UN says 16,000 child soldiers in South Sudan

There are roughly 16,000 child soldiers in South Sudan, according to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and UNICEF. 

In 2008, the government approved the South Sudan Child Act, which sets a minimum age of 18 for any conscription or voluntary recruitment into armed forces or groups. 

Both the government and opposition have formally committed to a UN action plan that says both sides should stop recruiting child soldiers, and release any underage troops in their ranks. The release of child soldiers is also one of the provisions of the August peace agreement, UN spokesperson Ariane Quentier said at a press conference.

“Release and reintegration of child soldiers will ensure children have the opportunity to access education’’ Quentier said. “South Sudan has one of the lowest rates of primary school enrollment with less than 35 percent. South Sudan’s literacy rate is also one of the worst in the world with only 27 percent of the population able to read and write, and even worse if you disaggregate data with 40 percent men and only 15 percent women are literate. There cannot be long term sustainable development without literacy’’

Although South Sudan has one of the highest numbers of child soldiers in the world, neither organization knows how many children the government or opposition have in their ranks.