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Al-Bashir announces release of child soldiers, vows to consider release of POWs

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September 7, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir on Wednesday announced the release of child soldiers from rebel groups and promised to consider the release of all Prisoners of War (POWs).

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President Omer al-Bashir speaks in a rally held in Zalingei on 3 April 2016 (ST Photo)

An unofficial estimate by the national dialogue mechanism known as 7+7 has put the number of convicts from the armed movements to 93 convict as well as hundreds of POWs including 340 fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) who were captured during the Gouz Dango battle in South Darfur in April 2014.

The Sudanese army has been fighting Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan since 2011 and a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003.

On Wednesday, Al-Bashir attended the celebration marking the completion of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) in North Darfur capital, El-Fasher in the presence of the Emir of Qatae , Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Chadian President, Idriss Déby and Central African Republic (CAR)’s President Faustin Archange Touadéra.

Speaking to the large crowed during the celebration, al-Bashir announced the release the child soldiers who were apprehended during the Gouz Dango battle today, saying they would be handed over to the Ministry of Social Welfare.

“Those [child soldiers] who want to go to schools, we would help them to do so and those who want to return to their families they are allowed to go,” he said.

Regarding the release of the PWOs from the armed movements, al-Bashir said they would consider the issue, stressing that rebel groups would only be granted amnesty if they laid down arms.

He renewed the call for what he described as “the remaining” armed movements to lay down arms and resort to peace, pointing the presence of Darfur rebels is now confined to South Sudan where the government there intends to evict them as well as in Libya where they serve as mercenaries.

Al-Bashir further warned both rebel groups, who are present in Libya and South Sudan, against attempting to enter the Sudanese territory with their weapons, saying they would be “taught a lesson that they will never forget” as it occurred during the Gouz Dango battle when the JEM sought to enter from South Sudan.

For his part, the Chadian President Idriss Déby, in his capacity as chairperson of the African Union (AU), renewed call for holdout rebels to join the Doha forum as soon as possible, urging the international community to contribute to the completion of the DDPD, which according to him, brought the Darfur conflict to an end.

“We should move forward and take further step to promote the gains and achieve permanent peace,” he said.

Head of the Darfur Regional Authority al-Tijani al-Sissi, for his part, said the “war in Darfur has ended”, pointing the region is now free of armed movements.

He pointed that %89 of the DDPD has been implemented so far; saying only one item out of the six items included in the document has not been implemented without naming that item.

The DDPD was signed on 14th July 2011 between the government and the Liberation and Justice (LJM). Also, a splinter faction of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) led by Mohamed Bashar and Bakheit Dabajo after his death joined the framework agreement on 6 April 2013.

(ST)

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