Ethiopia: Prison authorities tackle infrastructure problems

On 8th November 2018, thirty prison authorities from six African countries and ICRC detention experts concluded discussions on tackling problems and challenges facing detention infrastructure at a three-day seminar held in Addis Ababa. According to the participants, the seminar helped them to identify solutions to the problems and exchange best practices on the stated subject.

DCGP Jean Chantal Ujeneza, Deputy Commissioner General of Rwandese Correctional Service was one of the participants of the seminar, organized by the Ethiopian Federal Prison Administration and the ICRC. "The most important lesson we learnt was that before constructing any prison, we need to plan, a plan that needs to be participatory, involving all stakeholders, even prisoners to have their ideas to get all the facilities required included in the design," she remarked. She also stressed the need to plan ahead according to standard and considering the human rights of prisoners and their number as well.

"We also realized the importance of taking into consideration all things related to maintenance during the planning for failing to do so will make maintenance usually expensive," Chantal said. Adding, "If the planning goes properly, the maintenance cost will usually be less, and that will help us overcome the problem of financing." Prison design, overcrowding, maintenance, food chain management, health care and other essential services, and financing were among the top subjects discussed in the course of the seminar.

It was the first seminar to bring together prison authorities from Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Gambia and Nigeria.

"When constructing kitchens we need to think about costs and catering capacity, as well as keeping all the facilities closer to prisoners to help them get their needs at ease," said Ahaotu Charles, Deputy Controller-General of Nigerian Prisons. "In general, we were able to draw important lessons which are instrumental in improving the management and administration of prisons."

Abdoule-Karim Diomonde of the ICRC delegation in Ethiopia said though the ICRC works around the globe, it never had a chance to bring countries together so that they can share their experiences. "We know that there are solutions that have been found in some countries which can be used or copied to address problems in other countries by adapting them in their contexts," he added.

According to Abdoule-Karim, the consensus was reached during the seminar to organize such a forum on an annual and rotating basis.

The ICRC works around the world to ensure the humane condition of detention and treatment of detainees, regardless of the reasons for their arrest and their detention. Through constructive dialogue, the ICRC supports countries in the region to take appropriate steps to improve the situation of persons deprived of their freedom. In 2018, the ICRC is active in nearly 400 places of detention around the world, including 155 in 25 countries in Africa.