Adrienne Njuikam: a committed and passionate UN Police Officer
Bimbo, Central African Republic – United Nations Police Officer (UNPOL) Adrienne Njuikam says she has never been one to be fazed by a challenge – a conviction that is serving her well in her current role as head of the MINUSCA team deployed to the Bimbo Gendarmerie Brigade, which houses policy custody cells and is located about 10 kilometers southwest of the Central African Republic’s (CAR) capital Bangui.
She joined MINUSCA in December 2018 and has since led a team of four UNPOL peacekeepers working in tandem with the CAR police and gendarmerie, known as the Forces de sécurité intérieure (FSI). At the heart of their work is advising, mentoring and training. Together with the 28-member strong local authorities, they manage detainee registers, patrol surrounding areas to monitor the security situation in the area, conduct neighbourhood visits to gather information as well as plan and organize community policing activities.
For officer Njuikam, her work in Bimbo is a golden opportunity on the frontlines of promoting human rights. A typical workday will see the team inspect the police custody cells – to ascertain whether all detainees are in their cells; that no detainees have been taken ill; that there is no mixing of adults and children in the cells. They check for blunt objects; they ensure that the inmates’ rights to visits and access to medical care are respected. Between 60 and 80 men and women pass through the Bimbo Gendarmerie Brigade’s custody cells every month.
“We encourage the youth, particularly girls, to get involved in peacebuilding work’’
A glaring lack of adequate infrastructure is one of the major stumbling blocks to work – with the detention cells lacking proper facilities to render them fully operational. Another challenge is the strong need to ensure that the rights of detainees are respected and for the capacity building of the local security forces. A highlight of her work is the mentoring role, which her interactions with the detainees allow for during the 72 hours that they are typically held in police custody, before they are either released or sent to the prosecutor’s office.
Community-level mentoring took centre stage in recent months when her team worked to raise awareness on a government recruitment campaign supported by MINUSCA, calling on young people to apply to join the national security forces. “We encourage the youth, particularly girls, to get involved in peacebuilding work, both individually and collectively, so as to contribute to the return to stability in the Central African Republic. By joining the security forces, they have already become agents of peace for their country as the training they receive will equip them with the tools to serve,” she says.
Of the 1,000 candidates admitted to the recent FSI recruitment process countrywide, 70 came from Bimbo. Among them were 22 women – one of Adrienne Njuikam’s proudest moments on the job thus far. She is big on empowering women – and takes every opportunity she gets in her interactions with female detainees to provide counsel on life out of custody.
Proud to positively impact lives as a peacekeeper
The mentoring role also extends to supporting FSI counterparts within the judicial police and in the maintenance of order, community policing and the protection of vulnerable children and women. When heavy flooding hit parts of the Central African Republic late last year, the joint UNPOL/FSI team was on hand to visit Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and assist those affected – providing water supplies and medicine as well as offering words of comfort.
Having previously served with the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in the wake of her police studies in her native Cameroon, officer Njuikam is well conversant with UNPOL peacekeeping operations. “I have a passion for service in the field. I aspire to leave a positive mark on the population in the places where I am recruited to serve. I am always ready to play my part where my contribution could make a difference,” she states.
Her motivation is seeing change unfold. In Bimbo, her team regularly works to strengthen the capacity of the FSI: “Every day, we take an interactive communication course on the Central African Code of Criminal Procedures and Code of Ethics. Working in tandem allows for the transfer our experiences and skills to advance our joint objectives.”
A little over a year into her role, she is in no doubt that MINUSCA’s ambition to stabilize the Central African Republic is firmly aligned with her professional aspirations – a fact that allows her to take the day-to-day work challenges in stride. “Our daily task is to positively touch all parts of life that stand in the way of peace,” she affirms.