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KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Kunar provincial government held a rule of law conference at the governor’s compound, Dec. 29 through 30, for justice officials from across the province and their national government counterparts.
More than 140 justice sector officials attended the two-day conference hosted by the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in downtown Asadabad.
The conference’s purpose was to introduce Kunar officials to their Kabul-based counterparts, discuss justice sector issues and increase coordination between the provincial and national governments.
“Conferences such as this are a way to put an end to corruption and gain the trust of the people,” said Fazlullah Wahidi, Kunar provincial governor, in his opening remarks to the attendees. “We should show the people we are working for them…by destroying corruption and smuggling. If we do this, they will believe in us and trust their government and think we are responsible for them.”
Wahidi also told the justice officials the Kunar people have waited a long time for peace and security, and that they should work to uphold the law.
“People should work honestly for the people of Kunar. If you do not respect the law, you will not respect the people,” he said. “Corruption and smuggling are bad and need to be dealt with, and you’re the experts on this and can change it. The people believe in you.”
U.S. Army Col. Randy A. George, Task Force Mountain Warrior commander, challenged the group to rise to the occasion.
“In the months to come, the government in Kabul and the governments in all the provinces and districts will face increased expectations to be more transparent, prove effectiveness and reduce corruption,” George said. “ISAF and the international community will offer some new initiatives to help encourage these changes, but you must take the lead in these efforts if you’re going to be successful.
“We can encourage officials to do their parts, we can offer assistance and we can provide some material support, but you must show the determination to make your government better,” he said “We have a great opportunity at our grasp if the leaders take a hold of it, grab the support of the people and make the conviction to move forward.”
George asked the participants to speak truthfully with each other about what changes in Kunar and in Kabul need to happen to better connect the legal system to the people.
Abraham Sutherland, Department of State Rule of Law advisor to the Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team, then explained the importance of the conference by highlighting the prosecution of criminals.
“When a murderer goes unpunished or a criminal buys his release, the people lose trust in their government. Only with the support of the people can the government succeed,” Sutherland said. “By tracking the prosecution of criminals, the people of Kunar will see their system work. But, they will also be able to see when and why their justice system doesn’t work.
“This conference is an opportunity for you to discuss this important issue and to discuss the help and cooperation you need from other justice officials, including officials in Kabul, to ensure the criminal justice system succeeds,” Sutherland said.
The participants broke into five working groups representing different sectors to discuss their issues. The Kabul delegation was made up of members of the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, the Attorney General’s office, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the National Directorate of Security.
On the second day of the event, the attendees came together as a group to discuss their findings. Overall, the biggest issue identified was getting better coordination between the different segments of the judicial system in the province and support from the national government.
“The Kunar participants were grateful for the opportunity to meet with the Kabul delegation and found the conference useful,” Sutherland said. “They were able to speak at length about their issues and focus on areas for improvement.”
Sutherland said the attendees would be brought back in two months for an event focusing on substantive training. The training topics will be chosen from the issues identified during this conference’s small group breakouts.
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