Government recommits itself to end use of children in war

Human Rights
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The government yesterday recommitted itself to end the recruitment and use of children in war and other gross violations against children, in accordance with an Action Plan it signed with the UN in 2012.

The government yesterday recommitted itself to end the recruitment and use of children in war and other gross violations against children, in accordance with an Action Plan it signed with the UN in 2012.

 

In a ceremony at the headquarters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Juba, the government, through the minister for defence assured the officials from the UN and UNICEF, who paid a courtesy call on him.

 

“Children do not belong in our army and I personally commit, on behalf of my government, to fully implement all provisions of the Action Plan,” declared Koul Manyang Juuk, South Sudan’s Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs.

 

The statement was a reference to measures agreed to in the 2012 Action Plan, which included releasing of children associated with government security forces, providing services for their family reunification and reintegration; investigating grave violations against children and holding perpetrators accountable.

 

Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, and Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan, witnessed the agreement.

 

“Accountability is key. If those who recruit, kill, maim and rape boys and girls, attack schools and hospitals never face justice, no lasting peace will be possible,” said Leila Zerrougui.

 

She said the agreement means that children will be protected at all times, including during times of instability and conflict, as is happening in the country now.

 

The agreement was signed on behalf of UN by Toby Lanzer, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, who said this was an important first step towards restoring the rights of children in the country and averting the loss of another generation.

 

The Action Plan, originally signed in 2009 and renewed in 2012, resulted in the release of more than one thousand children, command orders banning child recruitment and use, as well as the creation of a SPLA unit dedicated to the protection of children.

 

The UNICEF representative in the country lamented that much of the progress that had been made in the past ten years had been reversed in the current conflict between government forces and those loyal to former vice president Dr. Riek Machar.

 

“This public recommitment is a major step in the right direction and UNICEF will be sure to hold the government to the terms of this agreement,” said Jonathan Veitch.

 

Using children in conflict has a devastating impact on their lives and their protection is essential to build the future of the country.

 

A report by the UN estimates that 9,000 children have been recruited and used as soldiers in the current conflict that is yet to come to an end.

 

 

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