Over 300 children released by armed groups in South Sudan

February 9, 2018 Africa , News , OPINION/NEWS

By

Gift Friday

 

 

More than 300 children, 87 of them girls, were released by armed groups in Yambio Gbudue State earlier this week.

 

The UN children’s agency UNICEF said the release marks the start of a process that is expected to see at least 700 children freed in the coming weeks. This is the first time an armed group has released children from its ranks in more than a year.

 

And according to the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF this is the largest release of children in nearly three years.

 

215 of the children aged between 10 and 16 years were released by the South Sudan National Liberation Movement while 96 others were released from the ranks of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition.

 

13-year old Moses Kumbo said he decided to join his colleagues who were already part of the rebels because he faced many changes and saw no other options giving him no option but to join the rebellion.

 

“We were under the command of Brigadier General John Ume. We were the security personnel, he could send us to stand at the roadside, to know if the government send forces to come attack us we could send information back to our commanders. We could also loot some property from the people who are passing, and kidnap some and take them back to them.”

 

Moses dropped out of school in Primary Five. He says he is ready to return to school.

 

Unlike Moses, 14-year old Dee John said he was abducted and forcefully recruited by the rebels while on his way to his parents’ farm in Gangura Payam in 2015 when the fighting intensified in his area.

 

“We were just cooking food and give to the soldiers.”

 

John is happy to rejoin his family and hopes they will welcome him back into the community.

 

The children were released at a ceremony attended by government, aid and military officials in the Gbudue State capital, Yambio.

 

During the release ceremony, the children were formally disarmed and provided with civilian clothes. The UN Children’s agency said it will conduct medical screenings and provide the children with counselling and psychosocial support to enable them reintegration into their communities.

 

In addition, aid agencies will also provide three months’ worth of food assistance to the children’s families to support their initial reintegration. A statement released by the UNICEF today says the children will then be provided with vocational training aimed at improving household income and food security.

 

UNICEF says those children with relatives in the area will be reunited with their families, while others will be placed in interim care centres until their families can be traced. The children’s agency also says it will work with other aid agencies to ensure the released children have access to age-specific education services in schools and accelerated learning centres.

 

Speaking at the release ceremony South Sudan’s Defence Minister Kuol Manyang said his ministry has issued standing orders to field commanders to not recruit children being recruited into the army.

 

“The ministry of defense has standing orders to all units and field commanders not to recruit or use children in combats, children not even stay in barracks, they should not meant wear military uniform, I don’t expect any violation to this standing orders, in order to get support from the UN we signed the action and extended it . The aim is to declare SPLA as a child free army.”

 

Minister Manyang said the SPLA has formed child protection units that will ensure no child is recruited into the army.

 

“The SPLA has child protection unit in its structures, and the work of this body is to help its representatives in all the army structures in the division, brigade and the battalion in all the sectors and their work is to see to it that no children are by mistake recruited into the army, and we have given them those powers.”

 

UNICEF in statement said an estimated 19,000 children continue to serve in the ranks of armed forces and groups more than four years after conflict erupted in December 2013.

 

The agency said it requires 45 million U.S dollars in 2018 to support release, demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers across South Sudan.

 

 

 

 

gift-friday

Gift Friday

Freelance Journalist from South Sudan, based in Kampala.

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