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More than 600 child soldiers demobilised in Pibor

February 25, 2015 (BOR) – More than 600 child soldiers have been demobilised in South Sudan’s semi-autonomous Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA).

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Child soldiers salute their commander (AFP)

The identification and demobilisation program came after the formation of the Joint Military Technical Committee (JMTC).

The committee is composed of equal members of the South Sudanese army (SPLA), government officials and the South Sudan Democratic Army (SSDA) Cobra faction as provided for in an agreement signed last May.

The 600 are among 3,000 children expected to be demobilised from Cobra forces in the GPAA. The reintegration process is expected to conclude in about a month’s time.

In an interview with Sudan Tribune by phone from Juba on Wednesday, Peter Guzulu, who works as an advisor to the chief administrator for the area, said the child soldiers had been identified and subsequently screened out of military service.

Demobilisation exercises had now been completed in Gumuruk, Zertet and Pibor, with Likuangule, Boma and Pochalla also to be targeted in the coming days.

Soldiers with disabilities and old age have not yet been targeted during the screening exercise according to him.

The children had now been put under the care of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which was providing them with humanitarian assistance.

“UNICEF is doing a lot for these children. They (UNICEF) have constructed [a] centre in Gumuruk and Pibor to provide them (child soldiers) with food, water and other services,” said Guzulu.

He said there were also plans to construct vocational centres and schools to allow the children to resume their education.

Rebel forces led by David Yau Yau waged a four-year insurgency against the South Sudanese government as part of efforts to secure an independent state.

Many young boys from the Murle tribe took part in the movement against the government in support of Yau Yau, who was appointed chief administrator of the GPAA following the signing of a peace agreement.

In a statement to Sudan Tribune two weeks ago, Joseph Lilimoy, the deputy chief administrator for finance and administration, denied the former rebel group had used children on the frontline, but admitted they had participated in fighting by carrying ammunition and other supplies for soldiers.

“Although they were armed, we never used them on the front lines. These children had a bright future for us. They joined the movement for protection, not to fight,” said Lilimoy.

The 600 child soldiers screened out of military service so far represents about one-fifth of the total number being targeted for demobilisation in the GPAA.

Attempts by Sudan Tribune to contact UNICEF for comment were unsuccessful.

(ST)