14 March 2013 - In assisting the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) end the recruitment and use of child soldiers, UNMISS concluded a two-day training on child protection for the force today in Yei, Central Equatoria State.
The activity, which drew about 60 soldiers, was part of the mission’s efforts to help the SPLA meet a 31 March deadline to end the practice it signed with the UN a year ago, said UNMISS Child Protection Officer Jane Juan.
South Sudan would be delisted from countries with children among its military ranks if the SPLA met the deadline, but sanctions would follow should the timeline be exceeded, she said.
Training topics included child rights provisions in planning military orders, punitive measures for law breakers, understanding rules of conflict within army controls and establishing monitoring and reporting mechanisms.
“We know that children are our future,” SAID UNMISS Central Equatoria State Coordinator Mamane Moussa. “The place of children should be in the school, not in the street, or in the army so that they can be prepared…to build this nation.”
Participant and army corporal Mary Achiro said she had learned what defined a child at the training. “I have learned that any person who is 17 years and below is a child and should not be in the army.”
Colonel John Bida, acting brigade commander at Mahad SPLA barrack, said the training would help his army understand their duties and better protect civilians.
He requested a separate workshop for senior officers to equip them with necessary tools to better control their forces during war, for they were often accountable when the military committed crimes against civilians.
“During the revolution,” Mr. Bida said, “we took everybody as an enemy because we did not know.” “But now, we know what and where our limits of operation are.”