people are unique in hospitality and humanity with a determined cause for peace. He expressed delight for the moment he had with BCR officers, the rest of his team members, and county authorities who remain on ground to continue the work of UNMIL and peace building in Zwedru. For him, he also gained new experience and skills.
Angus Kimeg, worked in Bomi, Cape Mount and at the Monrovia Central Prison in Montserrado Counties. He also recalled his engagements with inmates by providing psychosocial, skills training support in fabric design, shoe-making, animal husbandry, vegetable cultivation and health promotion amongst many others.
Angus expressed belief that although inmates are restricted to a high level of confinement which prevents them from playing active role in society at a particular time, they can still be rehabilitated. This is why it is very important to re-cultivate inmates' skills, both physical and mental.
In Tubmanburg Bomi County, where Clarence Dono serves as Prison Superintendent, inmates at the Tubmanburg Central Prison have booked their space as key actors in the local economy by supplying the market with locally produced ladies and gents bags, slipper and shoes; least to talk about the tasty pineapples, the fresh cassava, peppers, egg plants, cabbages and potato greens.
Their beautiful breeds of rabbits, Guinea-pigs and poultry have placed this western county of Liberia in a good book of domestic animal management.
For his part, Samuel Kapandula ended his tour of duty in Lofa County. His engagement was tied to strengthening relations and collaboration between the county correction centers and the courts, aimed at supporting measures to curb prison over crowdedness.
Prison facilities across Liberia, still face the problem of overcrowding, linked to prolonged and increased incidents of pretrial detention.
This was also identified recently by the German Ambassador, Hurbert Jager as an area needing assistance which his government will support.
Ambassador Jager said the move aims to promote peaceful coexistence amongst the local populace and improve programs of BCR which will add more value to Liberia’s Justice and Security Sector.
Similarly, Samuel Kapandula said he worked in Lofa to help strengthen relations and collaboration in the Justice and Security Sector by encouraging residents to peacefully resolve their differences and reframe from coming in conflict with the law.
While engaging the police, court and prison managements, he pushed for professionalism and appealed to the consciousness of state actors to always act for the good of society and the state.
“Overall, UNMIL must be credited for giving CAU Mentors the opportunity to serve our country. I thank the mission for the high level of transformation they have brought us.
Think about the numerous peacebuilding programs, reflect a bit on human rights protection, support to road rehabilitation, construction of public facilities; youth and women empowerment programs, and public information services” Assistant Justice Minister Sirleaf intoned.
In a letter of appreciation to UNMIL CAU, the Minister termed the work of the departing Corrections Mentors as invaluable.
Sirleaf wrote: “Our hearts are heavy because all of you have been great colleagues to us. I will always remember our teamwork, especially around the country. Your support and our team bonding were a source of strength.
In a lot of different ways, we have experienced your kindness, and so today, please let me extend my heartfelt gratitude to you all on behalf of all of us, especially, the officers in Zwedru, Tubmanburg, Gbarnga, and the Monrovia Central Prison (MCP) amongst others”.
Besides the mentorship UNMIL provides, many Quick Impact Projects (QIP) have taken place in BCR: the construction and rehabilitation of prison facilities, providing furniture and free medical services, and sewing machines and food processing techniques; and domestic supplies for women and children.
David Muyeshi and Angus Kimega are from Kenya and Samuel Kapandula of Zimbia have all left Liberia in the week of the 20th of January 2017 to reunite with their families back home.
Contributing partners to BCR include: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UNDP, UN Women, U.S. and Swedish Governments.