from RAJI BASHIR in Khartoum, Sudan
KHARTOUM –THE South Sudanese national army and rebel groups have released 15 children taken as prisoners of war during clashes in the northern parts of the country in 2019.
They are aged between 16 and 18 years.
Their release comes two weeks after the signing of an action plan to end and prevent grave violations against children.
The government and rebel forces also recently committed to a unity administration.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Mission to South Sudan and the National Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission Dr Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the UNICEF representative in South Sudan, said the release showed parties’ commitment to the signed action plan.
He urged commanders across the country to release all children as soon as possible.
“With the establishment of a new unity government in South Sudan and hopefully prolonged peace, we have a golden opportunity to ensure there are no children left in the barracks,” Ayoya said.
The children released this week were to be taken to an interim care centre where they would receive psychosocial support and their most immediate needs would be addressed.
While their families were being traced, assessments of the children’s long- term needs and individual plans for reintegration back to their communities were made.
Furthermore, the children are enrolled in a three-year-long reintegration programme.
“There are no shortcuts in reintegration if we are serious about preventing re-enrolment and ensuring a new direction in life,” Ayoya said.
For 2020, UNICEF has appealed for US$4,2 million (R64 million) to support the release of 2 100 children from armed forces and rebel groups.
– CAJ News