South Sudan

DDRC, UNICEF Welcome Release of Child Soldiers

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Juba — South Sudan Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (RSSDDRC) and UNICEF welcomed the recent release of 53 children associated with armed forces and groups in South Sudan.

The latest demobilization of 53 children from Renegade Militia Group (RMG) in Western Bahr-El-Ghazal State is one of the biggest single releases since South Sudan became an independent Country on July 9th, 2011.

The 53 children of which 20 are originally from Northern Bahr el Ghazal and 33 are from Western Bahr el Ghazal, have been released in Mapel from an armed group under the command of one militia leader Maj. Gen. Hassan Deng, who took over the RMG leadership from Abdel Bagi Ayii who responded to the amnesty given by the government of South Sudan.

Maj. Gen. Deng has since joined the South Sudan Army and moved to Mapel for the re-organization exercise where they released the children from their ranks.

"Our ultimate goal is to ensure that all children still associated with armed forces and groups in the country are released and

returned to their communities to access reintegration assistance," said William Deng Deng, Chairperson of RSSDDRC - the country's authority in charge of the process.

"We urge all armed groups - including the renegade militia groups to cooperate and integrate their forces into the national army and facilitate immediate release of all children," he added.

The government of the Republic of South Sudan is committed to support the DDR process and uphold international legal standards that protect children in situations of armed conflict," he concluded.

In 2011, UNICEF has provided support to the RSSDDRC to facilitate the release and reintegration of 208 children from rebel militia groups operating mainly in the Greater Upper Nile and Bahr-el-Ghazal States of South Sudan.

"We appreciate the full support given to the RSSDDRC by the UNICEF, UNMISS and SPLA and we are optimistic that soon the release of the CAAFGs will come to an end in South Sudan," noted Mr. Oluku Andrew Holt, the Child DDR Coordinator in the RSSDDRC.

"We are aware that the reintegration of the former CAAFGs has been the biggest challenge and currently we are exploring options on how to address that," added Oluku

"The recruitment or use of children by armed groups is a violation of international law and is also prohibited by the Child Act of South Sudan," said Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, Representative for UNICEF in South Sudan.

"The release and return to their families of these children today opens a new chapter in their lives-a chapter of hope and opportunities," she added.

There are an unknown number of children believed to be associated with RMGs in South Sudan but the Government of South Sudan estimates to support the release and reintegration of 1500 CAAFGs as envisaged in the new South Sudan DDR Policy, 2011.

Since 2005, the SSDDRC has been collaborating with UNICEF to establish sound policies and procedures for the release of children associated with armed forces or groups which clearly spell out the social work processes such as facilitating tracing of their families to ensure sustainable reintegration into their communities and prevent future recruitment or use of children.