Juma Ochi/James Sokiri
Officials of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition, SPLA-IO, have reiterated their commitment to releasing any child found within their ranks.
The call was made at a two-day training programme organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, aimed at creating awareness on the rights of children in armed conflict.
“I have learnt that we should not recruit children under the age of 18 into our forces, and as parents, the time is ripe for us to dissuade our offspring from either joining the army or associating with it in any way,” said Colonel Rita Doki, one of the 61 high-ranking military officers attending the workshop.
Both government and opposition forces in South Sudan are listed in a report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations for recruiting and using children in their ranks, with several thousands of boys and girls thought to still be affiliated to armed groups.
“The best thing you can do to your country is to end the recruitment, abduction, killing and maiming and sexual violence targeting children,” said Alfred Orono Orono, head of the peacekeeping mission’s Child Protection Unit, adding that denying access of humanitarian aid to children, and occupying schools and hospitals are other severe activities not to engage in.
Brigadier General Emmanuel Abujin Oliver said that he would now share his newly-gained knowledge with his brothers and sisters in arms to ensure that his troops will stick to the rules.
“I hope that the signed peace agreement will be fully implemented so that our children can go back to school, and so that they can support us when we are old,” he said.