South Sudan warring parties vow to end use of children in armed conflict

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, February 22, 2019
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JUBA, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan's warring parties on Thursday promised to release children involved in combat as part of commitment to the proposed comprehensive action plan to prevent grave violations against minors.

Kuol Manyang Juuk, the minister of defense, said the South Sudan People's Defense Forces (SSPDF) will undertake screening exercise aimed at releasing children from the army.

"We are going to work together as South Sudanese and with support of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on formation of new national army which does not violate rights of children," Juuk told journalists in Juba.

"From now onwards we shall respect the rights of children, enlighten our soldiers and civilian population on recruitment into armed forces," he added.

Juuk said that the comprehensive action plan seeks to prevent violations that include killing and maiming, recruitment or use of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, attacks on schools or hospitals, and abduction of children and denial of humanitarian access to children.

He admitted that many children were recruited by warring parties to fight during outbreak of conflict in December 2013 and that many got killed in the violence.

"Many children got recruited but not on orders of higher authority. Children found themselves recruited during the conflict and many of them got killed," said Juuk.

He said militia groups that were integrated in the past into the SSPDF were not sensitized on the rights of children which is partly to blame for violation of international law on the protection of children.

Col. Lam Paul Gabriel, spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army-in opposition (SPLA-IO), said they are ready to work with UNMISS and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) on the release of children during screening of their forces that have started to assemble in cantonment sites.

"We can't deny that we have children in our forces. Some were recruited, some came willingly and others came for protection," said Gabriel.

"Our forces have started reporting to cantonment areas and child protection officers need to be deployed during screening," he added.

Bangasi Bakasoro, a member of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), a coalition of various armed groups, said South Sudan needs to respect international law on the protection of children, noting that children within the various armed groups in the coalition should be demobilized.

Alain Noudehou, deputy special representative of UNMISS, said the warring parties should demonstrate their commitment to ending violations against children.

"If the comprehensive action plan is implemented fully, it will boost the revitalized peace agreement," said Noudehou

Both the SSPDF and SPLA-IO have been listed in several UN reports for committing grave violations against children since 2014. Enditem

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