October 26, 2016 (JUBA) – 145 children recruited into armed South Sudanese opposition groups have been released in eastern South Sudan, the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.
- Child soldiers sit with their rifles at a ceremony held on 10 February 2015 as part of a disarmament campaign overseen by UNICEF and partners in Pibor (AFP)
The children were combats for the defunct South Sudan Democratic Movement/Cobra Faction loyal to deputy defence minister, David Yau Yau as well as the armed opposition faction of ex-first vice president, Riek Machar.
"Our hope is that today’s (Wednesday) release will be followed by many others, (and) we urge all parties to follow international law, to end recruitment and to release children who are currently serving in their ranks," Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s country representative said in a statement.
The 145 child soldiers were freed in a ceremony in Boma State, Pibor county – bringing the total number of children released from armed opposition in 2016 to 800. 1,775 children were freed in Pibor area in 2015. UNICEF puts the number of children participating in South Sudan army and various opposition groups at 16,000. Most of the children work as ‘porters’ for rival forces or engage in active combats.
"With the ongoing fighting across the country, UNICEF continues to receive reports about the recruitment of children,” added the UNICEF statement.
Children demobilized are disarmed and begin formal process of reintegration into their communities. Counseling services and clothing are also provided.