S. Sudan army admits recruiting children into armed services

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Photo: AFP

In February, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) team reported that 89 children were abducted while doing exams, but said the actual number could be much higher.

The South Sudanese army (SPLA) has admitted forcefully recruiting children into its armed ranks in Upper Nile state, but claimed they were returned to their respective homes.

Army spokesperson Col. Philip Aguer told Sudan Tribune the military leadership directed the department of child protection to carry out joint investigation and found only 36 children in the army.

He however added that these children were successfully reunited with their parents.

“After a visit of a joint committee from the SPLA and members of Unicef, it was found out that the number of the children who served in the army were 36 and they have now been demobilized and returned and reunited with their families and they have already resumed their studies, especially those who opted to join the military service from Wau Shilluk,” Aguer said on Saturday.

He said the ones who remained were those above 18 years now in service on their own accord.

“If there are more children than those who have been returned and reunited with their parents, than they could be among those above 18 years, who don’t falls into the category of children again,” he said.

Aguer said it was never the army’s policy to forcefully recruit children into the military further alleging the children themselves were the ones going into the barracks claiming to be adults.

“Even during the war with Sudan, the SPLA never recruited children into the military services because it was a policy not to recruit minors into the army,” said Aguer.

“That was why we had separate camps for unaccompanied minors or the red army as they later became known,” he added.

In February, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) team reported that 89 children were abducted while doing exams, but said the actual number could be much higher. The incident occurred in the community of Wau Shilluk in Upper Nile state where thousands of people have been internally displaced by the ongoing conflict.

The agency, however, also reminds all parties involved in the conflict that the recruitment and use of children in armed forces and groups constitutes a grave violation of international law.

Source: Sudan Tribune

Photo: AFP

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