The commander of a division of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Jonglei says he wants to see an end to the use of child soldiers so that South Sudan can be removed from an official United Nations register of armies using children as fighters.
Speaking during a workshop organized by the child protection team from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Major General Dau Aturjog said the SPLA was committed to respecting international and humanitarian laws and therefore wanted to stop the recruitment and use of child soldiers in the conflict.
The workshop in Bor involved working with more than 50 soldiers under the theme of Children, Not Soldiers as part of a campaign initiated by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, in collaboration with UNICEF.
This campaign aims to galvanize support for preventing and ending the recruitment and use of children by national security forces in conflict.
Speaking to his soldiers, Commander Dau said the protection of children was a primary responsibility of the SPLA.
“We respect humanitarian laws,” he said. “We want to cooperate with international laws and with the United Nations. Anything you request from the army, we are ready.”
UNMISS Head of Field Office in the Jonglei region, Deborah Schein, encouraged the army to professionalize in order to be delisted from the UN register of armies using child soldiers.
“We are here to make you understand why you were listed and how you can be delisted,” she said. “This is about the need for transformative change of the SPLA from a liberation army to a professional one that is respected by the people and the international community.”
The SPLA and other armed groups in South Sudan are reported to have recruited children into their ranks following the outbreak of civil war in 2013. This has been condemned as a breach of international laws, which have been ratified by the South Sudanese government.
In 2009, the UN task force for monitoring and reporting on child protection signed a protocol with the SPLA, committing to end recruitment and use of children in conflict.