- A top United Nations human rights official has welcome a deal agreed by a former rebel group in southern Sudan to end the use of child soldiers among its ranks, while warning of the threat posed to children by various armed militia operating in the region.
The Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), which fought in the nation's long-running north-south civil war, signed the action plan to discharge the children on Friday in the southern capital, Juba.
“This commitment is a milestone in the efforts to end association of children with the SPLA,” said the Secretary General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, on the eve of her departure from Sudan after a nine-day visit.
“I shall continue to appeal to the SPLA leadership to spare no effort to release and prevent re-association of these children with their armed elements,” said Ms Coomaraswamy.
She also stressed that her office will collaborate with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to help find much needed resources and funds to support rehabilitation and reintegration efforts of former child soldiers in the whole of Sudan.
While praising the Government of National Unity for its progress over the past two years in strengthening child protection, Ms Coomaraswamy voiced concern over the “presence of children amongst non-State armed groups including the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) factions.”
In addition, she stressed that incursions into villages and abductions in southern Sudan led by the notorious Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) remain a threat to children in the region.
“I spoke to girls and boys formerly abducted by the LRA in Juba who recounted that they lived in fear of death everyday,” she said. “Children's experiences were horrendous, and the LRA remains one of the worst offenders in the world today.”
The Special Representative urged the international community to harness all its force in a bid to protect civilians, especially children in the LRA affected regions.
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