March 12, 2012 (JUBA) - The UN and South Sudan’s army, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), on Monday signed a revised action plan regarding their commitment to ridding the army from child soldiers.
- Radhika Coomaraswamy witnesses the action plan, March 12, 2012 (UN)
The agreement was signed by Pieng Deng Koul, SPLA’s deputy chief of general staff for administration, Lise Grande, the UN deputy special representative to the Secretary General in South Sudan and Pelucy Ntambirweki, the deputy representative for the UN children fund (UNICEF).
It was witnessed by Radhika Coomaraswamy, special representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) for children and armed conflict and Majak Agot, South Sudan’s deputy minister for defence and veterans affairs.
Since 2005, the SPLA was listed by the UN Secretary-General as involved in the recruitment and use of children in conflict.
Speaking during the occasion held in Juba, the South Sudan capital, Coomaraswamy said the signing was “crucial” for the SPLA as it is transforms from the rebel movement that fought Khartoum for more than two decades, into a national state army.
“This is an important day for South Sudan - the world’s newest country. Not only does this action plan ensure the Government’s commitment that the SPLA will have no children within its ranks, but all armed groups who have accepted amnesty with the Government must also release their children,” said Coomaraswamy.
She also said the signatories hoped that “children will spend more time in schools with books and not in the barracks.”
South Sudan’s deputy defence minister described the action-plan as an important milestone in providing alternative opportunities for children.
The action plan ensures that a transparent system is in place for disciplinary action against those in command who recruit children within the SPLA. It also improves communication among commanders to make sure that the practice of child recruitment is halted and responsibility for child protection is understood on all levels.
The UN has, in the recent past, reportedly signed similar agreements with the Afghan National Security Forces, the Chadian National Army, and with the Armée Populaire pour la Restauration de la République et la Démocratie (APRD) in the Central African Republic.