Skip to main content
WAU - 21 Feb 2024

W. Bahr el Ghazal's children demand stop to recruitment of child soldiers

A group of pupils held a discussion about child soldiers with SSPDF, SPLA-IO, and UNMISS officials in Wau. (Photo: Radio Tamazuj)
A group of pupils held a discussion about child soldiers with SSPDF, SPLA-IO, and UNMISS officials in Wau. (Photo: Radio Tamazuj)

A cross-section of school-going teenagers in Western Bahr el Ghazal State have urged the leadership of the army, education ministry, and UN agencies to work toward ending the recruitment of children into military and armed groups as child soldiers.

Speaking during a roundtable discussion organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s (UNMISS) Child Protection Department in Wau on Monday, the children warned that the use of child soldiers is a grave violation of their right to education and should be abolished.

Deng Akech, one of the students who participated in the discussion, asked the UN, SSPDF, and the SPLA-IO about their plans to discharge child soldiers.

“My question is to the government, the army, SPLA-IO, and UNMISS. Children were forcefully recruited and armed during the conflict by the warring parties. What mechanism is the government and UNMISS using to disarm such children,” Akech asked. Secondly, how far have UNMISS and UNICEF gone with the action plan to locate child soldiers and reunite them with parents?”

“My third question is to the government; how will the recruitment of child soldiers stop when parties to the agreement are yet to complete the security arrangements?” Akech questioned.

Another discussant said the army and armed groups often deny the use of child soldiers.

“Since you people say there are no children in military or armed opposition groups but these children have guns and uniforms. Where do they get them if you do not recruit them?” he probed.

Meanwhile, another pupil, Julian Gibril, was curious to know if the government has sought help from the UN and civil society organizations in dealing with the issue of child soldiers.

“How is the government engaging the international partners, UN agencies, and civil society organizations to ensure the release of all children from the army?” queried Gibril.

Bakita Orasio asked” “What education services are available for children who have been subjected to grave violations in South Sudan?”

Responding to the question by the authorities, the SSPDF and SPLA-IO commanders in Western Bahr el Ghazal St denied any new recruitment of children into their respective forces.

SPLA-IO’s Sector 6 Commander, Major General Peter Ngoli, said they assembled their forces at the cantonment site and had no single child among them.

“Three years ago we assembled our forces at the cantonment area and a screening committee came from Juba and found no single child soldier among our forces,” he said. “If there were children, they would have been detected. We do not have children except those children with us in the rural areas but they are not part of the army.”

For his part, the SSPDF’s Fifth Infantry Division commander, Major General Dau Atur, said the army also stopped new recruitments and denied using child soldiers.

“As SSPDF, we did not recruit children from 2003 and we do not even accept children to walk into our barracks unless they come with their mother and or father,” he emphasized.

Western Bahr el Ghazal State Minister for Education and General Instruction Simon Athuai Akot said the role of government is now to provide learning for former child soldiers who are out of school.

“The role of the government is to ensure that children who were in the armed forces are taken back to school,” he explained. “We know the difficulties and we integrated a system in the ministry of education, the accelerated learning program, for those who want to go back to school.”

Minister Athuai added: “This is especially for those who missed their chance of education as a result of being child soldiers.”

The minister also assured the children about the ongoing USIAD program to build the capacity of young people in different skills.

UNMISS’ field coordinator in the state, Sam Mamure, said the Mission has a child protection department whose work is to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers and protect children from all forms of violations.

“This meeting is being organized under the child protection unit and its mandate in UNMISS is to work toward prevention of child recruitment and stop other violations,” he enlightened. “Their role is to monitor, engage, and build the capacity of institutions, especially the organized forces, to ensure that they all committed toward respecting the rights of children and not recruit them, not occupy their schools, not target them in combat and other aspects.